Energy leaders must increase collaborative efforts with industrial players to develop a practical road map for rapid decarbonisation to achieve the sustainable development goals, experts at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS America) have said.
The event, held under the theme of "Advancing global industrialisation and net-zero", hosted discussions on the changing role of the industrial sector and highlighted how digital technology can accelerate the global energy transition.
Panellists stressed that the burden of reducing carbon emissions need not fall only on energy companies, but also on the global economy.
Industrialists are the fastest-growing carbon producers in the world, followed closely by power utilities, home-heating providers and transportation, says non-profit organisation, the World Resources Institute.
"Decoupling economic growth from finite resources will require fundamental changes to supply chains, export markets and production and manufacturing processes," panellists said.
Hard-to-abate industries that rely on traditional sources of energy should not be forgotten, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, UAE special envoy for climate change and co-chairman of the GMIS, said in a video address.
Investment in technology such as carbon capture are crucial in mitigating environmental impacts, he said.
Dr Al Jaber also highlighted how the UAE — which is implementing a national industrial development programme known as Industry 4.0, as well as hosting Cop28 next year — has created a "dynamic ecosystem for hi-tech partnerships", including with numerous US organisations, that he hopes to strengthen and grow.
With 81 per cent of the global energy system still based on hydrocarbons — the same percentage as 30 years ago — panellists also discussed how Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology can solve the challenges facing the energy sector including security, access and climate progress.
Advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, edge computing and nanotechnology are opening new pathways for industrial growth and ensuring that economic and climate progress go hand-in-hand, they said.
“Advanced technology is not simply for saving labour costs," said Gerd Muller, director general of the UN Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) and co-chairman of GMIS. "It can save our planet. It is vital that we work closely with private industry to decarbonise production.
“Social sustainability is also vital: innovation can contribute to fairer trade and investment. It can improve industrial safety and human well-being. It can make business more transparent. Governments, the private sector, the research community and civil society need to work together and complement each other."
Transformative advanced technology will help achieve a number of the UN’s sustainable development goals, he added.
Tariq Al Hashimi, director of technology adoption and development at the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), told attendees: “The 4IR technologies have a lot of potential but these are very risky investments and thus the private sector will be slow to invest."
He stressed the importance of having financing toolkits to enable the private sector to adopt such technology.
Experts at the event highlighted the importance of a circular economy and the role of innovation and technology in developing industrial processes.
“What’s changing is where the feedstock comes from," said John Thayer, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nova Chemicals. "More and more, we will be looking for different feedstocks of recycled material — those that are traditionally recycled like PET and high-density polyethene, but it will also be more hard-to-recycle items like low-density polyethene — and integrate those products into the feedstock.”
The three-day GMIS America event aims to facilitate co-operation between American and Emirati companies to shape the future of the industrial sector.
"By reaching out to the industrial, technological and research ecosystem in the world’s largest economy, we seek to harness the innovations shaping the future of industry," said Omar Al Suwaidi, undersecretary of MoIAT.
"It also allows us to highlight the opportunities and incentives available in the UAE for international industrialists, manufacturers and investors, and our compelling platform for companies seeking to expand into Asia, Africa, the Middle East and beyond.”