More investments needed in climate technology to support energy transition

Hydrogen as well as carbon capture can play a key role in the fight against climate change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber says

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of the Cop28 summit, at the UAE Climate Tech forum in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National
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More investments are needed in climate technologies, which can help create a new economic development model focused on cutting emissions while ensuring growth, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of the Cop28 summit, has said.

"With the right policies stimulating the right investments, climate technologies could at least double their contribution to global growth, while removing 25 billion tonnes of carbon emissions annually,” Dr Al Jaber said at the inaugural UAE Climate Tech forum on Wednesday.

Clean tech investments broke the $1 trillion barrier for the first time last year and clean, mature and emerging technologies “could change the game for progress", he told the event, which was attended by executives, experts and government officials.

“I have seen what can happen, what can unfold when government, finance and technology work together.

“Right here in the United Arab Emirates, when we established Masdar in 2006, there were just six gigawatts of solar energy installed on the whole planet, but now, globally, six gigawatts are added every two weeks. In 2006, the cost of a kilowatt hour of solar energy was over $2, today, it is under two cents," he said.

Dr Al Jaber, who is also the UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and special envoy on climate change, said hydrogen as well as other carbon capture technologies can play a major role in the fight against climate change.

“Hydrogen needs to be scaled up and commercialised to make a real impact in the energy system."

Hydrogen, which can be produced using renewable energy and natural gas, is expected to play a key role in the coming years as economies and industries switch to a low-carbon world to mitigate climate change.

French investment bank Natixis estimates that investment in hydrogen will exceed $300 billion by 2030.

Carbon capture technologies are also useful in curbing emissions, Dr Al Jaber added.

“The most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report clearly states that applying carbon capture technologies to heavy emitting industries is a critical enabler in the race to net zero," he said.

“Cost remains the main barrier and we need policymakers to incentivise technology companies to help commercialise all kinds of carbon capture, from storage to direct air to mineralisation."

He also urged the industry to use the technology to turn the captured carbon into products with "practical applications that have commercial value".

Global investments in energy transition technology must quadruple to $35 trillion by 2030 to stay in line with commitments made under the Paris climate agreement, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The time is running short and the stakes for our planet are high
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of Cop28

Investments in renewable energy technology reached a record $1.3 trillion last year but that figure must rise to about $5 trillion a year to meet the target of limiting temperature increases to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, the Abu Dhabi-based agency said.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain must be applied to “increase the efficiency of the energy we use today across every sector", Dr Al Jaber said.

In terms of sectors, food systems and agriculture are among the main sources of greenhouse gases, representing more than one third of global emissions.

Technology companies need to focus on this space, he said.

“Along with the United States, the UAE has launched Aim for Climate, a 50-country coalition aimed at maximising the use of commercial technology to reduce emissions and increase the availability of nutritious food around the world.”

Aim for Climate seeks to support small-scale farmers, especially women, and communities in lower-income countries most susceptible to the world's changing climate.

It includes investment to boost the use of vertical farming, hydroponics and aquaculture. The UAE has invested heavily in local companies to grow crops in one of the world's most arid countries.

Dr Al Jaber also called on the oil and gas industry to cut methane emissions by 2030 and align around comprehensive net zero plans by or before 2050.

“The goal for this industry and all industries to me is crystal clear. We need to phase out emissions from all sectors including transportation, agriculture, and heavy industry fossil fuels while investing in technologies.

"For this to happen faster, we need to reimagine the relationship between producers and consumers from one based purely on supply and demand to a relationship that is focused on co-creating the future," he said.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber says this is the decade to provide clean energy the world needs

Dr Sultan Al Jaber says this is the decade to provide clean energy the world needs

A combined effort is needed to support the goal of an inclusive energy transition, he said.

“We must create an active partnership between the largest producers of energy, the biggest industrial consumers, technology companies, the finance community, government, NGOs [non government organisations] and civil society."

By working together, the goal would be an "accelerated, pragmatic, practical and just energy transition that leaves no one behind, a transition that creates zero carbon pathways for growth", Dr Al Jaber said.

Last year, developing economies, which represent 70 per cent of the world's population, received only 20 per cent of the clean tech investments.

“Technology is essential for helping the most vulnerable communities build capacities and leapfrog into a low-carbon economic development model. But to maximise technology adoption in these countries, we need public, multilateral and private sectors to supercharge climate finance making it much more available, much more accessible and of course, much more affordable.”

The UAE will be hosting Cop28 later this year and Dr Al Jaber said the upcoming event will be “of practical action and pragmatic results".

It will be a "Cop of solutions ... and a Cop for all", he said, adding that "the time is running short and the stakes for our planet are high".

Updated: May 10, 2023, 11:05 AM