Middle East must spend billions to confront climate change, report reveals

Scale of the challenge laid bare by the International Renewable Energy Agency

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 5, 2019.  
International renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 18th Meeting of the Council.
 Francesco La Camera, Director-General, IRENA during the opening of the meeting.
Victor Besa/The National
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FOR:  John Dennehy
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Governments across the Middle East must increase spending on renewable energy to mitigate the destructive effects of climate change, a major new report has found.

The International Renewable Energy Agency said up to $148 billion (Dh543bn) was needed each year until 2050 to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Experts said some of this figure was already being invested in renewables but that further funds were needed.

They argued that not only were new renewable energy power plants required but that existing grid systems also needed modernising.

"It is not just about renewable projects," said Elizabeth Press, author of the report. "It is about energy efficiency, infrastructure and the grid."

Under the 2015 Paris deal, signatories agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Scientists have warned that the world faces increases far above 1.5°C within 10 years should countries fail to act.

"It absolutely can be done," said Ms Press. "Awareness is growing. The UAE is a fabulous example and the others are catching on.”

GCC countries spent just $1bn investing in renewable energy in 2018 – illustrating the huge scale of the challenge.

Globally, $3.2 trillion must be spent every year until 2050 to achieve the transition, according to IRENA.

On Tuesday, representatives from more than 120 countries gathered in Abu Dhabi for IRENA’s biannual council meeting.

“Today, the question is no longer whether the energy transition is possible,” said IRENA director general, Francesco La Camera.

“With renewables, it is possible to mitigate climate change ... to enhance air quality, to improve human health and to create access to affordable energy.”

Renewable energy accounts for about 25 per cent of the world’s electricity. The UAE generates less than five per cent of its electricity through renewables with most coming from solar parks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The sprawling Noor solar plant opened in Sweihan this year and by 2050, the UAE wants 44 per cent of power generation to come from clean energy.

“We all know that transforming the global energy systems is difficult,” said Mr La Camera. “But we also know it is possible. It is possible because there is a growing political will and public support to change.”

Next month, the world’s governments will meet in Spain to discuss the climate emergency.

The event from December 2 to 13 was scheduled to take place in Chile but will now take place in Madrid because of social unrest in the Chilean capital, Santiago.