How Abu Dhabi can become a leader in the global climate fight

The emirate has announced a five-year strategy that focuses on helping key sectors reduce emissions and stay resilient

Views of the Eastern Mangroves and Abu Dhabi city. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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2023 is a very exciting year. Not only is it the “Year of Sustainability”, as declared by President Sheikh Mohamed, the UAE will host Cop28 – the world’s largest climate forum – in November and December.

July, in particular, was an important month for climate action in Abu Dhabi. The emirate’s Executive Council unveiled its climate change strategy, to be led by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Following this, Adnoc announced a plan to bring its decarbonisation target forward to 2045, from its previous target of 2050, and to achieve zero methane emissions by 2030. This announcement is especially exciting for us because it is a prime example of the strong collaboration between our agency and Adnoc in implementing our climate change strategy. Indeed, the decarbonisation plan will help drive Abu Dhabi’s transition towards a low-carbon, innovation-driven economy.

Adnoc will drive the global growth of renewable energy and green hydrogen through its shareholding in Masdar, which is targeting a portfolio of more than 100GW of renewable capacity and the production of 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030.

Adnoc’s decarbonisation plan also includes a $3.8 billion first-of-its-kind at-scale project, connecting its offshore operations to clean grid power, which will reduce its offshore carbon footprint by up to 50 per cent. It also includes building a 1 million tonnes-per annum low-carbon ammonia production facility to help the company’s customers decarbonise.

The impetus for us is to enhance the resilience of vulnerable sectors to help them adapt to the effects of climate change

Adnoc also announced that it has begun construction on the Middle East’s first high-speed hydrogen refuelling station. Located in Masdar City, the station will create clean hydrogen from water, using an electrolyser powered by clean grid electricity. The company is partnering with Toyota Motor Corporation and Al-Futtaim Motors to test the station using a fleet of clean hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Meanwhile, Emirates Steel Arkan and AD Ports Group signed an agreement with Japanese firms to establish a low-carbon iron supply chain complex in Abu Dhabi. The project aims to boost the global iron and steel industry while reducing its carbon footprint.

The agency’s vision is to become a leader in the climate fight by reducing emissions in key sectors, improving resilience, promoting investment attractiveness, fostering innovation, and driving progress towards a low-carbon economy.

Our five-year strategy outlines a plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the country’s stated goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. It was devised in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Climate Taskforce, which represents 26 entities from key sectors in the emirate, and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

This strategy rests on two main pillars. One is adapting to a changing climate by enhancing the resilience of the emirate’s four key sectors – energy, health, infrastructure and environment – against risks posed by climate change. The other is climate mitigation by reducing emissions in these sectors and scaling up innovative technologies for direct carbon capture and storage.

There is now a global consensus that climate change is real and causing noticeable harm to the environment. No country can turn a blind eye to the phenomenon, and to the world needs to take collective action to adapt to and mitigate its disastrous effects. Our strategy is one of the paths towards tackling this challenge.

On a local level, Abu Dhabi is witnessing an increase in air and marine water temperatures – which have a detrimental impact on public health – as well as higher salinity levels in the seas. Sea levels are rising, intense rainfall is becoming more frequent, and there are notable changes in weather patterns, such as increased humidity with levels rising up to 90 per cent on some days.

Climate change is having a significant impact on Abu Dhabi’s biodiversity, too. In 2017, global coral bleaching led to the elimination of 73 per cent of the Gulf’s offshore coral reefs.

The increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the emirate is attributed to human factors, such as population and economic growth, and linked to the energy and transportation sectors.

According to agency data, the electricity and water production and distribution sector accounts for 34 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s emissions, followed by the industry and manufacturing sector at 29 per cent, the oil and gas sector at 19 per cent, and the transportation sector at 10 per cent.

It is our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in key sectors by 22 per cent by 2027 and by 35 per cent by 2030 from 2016 levels. To achieve this, we have set reduction targets for these sectors: 43 per cent in the electricity and water sector, 10 per cent in the transportation sector, and 20 per cent in the agricultural sector. We are also working towards a 41 per cent reduction target in the waste sector. Adnoc is looking to reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2030 through targeted investments in efficient reservoir and operations management.

It is important for us to strike a balance between supporting the development of Abu Dhabi and conserving the environment. We can all be proud of how much the emirate has grown. As a regulator, the agency will continue to work closely with the leadership to ensure that environmental preservation remains a priority.

The impetus for us is to enhance the resilience of vulnerable sectors to help them adapt to the effects of climate change.

We want to ensure that Abu Dhabi becomes among of the most climate-adaptive places in the region. We have plenty of work to do in this regard – but by collaborating with all the key stakeholders, I believe we can make this happen.

Published: August 09, 2023, 5:00 AM