With temperatures and ocean levels rising faster than ever before, climate change and its devastating consequences are no longer distant problems that can be ignored. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1 degree Celsius since the 19th century and the five warmest years ever all date back to the past decade. The ice sheet of Antarctica is melting three times as fast as it did ten years ago and countries like Australia are witnessing devastating bushfires. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last December that at this rate, the world is “hurtling” toward a “point of no return”.
At a time when there is a lack of global consensus on how to solve these issues, regional efforts to think up solutions for a sustainable future are all the more crucial. The UAE is working towards this goal diligently and this week, the world's foremost experts on climate change are meeting in the capital for a host of events taking place under the umbrella of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
This year’s edition, which kicked off on Friday, is expected to attract tens of thousands of global leaders, investors and business people from 170 countries. They came to attend events such as the Global Energy Forum, hosted by the Atlantic Council, a platform with the ambition to set the global energy agenda for 2020. Others will be enabling the youth to become actors of change, with initiatives such as Youth 4 Sustainability Hub.
Abu Dhabi has a crucial role in bringing together people from all over the world to discuss and implement creative sustainability initiatives and reward those who are working hard to shape a better future. The UAE capital is home to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), which held its 10th annual gathering on Saturday and Sunday. More than 1,500 delegates from all around the globe attended the conference of what has become the “leading intergovernmental agency for the energy transformation,'' according to Irena director-general, Francesco La Camera.
The UAE has also established the Zayed Sustainability Prize, a pioneering award for environmental initiatives, held during ADSW. The prize rewards the achievements of the world’s brightest minds who have dedicated their lives to finding sustainability solutions in five essential sectors: health, food, energy, water and international high schools.
Encouraging research and innovative technologies will be key to securing a sustainable future. The UAE has been at the vanguard of sustainable technology, with an active role in promoting new solutions to age-old problems. In 2010, the country was among the first in the Arabian Gulf to use cloud seeding to increase chances of rain. And today, Dr Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, told The National that the UAE's cloud-seeding activities had a "led to the highest rainfall in the UAE in 2019", with positive repercussions on the desert nation's thriving agriculture sector.
While cloud seeding is a suitable solution for countries at risk of desertification, climate change has made other regions prone to flooding. We must respond to global warming and its consequences with initiatives that are tailored to each region’s challenges. The world needs local solution to this global problem. Initiatives such as the World Future Energy Summit, another conference of ADSW, are meant to bring local and global actors together to tackle these issues. The event provides a marketplace for innovators to exhibit their initiatives for renewable energy and green technologies, inspiring the world to invest in sustainable businesses.
In its 12th annual edition, ADSW is a testament to the UAE’s leading role in the conversation on climate change and sustainability in the Middle East. We can only hope that more such projects are put in place with a commitment to helping build a more sustainable future for everyone.