As the climate crisis continues to pose a threat to lives and food production across the world, leaders and representatives of 40 countries came together on Thursday and Friday to put forward their plans and commitments to keep climate-related disasters from unfolding.
US President Joe Biden's Leaders Summit on Climate took place just weeks after US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry visited the UAE for the Mena Regional Climate Dialogue, which was held in Abu Dhabi earlier this month. On Friday, the UAE announced a new initiative with the US, UK and others to champion agriculture as part of climate action.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said at the summit: “I am pleased to announce that the UAE will be partnering with a group of champions to launch the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate.”
The UAE has in the past decade made enormous strides in agriculture, given its goals to increase self-reliance by ramping up food security – growing food in the emirates, be it by means of hydroponics or vertical farming.
Given its arid climate, the UAE and other GCC countries have for years imported 90 per cent of their food. However, harnessing the latest technologies to boost food production have given the country an edge when it comes to agricultural innovations that could be the way of the future.
There is much being done to develop the country's AgTech sector.
Last year, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) said it would invest $100 million to draw four companies to the emirate as part of government efforts to attract high-skilled talent and research. Adio said it aims to explore how arid countries, such as the UAE, can utilise new technologies to transcend the limits of geography.
Also last year, Pure Harvest Smart Farms, an Abu Dhabi-based AgTech start-up, secured a commitment of $100m with the Kuwaiti firm Wafra International Investment Company to fund expansion of its sustainable greenhouses across the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
These examples are befitting the expertise and track record of the UAE to champion such agricultural technologies. It comes as no surprise, then, that US and the UAE should launch the "AIM for Climate" initiative.
A programme such as this will foster greater investment in agricultural research and development and allow for scientific and data-backed policymaking. These decisions and ideas, as Sheikh Mohammed said, are also aimed to develop technology that helps farmers in developing nations cope with the effects of climate change and sustainably increase agricultural productivity.
To be sure, when countries collaborate in this way, benefits are manifold. Such initiatives improve farmers' livelihoods and conserve biodiversity – steps that build resilience to climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints.
"The science is undeniable, and the cost of inaction just keeps mounting," Mr Biden said.
AIM for Climate could yield enormous benefits worldwide and keep climate goals in check. Adhering to commitments made on platforms such as the leaders summit works as a propelling force, pushing people and countries to work together towards a common goal: making deliverable plans and provisions for a future where disastrous ecological conditions, experts warn, could become a much more frequent reality – no longer just the odd wildfire or drought. The world needs to prepare for these ominous scenarios and it is international co-operation that will get us there.
Along with other nations such as the UK, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Uruguay, AIM for Climate has been endorsed by Bill Gates, who stressed the need to keep in mind subsistence farmers in poorer countries.
“We have to address the climate impacts that are going to come because of the heating that's already taken place," Mr Gates said. "This means accelerating agricultural innovation so that subsistence farmers can withstand the shocks that come with more unpredictable weather.”
Adding to Mr Gates's point, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, emphasised the need to invest in innovation and technology in the agricultural sector, through which "we can unlock opportunities for effective mitigation and adaptation".
On his most recent visit to Abu Dhabi, Mr Kerry, said: "I was impressed by the ingenuity being applied to food and climate challenges during my recent trip to the UAE."
It is more clear than ever – the need to redouble international efforts and to put in place systems that check man-related causes of global warming is immediate. This latest initiative is an example of what can be achieved with leadership and commitment.