Cop26 is over. What now for the UAE's green technology sector?

The UAE is already holding international meetings that seek to create green innovation, from fuel to aviation

The Dubai Airshow, the first major aviation event since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, has started. AFP
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Alok Sharma, a British Minister of State and president of Cop 26, appeared to be on the verge of tears when delegates at this year's climate summit managed to strike a new deal, to be known as the Glasgow Climate Pact. The results are mixed, but after fears of impending failure, any progress is welcome.

It is important to remember that the world now has the strongest international climate commitment in history. Participating countries have agreed to a range of terms that pave the way for deeper emissions cuts by 2030 and more financial support to poorer countries, many of which are set to feel the effects of climate change the earliest and the hardest.

An agreement on coal production, a difficult issue throughout, proved challenging when at the last minute, India, with support from China, pushed through an amendment calling to "phase down" coal – as opposed to the original wording, "phase out". Earlier in the conference, more than 40 countries committed to moving away from coal.

There is more to hash out in future, but attention must now be directed towards acting on the new agreements, from controlling plastic waste and supporting poorer countries to developing sustainable energy.

Cop26 might be over, but international gatherings to follow up on its ambitions are already underway. The first is Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (Adipec), a meeting of leading figures in the energy industry. A central theme at the event will be the energy transition and strengthening a sustainable future for the sector. A key avenue in this regard is the development of hydrogen fuel. It is not only pollution-free, but also expected to become incredibly valuable. The size of the hydrogen industry is projected to hit $183 billion by 2023.

In parallel to Adipec, the UAE is also hosting the Dubai Airshow, the first major global aerospace exhibition in two years. Again, sustainability is a particular focus. Eyes will be on Etihad Airways' "Greenliner", for example, a project that has been running for two years to develop eco-friendly flying. Sustainable fuel, including not only hydrogen but also biofuels, is a pillar around which to reform the industry. After all, it is estimated that aviation is responsible for between 2 and 3 per cent of annual global emissions.

Greenliner is also looking at other ways to make the whole experience of commercial flying safer for the planet. This can range from plastic-free in-flight products to highly technical measures, such as the use of software that plots the most sustainable flight paths by adjusting controls in new ways. These potentially game-changing measures will need time before they become the norm; revising the way pilots have operated for decades will not be easy, and most flights cross a number of different countries' airspace in the course of a journey. Everyone, therefore, will have to accommodate such change if the innovation is to reach its full potential.

Global co-operation is key. It is not as simple as changing planes and pilots. It is about evolving the context in which they operate. On a wider scale, this is the message of Cop26, and the mantra that should underpin efforts to implement new agreements going forward.

Published: November 15, 2021, 3:00 AM