Campaigners vow they will resist any attempts to curtail civil society participation at the UN climate summit in Dubai this year.
Climate activists will be allowed to protest “peacefully” at COP28 in Dubai later this year, the UAE has confirmed.
The oil-rich state typically requires official permission for protests and effectively bans demonstrations it deems disruptive.
But it is making an exception for the UN climate summit which runs from 30 November to 12 December in the the city's business hub.
“There will be space for climate activists to assemble peacefully and make their voices heard,” the UAE said in a joining statement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) yesterday.
The statement was released after COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber and UNFCCC chief Simon Stiell signed a bilateral agreement in Abu Dhabi that provides the legal basis for organising and hosting the climate talks.
"We are firmly committed to ensuring that UN values are upheld at COPs," the statement - broadcast by the country's official news agency WAM - quoted Stiell as saying.
How have climate activists responded?
Tuesday's announcement was welcomed by campaign group Climate Action Network (CAN) International which commended "the COP28 Presidency for their dedicated efforts towards fostering an inclusive climate summit".
But it warned that it would "resist any attempts to curtail (civil society) participation," according to Harjeet Singh, its head of global political strategy.
"Our unwavering conviction is clear: there can be no climate justice without human rights," Singh told the AFP news agency.
What is the UAE’s climate and human rights record?
The UAE is a major oil producer and one of the world's largest emitters of CO2 per capita. It was ranked the world's fourth biggest polluter per capita in 2019 by the World Bank.
The choice for it to host COP28 has sparked criticism from environmental groups which warn that the involvement of a major oil exporter could undermine talks to curb climate change.
This was underscored by the appointment in January of the boss of Adnoc, the national oil company of the Emirates, to chair the event.
A leaked document seen by UK newspaper the Guardian reveals that oil and gas production is on a list of “touchy and sensitive” topics for the petrostate.
Non-government groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) have also warned that the Gulf state's restrictions on freedom of expression could hinder the meaningful participation of climate activists.
"The authorities may be ready to allow limited demonstrations during COP28 because the eyes of the whole world are on the United Arab Emirates," said Joey Shea, researcher on the Emirates at the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Observers should see beyond this artificial appearance and understand that the Emirati authorities have zero tolerance for dissent," he told AFP.
HRW previously warned in a March report that, "Civil society actors will struggle to effectively play their role in pushing for ambitious action to address the climate crisis in a country whose government has such an abysmal human rights record.”