Exclusive: 'Shift in mentality' needed in UAE to reduce carbon emissions, says Minister

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi said the private sector must ramp up their sustainability efforts to help the UAE meet its goals, writes Naser Al Wasmi from Bonn

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A shift in mentality is needed from both the public and private sector to reduce the UAE’s carbon emissions, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment said this week.

As the global UN climate change conference, Cop23, concludes in Bonn, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi said the UAE government needs the private sector and public on board if the country is to meet its renewable energy targets and adhere to its Paris Agreement goals, which aim to reduce global warming to less than two degrees.

Current targets globally only account for  one third of the cuts needed by 2030 with all but a few countries on track to reduce their emissions sufficiently to meet the target, according to the UN's annual review.

Next years COP24, to be held in Poland, expects to see all 196 countries scale up their nationally determined contributions (NDC’s) - the goals individual countries set in the Paris Agreement in 2015 that aim to reduce carbon emissions in various sectors.

The UAE has already pledged to provide 27 per cent of its energy from clean sources, up from 24 per cent pledged in 2015.

Speaking exclusively to The National at Cop23 Dr Al Zeyoudi said it is critical for other segments of society to get on board with the UAE's climate action plan.

“With the new review next year, I think we’ll be able to reduce emissions even more, so we’re moving in the right direction but it needs a shifting the mentality,” he said.


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“We are going to continue to review our policy on a yearly basis and we’ll see how we’re doing, with the expectation we’re open to review it,” he said “it depends on technology and prices and with what we’ve seen in the reduction in cost of renewables is amazing.”

Masdar submitted it’s lowest bid ever on the latest project solar project in Saudi Arabia  offering a $1.79 per kilowatt hour, which is almost 80 per cent cheaper than bids offered less than 10 years ago. It is hoped that the reduced cost will encourage businesses to utilize and invest in solar energy.

As the private sector moves forward, the minister said the onus is on negotiators at these conferences to begin scaling up the pace of implementation to match the technological realities of today.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said education is another main pillar of achieving the country’s goals. “We have to bring the youth on board in engaging them in the negotiations and in the decisions with dealing with world strategies,” he said.

Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Association, said that the rapid pace of developments in renewables will give governments time to think about scaling their commitments next year and that the UAE is well placed to achieve that.

“The UAE is doing a number of very important moves to position itself to be a competitive economy in a new age of sustainability, which is quite interesting because it’s a hydrocarbon economy that built it’s country on that resource,” he said.

He said Irena conducted an analysis on the NDC’s, both in the UAE and on a global scale and found that countries are dramatically underestimating the potential of renewable energy to scale up ambition.

“We believe the targets that are achievable can be much higher, and to help that Irena will build a facility where we can bring together some real long-tern planning and support countries to turn their renewable ambitions to double the level of renewable ambitions by 2020,” he said.

Mr Amin said proven technologies developed today are taking too long to be implemented, with most government’s taking at the very least two years to finance those large-scale projects, but more typically five to seven years for government funding.

“If you wait, the project is outdated, if you don’t do it at the time you have the project, if you don’t get it done you’ll move on and do something else, there’s a mismatch between he over rigid politicized system and the new framework which is moving very quickly,” he said.

Mr Amin said the pace of implementation must speed up but the UAE is well on track in placing itself in an advantageous position especially when it came to harnessing the power of youth.

“But it’s interesting in how the UAE is moving, and how it’s training it’s young people, I am so impressed by the confidence of the young people of the training and educational opportunists given,” he said.

One third of the UAE’s delegates to the UNFCCC Cop are under 30, whom Dr Al Zeyoudi, believes will be able to push the climate agenda and “lead the future”.

Furthermore, by 2020, a more comprehensive plan could be in place for the UAE that will encapsulate carbon mitigation policies across all sectors.

“So a year from now, we’ll be in a stronger position to give concrete situation analysis of what exactly is happening, and through the climate change policy, we’ll be able to detail the various sector reduction from each emission contributor in the UAE,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.