UAE focused on practical solutions for climate change, says Dr Sultan Al Jaber

The Emirates aims to engage with all at Sharm El Sheikh summit on stronger action as it prepares to host Cop28 next year

Dr Sultan Al Jaber delivers the UAE National Statement at Cop26. Photo: UAE Cop26 Delegation
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Cop27 begins in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday with all eyes on action to tackle climate change.

Speaking before the event, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Special Envoy for Climate Change and chairman of Masdar, said the priorities for the UAE at Cop27 are to engage with the nearly 200 participating nations, understand their aspirations and contribute to the global dialogue for stronger climate change solutions and implementation.

The UAE will host Cop28 next year.

Dr Al Jaber said climate action was an opportunity to diversify economies by creating new growth sectors in clean energy and new jobs for the future.

The Emirates Climate Conference will focus on building a close partnership with Egypt, especially during the 50th anniversary year of the two countries' relations, and look forward to bridging the outcomes of Cop27 with Cop28.

In the following Q&A with The National, Dr Al Jaber set out some of the top priorities for the UAE

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It is imperative that all countries are able to access the resources needed to transition to clean energy
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology

What are the UAE’s main objectives at Cop27?

The primary objective is to contribute practical solutions to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, accelerate low-carbon economic growth and create sustainable economic and social development opportunities across all nations, including the global south.

We aim to highlight the UAE’s decades-long track record of climate diplomacy and creating practical climate solutions, especially across developing and vulnerable nations.

We also want to build capacity and improve co-operation ahead of Cop28, with the goal of identifying practical, inclusive and ambitious pathways to climate action that will benefit billions of people across the world.

The UAE has a long history of engaging on this issue. Could you explain the country’s contribution to climate action?

We are the first country in the Mena region to adopt and sign the Paris Agreement, and the first to commit to net zero by 2050.

The UAE is now home to three of the world’s largest and lowest-cost solar plants, and we have been the first in Mena to invest in industrial-scale carbon capture, usage and storage.

We have also set new records for the most cost-competitive wind power, in the UAE and internationally. Further, we are the first country in the region to deploy peaceful nuclear power. We pioneered the exploration of clean alternatives such as green hydrogen.

We achieved the lowest methane intensity in the energy sector 20 years before the global pledge calling for a gradual reduction was made.

In September this year, the UAE updated its second Nationally Determined Contributions, with the aim to reduce our carbon emissions by nearly a third (31 per cent) by 2030.

We work with all stakeholders globally to advance climate action because we believe that climate change needs pragmatic and inclusive solutions.

Today, the UAE is one of the world’s largest investors in global renewable energy projects and has invested $50 billion in renewable energy projects in over 70 countries, including 31 island developing states that are most vulnerable to climate change.

We have also committed an additional investment of $50bn over the next decade in several countries to accelerate the clean energy transition.

Most recently, we signed a strategic partnership agreement with the US to accelerate the transition, advance shared climate goals and strengthen global energy security.

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UAE and US sign partnership to invest $100bn in clean energy projects - in pictures

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This UAE-US Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy aims to raise $100bn in financing and other support, in addition to deploying 100 new gigawatts of clean energy in the US, UAE and emerging economies around the world by 2035.

Earlier this year, the UAE launched Etihad 7, a programme to secure funding for renewable energy projects in Africa, with the goal of supplying clean electricity to 100 million people by 2035.

We have set a target to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030, a programme led by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, to address climate change, protect biodiversity and contribute to natural carbon sinks.

We also strongly support the 30x30 biodiversity target to protect 30 per cent of sea and 30 per cent of land by 2030, and nature-based solutions to address the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises.

How critical is the need to maximise energy and minimise emissions?

Our world is on its way to being home to 9.5 billion people. To meet their needs, we will have to produce 30 per cent more energy than today.

If the basic energy needs of billions of people across the world are not met, economies will slow down significantly, impacting the resources which need to be made available for the energy transition and climate action.

While meeting the energy demand through the infrastructure and capital assets that the world currently relies on, we must focus on driving down emissions and accelerating investment in new clean-energy systems.

For this, the world needs all the solutions it can get. It is not hydrocarbons or solar, not wind or nuclear or hydrogen.

It is all the above, plus the clean energies yet to be discovered, commercialised and deployed. In short, the world needs maximum energy and minimum emissions.

This is the approach we are taking in the UAE. We are a first mover in taking proactive and global-first initiatives to cut methane intensity and emissions.

We believe that energy transition will not happen at the flip of a switch, but it is attainable if we are pragmatic, practical and commercially focused.

We should keep in mind that the solutions the world needs are also major opportunities for the global economy.

As we meet those needs, we will be helping to bring electricity to almost 800 million people who do not have it today.

We will help to improve the lives of the 2.6 billion people who have no access to clean cooking and heating fuels.

How will Masdar support the UAE’s strategic Net Zero by 2050?

When Masdar was launched in 2006, many said the company was ahead of its time.

Today, it is seen as the pioneer in advancing clean energy transition and a key enabler of the UAE’s vision to be a global leader in sustainability and climate action.

We believe access to clean technologies and climate solutions is critical, and we must deploy them at scale, a strategy the UAE has actively pursued for over a decade.

With investments in over 40 countries with a combined value of more than $20bn, Masdar’s projects generate over 15GW of clean power and displace nearly 19.5 million tonnes annually.

Across Africa, Masdar and its partners are empowering local communities, developing over 1GW of clean energy projects capable of delivering electricity to over 845,000 homes in Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and the Seychelles.

Masdar has also been exploring hydrogen production for over than a decade and is supporting Abu Dhabi’s ambition to become a global hub for green hydrogen.

It has plans to grow its green hydrogen capacity to 1MT by 2030. Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement to develop 4GW-capacity green hydrogen plants in Egypt by 2030.

Masdar clean energy projects - in pictures

How is the progress on the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate launched at Cop26 at Glasgow?

The initiative is focused on transforming food systems and building climate resilience in the agricultural sector by promoting investments in innovation.

It also seeks to protect the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world who are at the front lines of climate change.

The $4bn announced by the initiative at Cop26 represents commitments to increase investments made by country partners for the period of 2021 to 2025.

The UAE has pledged $1bn of investments in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation by several governments.

The UAE is situated in an arid, water-scarce region, but innovation and technology have enabled us to turn deserts into farms.

A key example is Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm operated by the Emirates Group, which produces more than 1,000 tonnes of leafy greens every year, and farms in Al Ain that are now producing blueberries and strawberries.

How are the plans for Cop28 in 2023 developing?

Our priority at Cop27 is to work with the Egyptian presidency and the participating nations to find solutions for climate change.

As we prepare to host Cop28, it is important to understand the priorities of all the nations.

The Emirates Climate Conference will be a milestone Cop with the first ever Global Stocktake, which will allow the international community to assess progress, raise ambition and scale up action to meet the commitments the world has made.

This will be an important outcome for the meeting, as we move towards making Cop28 an inclusive, and solutions-oriented climate summit.

We will focus on accelerating progress on all fronts, including adaptation, and loss and damage. We will also advocate for serious progress on climate finance for developing countries; it is imperative that all countries are able to access the resources needed to transition to clean energy, adapt to climate impacts and accelerate sustainable economic development.

The UAE is ideally placed to build bridges to get the world where we need to be. Cop28 is a pivotal moment, and the UAE takes our responsibility to bring the international community together at Cop28 very seriously.

The UAE has always been a trading nation at the crossroads of the world and we do not any country to be left behind. We will bring together people from government, academia, civil society and every sector of industry in a concerted drive for greater climate progress.

We are also deeply committed to making Cop28 a positive platform for women, youth and indigenous peoples, and will strive for solutions to address the needs of the most vulnerable.

In addition, we aim to promote pragmatic, realistic and practical solutions to the energy transition. This includes pivoting towards clean and renewable sources, while at the same time decarbonising existing sources and investing in innovation.

Sharm El Sheikh's preparations for Cop27 - in pictures

Updated: November 07, 2022, 12:25 AM
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