Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, said the UAE may update its climate action plan based on what transpires at Cop28.
The crucial climate talks will see the world assess progress made under the 2015 Paris Agreement when leaders agreed to “pursue efforts” to limit global temperatures to 1.5ºC on pre-industrial levels.
This is known as the “global stocktake” and will take place at Cop28 for the first time.
“Based on the conclusion of the global stocktake, the UAE may consider updating its climate plans and potentially update its nationally determined contribution,” Ms Al Mheiri said on Thursday.
Ms Al Mheiri also said the UAE wanted Cop28 to be a “beacon of hope” amid a “disheartening” regional situation.
With just two weeks to go until the crucial summit begins, Ms Al Mheiri outlined how the UAE wanted a positive summit and to lead by example in cutting emissions.
Vital need to cut waste
She said issues such as the UAE’s household waste and food waste needed to be addressed and the role of new technology in curbing warming emissions, such as carbon capture, should be explored.
“Households have a huge role to play,” she told reporters. “Sometimes we lose ourselves in how we are being very wasteful,” pointing to how the ministry has launched a series of engagements known as “changemakers majlis” to galvanise the support of everyday households.
Food loss and waste contribute in a major way to global emissions. According to the UN, if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We don’t even feel how much waste we are producing because the waste management system is so good in the country,” said Ms Al Mheiri. “You take out your waste and the next morning it is gone. So you don’t see it and don’t feel how much it is.”
The UAE announced its net-zero by 2050 goal in 2021. Net zero typically means not adding new emissions to the atmosphere. The road map to cutting emissions is through what is known as “nationally determined contributions” or a country's climate action plan.
These plans are usually issued or updated every five years as mandated under the 2015 Paris deal. But the UAE has updated its NDC several times within this five-year time frame, with the last update in July outlining how the Emirates planned to ensure a 40 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 compared to business as usual.
“We are updating it because technology has accelerated,” she said. “The private sector is being enabled. And since we are hosting the world [at Cop28] why not push it further?”
When asked about independent research group Climate Action Tracker's ranking of the NDC as “insufficient” – better than the previous ranking – Ms Al Mheiri said it was a “step in the right direction” and “we are always striving to get better”.
“Let’s raise the ambition even higher,” she said. “And we are realistic. We are in a desert and must think of high temperatures. Living and adapting to the environment we are in is also not easy,” she said, saying the UAE also considered the cost of living and environmental aspects in such decisions.
She also said the ministry was working closely with all the significant players from transport to energy and the major companies “were feeling the heat” on net zero, She outlined how Adnoc had also issued its own net-zero targets.
The minister said the UAE was keen to explore the potential of what’s known as carbon capture technologies that stores C02 from the air.
“I was in Iceland and saw the direct air capture they are using. The project looks very promising,” she said, referring to a project that sees C02 being turned into stone.
“The UAE is very open to looking at technologies and innovations in this space. We have some areas in UAE that could actually be ideal for this technology,” she said, pointing to a trial in Fujairah.
The UN, meanwhile, has warned the world remains way off track collectively in curbing emissions with countries only taking “baby steps” to tackle the crisis. Cop28 also comes in a challenging global outlook amid the Ukraine war and Gaza conflict.
Ms Al Mheiri said what was happening in the region was “disheartening” yet the UAE wanted Cop28 to be a “beacon of hope”.
“We are excited and nervous at hosting the world to talk about one of the biggest threats that we are facing,” she said.
“We really want to lead by example at Cop28. We want to walk the talk.”