AI and clean energy shift key to accelerating ‘climate positive’ development

Growth of the technology, driven by the expansion of data centres, will necessitate the use of renewable energy along with natural gas, Dr Al Jaber says

Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber, speaking at the Baku Energy Week, said that Cop29 in Azerbaijan will focus on the issue of climate finance. The National
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Advances in artificial intelligence, the switch to cleaner energy sources and economic growth in developing countries must be used to accelerate “climate positive” sustainable development, Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al Jaber has said.

Dr Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, was speaking on Tuesday at the Baku Energy Week in Azerbaijan, which will host the Cop29 climate summit in November.

“While AI is driving a surge in energy demand, it is also driving efficiencies that curb emissions. In fact, the growth of AI is one of three mega-trends that will shape our future, alongside the accelerating energy transition and the rise of emerging markets and the Global South,” said Dr Al Jaber.

“The closer AI and energy collaborate, the more solutions we can unlock to drive decarbonised growth everywhere.”

The UAE Cop28 presidency has launched a major partnership with the next two hosts of the climate conference, Azerbaijan and Brazil, to help keep the crucial climate goal of 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels within reach.

The “Cop presidencies troika” aims to boost co-operation and ensure continuity between the hosts of the annual climate talks in what is being called “mission 1.5ºC”.

The Cop28 deal was formally referred to as the Global Stocktake, under which countries were urged to “transition away” from fossil fuels in what was arguably the most significant step forward for global climate action since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

It seeks to keep the global temperature limit of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which was agreed on in Paris, within reach and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

If global temperatures rise by more than that, the lives and health of billions of people could be endangered, scientists believe.

Dr Al Jaber on Tuesday said the Cop28 presidency and the UAE would work very closely with Azerbaijan’s Cop presidency, and called on all countries to ensure that “Cop29 is a resounding success that builds on the outcomes of Dubai”.

The UAE and Azerbaijan have forged a close relationship, particularly in the renewable energy sector.

Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar and Azerbaijan's state oil company Socar held a ground-breaking ceremony for three major solar and wind projects in the Central Asian country with a total capacity of 1 gigawatt on Tuesday, Abu Dhabi Media Office reported.

These are the 445 megawatt Bilasuvar solar PV, the 315MW Neftchala solar PV and the 240MW Absheron-Garadagh onshore wind projects.

Investment agreements for the projects were reached in October last year, followed by the signing of power purchase pacts, transmission connection deals and land lease agreements.

The plants will offer annual electricity generation of 2.3 billion kilowatt hours, saving more than 500 million cubic metres of natural gas, as well as preventing more than one million tonnes of carbon emissions in the future, officials said.

Masdar, which aims to develop 10 gigawatts of renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan, also opened the 230-megawatt Garadagh Solar Park in the central Asian country last year, the region’s “largest” operational solar plant.

Last year, Masdar opened an office in Baku and pledged to strengthen its support for the country's renewable energy programme. Azerbaijan aims to generate 30 per cent of its total power capacity from clean energy sources by 2030.

Dr Al Jaber also urged the oil and gas industry to lower carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

Last year, 50 oil and gas companies, representing more than 40 per cent of the world's oil production, signed the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter, which calls for net-zero emissions by 2050.

The producers are also aiming for “near-zero” upstream methane emissions and zero-routine flaring by 2030.

“To those who have not signed up yet, I urge to you to do so,” Dr Al Jaber said.

The Cop28 President highlighted that the growth of AI, driven by the expansion of data centres, will necessitate the use of renewable energy along with natural gas.

A surge in power usage from AI data centres could significantly boost natural gas demand in the second half of the decade, according to Tudor Pickering Holt.

An additional 8.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas might be needed to keep pace with the increasing demand, the investment bank said in a report in April.

Climate finance

Cop29 will “focus, like no other Cop”, on the issue of climate finance, a key enabler of the UAE consensus, Dr Al Jaber said.

A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that developed countries provided and mobilised more than $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries in 2022, after failing to do so in previous years.

Dr Al Jaber said he was “encouraged” by the news but added that more finance would be required to ensure availability and accessibility.

Alterra, a private investment vehicle launched during Cop28, aims to raise $250 billion globally in the next six years to create a fairer climate finance system. It was initiated with a $30 billion commitment from the UAE.

“We face unprecedented challenges. Yet within these challenges lies an unparalleled opportunity to redefine our future – to pivot towards a path of sustainability and resilience,” said Dr Al Jaber.

In a report on Tuesday, the International Energy Agency said that countries' climate plans are yet to be aligned with the goal to triple renewable energy capacity worldwide by the end of the decade, as agreed at Cop28.

Of the 194 nationally determined contributions (NDCs) previously submitted, only 14 include explicit targets for total renewable power capacity for 2030, the Paris-based agency said.

Renewable capacity ambitions by 2030 across NDCs stand at slightly more than 1,300 gigawatts, about 12 per cent of the global pledge to have an installed renewable capacity of at least 11,000 gigawatts, the IEA said.

Updated: June 04, 2024, 4:43 PM