The need to speed up energy transition

The importance of switching soon to renewables will be on the agenda at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

Solar panels at the Sustainability Pavilion at the site of Dubai Expo 2020. EPA
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The UAE is hosting its annual big-ticket event, the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), a global initiative whose objective is to speed up sustainable development without sacrificing economic, social and environmental progress.

Now in its 15th year, the talks in the UAE capital this time around take on an added significance, as the country prepares to host Cop28, the UN climate change conference, later this year, taking the torch from Egypt. In the lead-up to Cop28 then, it is natural that a push for climate action – which, among other things, includes a more urgent transition to renewable energy – is firmly at the top of the country's national agenda.

Energy transition, the ultimate aim of which is a move to renewables, is one of the most critical components of climate mitigation. Today, it features more prominently in the global conversation around climate change, with more than 190 countries announcing their commitment to the 2015 climate pact – better known as the Paris Agreement – the main goal of which is to limit global warming to well below 2°C, and aim for 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

One would hope that this season of dialogues results in widespread consensus

The UAE has the advantage of being an early mover on renewable energy, having started work nearly two decades ago. On Saturday, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of the Cop28 and the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, reaffirmed the country's support for the work being done by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future.

Dr Al Jaber, who is also managing director and group chief executive of Adnoc and chairman of Masdar, said the Emirates has invested $50 billion in renewable energy, on six continents. “Over the next seven years, we will need to more than triple renewable generating capacity worldwide. The world must move much faster than ever before.”

In today’s environment, where there is indeed a need for a swifter and more concerted effort to address the climate crisis, multi-stakeholder climate talks also need to map out strategies on how to adapt to unexpected developments, whether they are conflicts, contagions or economic downturns. One would, therefore, hope that this season of dialogues – being held amid a host of challenges from the war in Ukraine to the possibility of a global recession – results in widespread consensus on the ways to speed up energy transition.

In the UAE, the installation of renewables over the next five years is set to account for more than 90 per cent of all global electricity capacity additions, Mohamed Al Ramahi, the chief executive of Masdar, wrote in The National, citing a recent report by the International Energy Agency. This echoes the words of US climate envoy John Kerry, who at an ADSW discussion, along with acknowledging a slow pace of change, called renewables "potentially the most exciting economic transformation".

Discussions such as the ones being held at this week’s ADSW in Abu Dhabi, and the World Economic Forum in Davos, are crucial for planet’s various stakeholders to progress towards an agreement on the bold changes required to address the climate crisis. Cop28 will be instrumental in getting to a transformative stage. If indeed these summits can get the ball rolling towards such a consensus, a major breakthrough will have been made in resolving humankind's greatest challenge.

Published: January 16, 2023, 2:00 AM