The Middle East can be a powerful ally against climate change

The Gulf has become a well-known testing ground for some of the world's most advanced sustainable technologies. Getty
The Gulf has become a well-known testing ground for some of the world's most advanced sustainable technologies. Getty

Next week will see a high-level summit in Abu Dhabi to advance global action against climate change. Attending the GCC and Mena Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, and visiting the region for the first time since his appointment, will be John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate.

The Regional Dialogue will provide an important preview of the conversations that will take place later this month at another climate summit, to be held in Washington. That meeting will see 40 leaders, including those of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, convene to rethink the global approach to what is one of the most significant challenges of our lifetimes – an unsustainable rise in the planet's temperature that threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The invitation to the UAE and Saudi Arabia marks the first time that Arab countries have been given such a prominent seat at the global climate table.

Both nations have made unprecedented commitments to limit carbon emissions. The Emirates is embedding renewable power as a core part of the national energy grid, aims to cut emissions by a quarter by 2030 and has become a regional champion of the Paris Agreement – to which the UAE was the first Gulf country to sign up.

This leadership role reflects the reality of living in a region where heat is extreme and water is precious. In the Emirates, climate change has long been viewed as an urgent challenge that we must tackle, along with the entire global community.And for those concerned about global warming – a category that should, but sadly does not yet, include everyone – the history of international summitry on the issue is a roller coaster of emotion. Each meeting comes with seemingly monumental announcements. The 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, for example, saw more than 60 countries, 90 major companies and 100 cities agree to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Even these commitments, however, are not enough to reverse the damage that is being done on a daily basis to the planet's climate.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. The solar PV industry is expected to generate a $182 billion investment in the renewables market in the Middle East by 2025, according to Frost & Sullivan. Reuters
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. The solar PV industry is expected to generate a $182 billion investment in the renewables market in the Middle East by 2025. Reuters

And yet, it could be argued that sufficient levels of action will only follow more universal awareness and participation as well as the necessary levels of financial support directed towards it. For some the message still isn't getting through.

This is why climate summits are necessary. To keep highlighting the opportunities and challenges we are facing and in such a way that the conversation is framed inclusively. The UAE for example has always seen climate action as an opportunity to grow and diversify its economy and create jobs for the next generation, while contributing practical solutions to a global problem. It is looking ahead also to November and the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow, extending this spirit of co-operation there.

Meanwhile, by coming to Abu Dhabi, and by inviting the UAE and Saudi Arabia to this month's meeting in Washington, Mr Kerry and President Joe Biden, also demonstrate the US's sharpened focus on climate action and the creation of a platform for genuine collaboration.

Published: April 2, 2021 07:00 AM

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