Mariam Al Mheiri says last barrel of oil will be cause for celebration not a crisis

Minister of Climate Change and Environment makes vow at Sharjah conference

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, at the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah. Photo: Wam
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Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, promised that the day the UAE uses its last barrel of oil must be a "cause for celebration rather than a crisis", as the nation builds towards a more sustainable future.

Ms Al Mheiri delivered the strong message during an address at the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah on Wednesday.

She underlined the UAE's drive to triple its renewable energy contributions by 2030 – and double this number again in the following decade.

"The wisdom of our leadership lies in their recognition that oil is a finite resource and, as such, they steer the nation towards a sustainable future," she said.

"This transformation aims to ensure that the last barrel of oil becomes a cause for celebration rather than a crisis."

The minister's remarks echo a similar pledge made by President Sheikh Mohamed in 2015, in his previous capacity as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, to emphasise the country's commitment to diversifying its economy.

“In 50 years, when we might have the last barrel of oil, the question is: when it is shipped abroad, will we be sad?” Sheikh Mohamed asked during that year's World Government Summit in Dubai.

“If we are investing today in the right sectors, I can tell you we will celebrate at that moment.”

UAE prepared for post-oil era

More than eight years later, Ms Al Mheiri said the UAE remains on track as it prepares to host the Cop28 climate change summit in November.

What sets the UAE's sustainability experience apart, according to Ms Al Mheiri, is its practicality in identifying challenges and devising solutions to address them.

"Sustainability stands as one of the nation's foremost strategic priorities, both today and in the future," she said.

"Some may observe that the UAE is indeed blessed with abundant oil reserves, but the question arises: Do we rely solely on oil or envision a future where its use is limited to ensuring power supply?

"The unequivocal answer is no."

Ms Al Mheiri pointed to a number of the UAE's projects as examples of how the nation was committed to the sustainable path.

"The UAE has ambitious plans to significantly increase its reliance on renewable energy sources," she said.

"By 2030, the goal is to triple the contribution of renewables, and by 2040, this contribution will increase sixfold, alongside a greater emphasis on hydrogen utilisation.

Abu Dhabi's Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is central to the UAE's clean energy drive. Photo: Wam

"Additionally, the UAE is on track to fully operate the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plants, a pioneering initiative in the Arab world."

Signing up to the Paris Climate Agreement was another indication of the UAE's commitment to sustainability, she added.

"The UAE's objective includes safeguarding planet Earth against the repercussions of severe climate alterations," Ms Al Mheiri said.

"To attain this objective, the UAE has recently elevated its pledge to cut emissions by 40 per cent compared to the usual scenario of global efforts by 2030."

Only last week the UAE pledged $4.5 billion in support of clean energy projects at the Africa Climate Summit.

Ms Al Mheiri referenced that pledge in her speech on Wednesday.

Making a difference

"Just a few days ago, at the African Climate Summit in Nairobi, the UAE made a significant announcement," she said.

"They pledged a financing initiative amounting to $4.5 billion, aimed at bolstering Africa's capabilities in the realm of clean energy.

"Africa, a continent that bears the brunt of climate change's severe impacts, is responsible for only 2 per cent to 3 per cent of the global carbon emissions resulting from energy and industrial activities."

Global food security was another sector the UAE was working to improve, she added.

"The UAE is actively working towards global food security to combat the pervasive issue of hunger, which afflicted an astonishing 783 million people worldwide last year following Covid," Ms Al Mheiri said.

Another speaker at Wednesday's conference was equally vocal about the need to tackle food security issues.

"Food is a basic need of all beings, not just humans, it's the currency of life," said environmental activist and food sovereignty expert Vandana Shiva.

"One of the biggest tragedies facing us now is half of the hungry people in the world are food producers themselves who can't grow enough to feed themselves.

"They're growing commodities at high cost and earning nothing."

Updated: September 13, 2023, 2:15 PM