How Abu Dhabi is addressing climate change

Water use is just part of each UAE resident's environmental impact. Pawan Singh / The National
Water use is just part of each UAE resident's environmental impact. Pawan Singh / The National

Human-induced climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time. The emirate of Abu Dhabi both contributes to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases (GHG) and will be affected by climate change through impacts such as sea level rise, increasing temperatures and shifts in prevailing weather conditions. We will also be affected as climate change affects the countries we trade with.

Nearly 200 countries came together in December last year to negotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, which has been signed by 180 of them. It was ratified this month by the United States and China, the two biggest emitters, and by the UAE, which was the first GCC and Opec member to do so. The agreement aims to reduce emissions of GHG and to limit global warming to 2°C and ideally no more than 1.5°C. It is hoped this will be enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

These goals will be achieved by countries implementing nationally determined contributions and reporting progress to the United Nations. To develop an effective emissions-reduction programme, we first need to understand the sources of emissions. In Abu Dhabi, the assessment of GHG emissions is conducted by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, supported by partners from the major emitting sectors and other government entities. Every two years, this partnership produces an emissions inventory which is provided to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment as part of the UAE’s emissions report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Yesterday, the agency published the second inventory for Abu Dhabi – a comprehensive assessment of 2012 emissions. Through rigorous data collection and analysis, emissions for each sector were calculated from the bottom up. This approach was adopted to ensure capacity development and greater understanding within emitting sectors to support future monitoring, reporting and implementation of emissions reduction initiatives.

The second emissions cycle report has shown that between 2010 and 2012, total direct emissions increased from 99 million tonnes CO² equivalent to 115 million tonnes, broadly reflecting economic and population growth over this period. The energy sector – electricity and water production, oil and gas, manufacturing and transport – represent 74.1 per cent of total emissions followed by industrial processes (16.9 per cent), waste (7.3 per cent) and agriculture (1.7 per cent).

Emissions also increased when measured on a per capita basis and are high when compared to other countries. While our contribution to global emissions is small overall, it is important that we improve resource efficiency and lower emissions to build on our reputation as a global sustainability champion and to enhance economic competitiveness. Reducing emissions will provide additional benefits such as improved air quality.

We need to focus on policy levers that address how we generate and consume water and electricity, optimise the efficiency of our oil and gas production, manage transport and city expansion, and encourage innovation.

Abu Dhabi has the potential to reduce 40 per cent of emissions compared to our historical trajectory by the year 2030.

Much has already been done. Reforms to the subsidies on water and electricity are reducing consumption, and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority is leading our efforts to diversify energy generation by partnering with Masdar and Emirates Nuclear Energy Company. From an oil and gas perspective, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has renewed its commitment to efficiency in production and its zero flaring policy. Adnoc is working with Masdar and Emirates Steel to implement a carbon capture project. The Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport is working on a strategy for low-emission vehicles, which will also make our cities more liveable.

We will need to maintain and decisively step up our momentum, and ensure greater coordination and collaboration between the contributing sectors.

The effective implementation of ambitious policies such as these will also require a greater focus on monitoring emissions. EAD is committed to working with the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi to continue to track our emissions and make them publicly available.

To optimise our response to climate change the Government will need further engagement and coordination between communities and the private sector as well as within the federal framework for climate change.

On September 4, the UAE ratified the Paris Agreement placing us among the early movers. I would like to commend the UAE Cabinet for adopting this leadership position and for the establishment of the UAE Council on Climate Change that will lead the development of policy and regulation in this area.

The Government of Abu Dhabi has described an ambitious vision for the emirate with the target of “creating a confident, secure society, and building a sustainable, open and globally competitive economy”. The GHG inventory represents yet another contribution intended to garner collective action towards the achievement of the Government’s larger vision for the future of Abu Dhabi.

Razan Al Mubarak is secretary general of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi

Published: September 26, 2016 04:00 AM

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