The story of how the UAE became a sustainability model is worth telling

When Cop28 kicks off on Thursday, the host country aims to share its experiences with the rest of the world

A flock of Arabian Oryx graze at a conservation area in front of the Dubai city skyline earlier this year. AP
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In 2015, Paris delivered the agreement. In 2023, Dubai must deliver the action. In those eight years, we witnessed plenty of wins and losses for the climate battle. But it all comes down to Cop28 to show how far we have come exactly and how high we need to aim to get to where we all need to be, to keep the climate in check and ensure a climate-safe future for the coming generations.

We are confident that the Cop28 Presidency will deliver on its promises and its mission of achieving the four paradigm shifts under its Action Agenda. These include fast-tracking the just, equitable and orderly energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030; transforming climate finance by delivering on old promises and setting the framework for a new deal on finance; putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action; and mobilising for an inclusive Cop.

As a responsible member of the international community, a sustainability champion and a climate advocate, the UAE has made confident strides across all four areas. Our journey towards becoming a sustainability role model began during the early days of the union. The UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was named “Man of the Environment” because of his deep affection towards nature and his unwavering commitment to its protection.

“We pay the utmost care and attention to our environment, for it is an integral part of the country, our history, and our heritage,” Sheikh Zayed once said, charting the path of our country.

It all comes down to Cop28 to show how far we have come from 2015, and how high we need to aim to get to where we all need to be

To this day, our wise leadership continues to follow in his steps, adopt the same causes he championed and pursue a comprehensive, yet pragmatic, development both at home and abroad.

In July, we updated the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 with higher, more ambitious targets. These include tripling our renewables capacity by 2030, in response to the request made by the Cop28 Presidency, increasing the share of installed clean energy capacity to 30 per cent by 2030, and reducing the energy consumption through improved efficiency by up to 45 per cent by 2050. To achieve these targets, we will channel investments of up to Dh200 billion ($54.5bn) in projects that drive climate action and energy security.

Also, the UAE launched the National Hydrogen Strategy that calls for the production of 1.4 million tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen every year by 2031, increasing production to 15 million tonnes by 2050, and establishing two hydrogen oases by 2031 and increasing their number to five by 2050.

Both strategies support Cop28 priority areas related to the energy transition. We see the energy transition not only as an environmental obligation but as an economic opportunity as well. The UAE has demonstrated that diversifying its economy and energy sources has been more of an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Let’s look at Masdar. It was established in 2006 with a clear mission of establishing the UAE as a major global renewables producer and investor. Today, Masdar is one of the world’s largest renewable energy powerhouses and a major green hydrogen player, placing the UAE at the forefront of the energy transition. Masdar is active in more than 40 countries, with a combined electricity generation capacity of more than 20 gigawatts. It has growth plans to reach 100 GW and 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030.

We also managed to bring down the cost of solar generation. Globally, the solar price has decreased from about 17 cents/kilowatt-hour in 2013 to less than 4.5 cents/KWh in 2023. This decrease in global solar cost, an abundance of the resource and conducive business incentives have recently resulted in the UAE having one of the lowest solar tariffs in the world, at 1.35 cents/KWh.

Our efforts to invest in renewables go side-by-side with our work to green the oil and gas sector. As we are in a transition, oil and gas will still be in demand for the next few decades, so we are doing our best to decarbonise the sector and produce the cleanest barrel in the world.

Our oil and gas sector has been at the global forefront of adopting climate-friendly industry practices. For instance, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) is a pioneer in adopting sustainable practices and has a robust decarbonisation plan towards achieving its net-zero commitment by 2045 and zero methane emissions by 2030. It is the first company among its peers to make such a commitment, reinforcing its position as a responsible energy provider.

Since January 2022, Adnoc has powered its entire grid supply from nuclear and solar energy sources. It has also been an early mover in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). It has operated the region’s first commercial-scale CCUS facility, with the capacity to capture 800,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, at Al Reyadah since 2016. The company plans to expand its CCUS activities to capture 10 million tonnes of CO2 every year by 2030.

Having adopted a zero-flaring policy in routine operations, our oil and gas companies are regional leaders in flaring avoidance design and operation. They leverage state-of-the-art technologies to monitor and reduce fugitive emissions across the value chain, and they continue to build on these achievements.

The story of the UAE and how it became a sustainability model is worth telling. At Cop28, we aim to share our experiences with the world. I truly believe that there is plenty that we can learn from each other. This planet is our home. When each one of us does our part, we can keep our home beautiful, green and clean.

Published: November 29, 2023, 2:00 PM