In the run-up to the UAE’s hosting of the United Nations’ COP28 climate change conference, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) this year launched ADSW Talks, where leading sustainability figures share their perspectives on the most pressing sustainability challenges.
The digital talk series has interviewed local and international sustainability influencers, including UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri and former Armenian President His Excellency Armen Sarkissian.
Most recently, ADSW Talks featured Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), who discussed the UAE’s sustainability leadership, COP27 and COP28, and the technologies and innovations needed to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.
The UAE “is making history” through its leadership in the global energy transition, said La Camera. “The UAE is supporting climate action through action. In this country, we have 70 percent of the renewables in the Gulf region. It is a matter of fact that the UAE is leading the process, where the intention is not just to unplug the old system but to build the new one. The biggest renewable plants are here, [as well as] experiments and pilot studies in green hydrogen. They have already started to export ammonia to the east part of the world, so they are leading by example.”
Regarding the two upcoming COPs, La Camera added: “The COP27 in Egypt will be a very important one and I think the countries are already working together. The Egyptian one will be the African COP. And the COP28 will be the one with the West talking to the East, and the North talking to the South. I am really proud that we are starting to collaborate strongly with the UAE and I think it will be a very important next two years to show the UAE’s [sustainable leadership].”
The next edition of ADSW hosted by Masdar is set to take place on January 14-21, 2023. Paving the way for COP28, the week-long sustainability-focused event will unite the global community’s efforts toward net-zero and an inclusive energy transition.
Regarding future trends and needs for sustainable energy, he explained that the renewable energy technologies needed to achieve the Paris Agreement goals were already available, and only a bit more innovation was required to make those technologies more effective.
“Technology innovation is a very important aspect of our work. We made very clear in our most recent World Energy Transition Outlook 2022 that the two main drivers in the energy transition are the electrification of the energy system and energy efficiency, so reducing the demand. The technologies that are enabling this transition are renewables, so the new system will be dominated by renewables and complimented by hydrogen, mainly green hydrogen, and sustainable biomass,” La Camera said.
When asked about his goals for his time at IRENA, La Camera said: “The goal that I want to achieve with the agency is to use [its] unique knowledge capacity to support countries in all aspects of their planning, so we can transfer the knowledge to planning, and try to link the planning to the projects and the monitoring of the results. I see the agency moving from one angle of tackling the energy transition topic, to one of 360 degrees, from knowledge, planning, projects, implementation, and monitoring, and again, in a circle, to make it as the 360-degree agency.”
La Camera is an Italian civil servant, academic, and diplomat. He was elected as the director-general of IRENA in April 2019. Before joining IRENA, La Camera served as director-general of the office of Sustainable Development, Environmental Damage, European Union, and International Affairs at the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land, and Sea.