Rome wasn't built in a day, the saying goes. To deal with a security threat as universal and pressing as climate change, all countries need to agree on a vision and a timeline. They need clear objectives to be met within stipulated time periods, often encompassing decades. Then comes the actual heavy lifting, the work that needs to be done to achieve those goals.
The UAE has already been working for years to deliver on climate action. Financing clean energy projects began in the Emirates more than 15 years ago and there is a whole list of initiatives to be proud of – including the various clean energy projects, Masdar, the Barakah nuclear energy plant, the country's massive solar energy parks, the push towards agritech, which is less water and land intensive. And on Thursday, at Expo 2020 Dubai, the UAE pledged to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by the year 2050.
The country is no stranger to aiming high and achieving those aims. This target of net zero requires the continuation of a drive in the country that already exists in the country: prioritising sustainability and pushing an ecological mindset to remain at the core of development and decision-making.
One of its main strategies is to reach net zero by 2050, a goal that has been commended by several world leaders, is by investing Dh600 billion in clean and renewable energy sources over the next three decades. This, as John Kerry, the US special climate envoy, says, is an example that has been set for other energy-producing nations. Mr Kerry said he saluted the UAE's ambitious climate commitment, just as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he welcomed the move and encouraged "other Gulf states to follow this example ahead of Cop26”.
At next month's UN climate summit, known as Cop26, in Glasgow, the discussions will be heavily focused on similar plans by nations and the progress that the participating countries are required to have made; agendas they have set for themselves that align with the global climate programme.
For the sake of international accountability – but in the larger scheme of things, also for the sake of the planet, our future and that of the children of tomorrow – all countries need to set their sights on clear goals. They need to share with other nations their agendas and progress made over the period of time specified in their country's plans, which in Cop26 terms, are also called their Nationally Determined Contribution.
No global stakeholders can be exempt from contributing to the world's climate ambitions, namely, the steps outlined in 2015 at the Paris deal that was signed by 195 countries, including the UAE. At that time, all signatories agreed to do their bit to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
To be sure, meeting climate goals requires governments to work together and adopt a concerted approach to tackle rising global temperatures and resulting consequences that can include floods and wildfires, as we have seen in recent years.
So what needs to be achieved next month at Cop26? Agreeing to global net zero carbon by 2050 and the 1.5 degrees temperature aim made within reach; agreeing that communities and natural habitats have to be protected; securing private and public sector financing to deliver on projects; and the understanding that teamwork will be crucial. Countries need to collaborate to get the world closer to a sustainable future – governments, businesses and civil society need to do this together. And the UAE’s announcement of its strategic initiative is an important step forward in that direction.