The world must tackle carbon emissions while continuing to make economic progress, a UAE minister said on Monday.
In his opening speech at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE's special envoy for climate change, said the event would aim to answer some of the most pressing questions around sustainability.
“We have seen 50 years of incredible progress. Our founding father Sheikh Zayed invested in the wealth and health of a nation,” Dr Al Jaber said in front of an audience that included Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
“He balanced economic development with environmental responsibility. He believed that sharing made good nations great, and guided the UAE to become one of the world's leading humanitarian donors.
“And in those same 50 years, the world has also been transformed for the better. Yes, progress over the last 50 years has been truly unprecedented, but has also posed a fundamental question – how to keep moving forward while turning back the clock on emissions?
“And how to make the world wealthier and healthier at the same time?”
“Finding the answers to these questions has been the mission of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, and the Zayed Sustainability Prize.”
Sheikh Mohammed posted online after the event to mark the occasion.
"Today witnessed the launch of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week from Dubai Expo 2020," he wrote.
"The week began in Abu Dhabi 14 years ago to bring together 50 heads of state and 45,000 sustainability specialists across all its sessions. The capital will receive world leaders at the COP28 Climate Change Summit in 2023."
Since its inception in 2008, ADSW has become one of the largest platforms, where government leaders, technology pioneers and business leaders gather to share knowledge and strategies on climate action.
This year’s opening ceremony was held at Expo 2020 Dubai, where Dr Al Jaber delivered the opening speech.
The UAE is a “true pioneer” in clean energy, he said. It started investing in the renewable sector more than 15 years ago.
The UAE is home to the largest solar plants in the world. Through Masdar, a renewable energy company in Abu Dhabi, the Emirates has invested in solar and wind projects in 40 countries around the world.
Dr Al Jaber said the UAE was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to announce a “net zero by 2050" strategic initiative.
“The UAE is adopting a low-carbon pathway to a high growth destination,” he said.
“We are keen to accelerate progress on this journey as hosts to Cop28 in 2023.
“In our approach to Cop28, we will give an equal voice to the developing world, and align the public and private sector, academics, engineers, and businesses, civil society and industry.
“That means all industry, including the hydrocarbon industry, because there is one thing that the history of every energy transition tells us, is that it takes time, you cannot simply flip a switch.
“To successfully navigate a complex transition to the energy system of tomorrow, we cannot just unplug from the energy system of today. We must remain pragmatic while being progressive, hopeful and practical.
“We should look for the solutions where the energy expertise exists. Remember, we should aim to hold back emissions, not progress.”
The UAE will host the 28th UN global climate talks in 2023, after a decision was made by the body in Glasgow last year to accept the Emirates' bid to run the negotiations.
Cop28 will begin in the UAE on November 6, 2023.