At last year's climate summit, Cop26, in Glasgow, almost 200 countries declared their targets for climate action. A reminder of exactly why it is crucial that these targets be met came from the World Economic Forum just last week in the Global Risks Report 2022: in less than 10 years, the top five global threats will all be environmental. Such alarming realities call for nothing less than urgent action.
Striving to achieve the goals committed to at Cop26 will not be easy for any country. The challenge will be far greater for nations in the Middle East. Just as efforts to limit global warming have been declared by countries in the region and across the world, the UAE has taken a number of steps to lower its carbon footprint in keeping with the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well below 2°C – and aim for 1.5°C.
The global community has rightly recognised the UAE's efforts and constant commitment. Even as the country prepares to host Cop 28 next year, initiatives are under way, be it harnessing renewable energy, or joining international efforts, as it did on Friday, pledging to preserve nature and protect the environment.
The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, takes the climate dialogue further. The programme is a platform for leaders from various fields – government, business and technology to discuss and support climate action and commitments to net zero. When the UAE committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, it became the first state in the Middle East and North Africa region to do so.
Indeed, the bar is high. Last year, in October, the UAE announced an initiative to reduce carbon emissions. By 2050, the country will invest Dh600 billion in clean and renewable energy sources.
A sustainability event such as ADSW is a useful stage to further climate initiatives, add to UAE's commitments and for companies to collaborate and for stakeholders private and public to spur investment and innovation. The scale of ADSW is in itself notable, with more than 45,000 participants from 170 countries. This year, among other small and medium enterprises, 20 start-ups will be hosted at Abu Dhabi's Masdar City, to showcase technologies, be it artificial intelligence, clean energy, agriculture technology or urban sustainability.
When Cop26 wound down in November last year, Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency, wrote in these pages: "The UAE has the chance to get the world aligned and on track towards an inclusive and equitable energy transition when we host Cop 28 in 2023, after Egypt hosts Cop 27 next year."
And indeed the country is on track, making progress and playing its part in preventing the planet from heating up further. In the time between now and next year, when the UAE hosts Cop28, globally there is much work to be done. Tough decisions will have to be made by global stakeholders to make sure environment goals are on track. For many reasons, 2022 will be a crucial year for climate action across the world. As the Global Risks Report emphasised, there is no time to lose.