The UAE on Monday announced a 50 per cent clean energy target by 2050, more than doubling ongoing moves away from fossil fuel dependence.
In an announcement on the sidelines of the United Nations' climate action summit in New York, Climate and Environment Minister Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi said the move was an important step forward.
“Lately, we have witnessed a surge in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events around the world,” he told reporters.
“These occurrences send a strong message to the whole world to unify and step up efforts, raise ambitions and contributions.”
The jump in the UAE's existing clean energy mix – 24 per cent by 2021 – will be generated from renewable sources and nuclear power, the minister said, especially solar power.
“One of the first steps to meeting the 50 percent target is a commitment to building a two gigawatt solar project that will outperform the existing one gigawatt Noor Abu Dhabi, the largest single-site solar power plant in the world,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
And for the first time, the UAE's 2020 NDCs (nationally determined contributions) will include a National Climate Change Plan as well as a National Climate Change Adaptation Programme, singling out the role of youth in drafting policy.
“Young people already serve as delegates in the country's negotiations with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” Dr Al Zeyoudi.
“Through the youth council established by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, they will now assume a formal role in authoring the 2020 NDCs.”
The new commitment came as an emotional Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of betraying her generation by failing to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and asked them "How dare you?"
The Swedish climate activist's remarks followed calls from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to reinvigorate the faltering Paris Climate Accord, which 66 countries have responded to with vows to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The summit, the UN's headline event at the opening of the world body's 74th General Assembly, comes as mankind is releasing more emissions into the atmosphere than at any point in history, triggering global weather hazards from heat waves to intense hurricanes, raging wildfires and acidifying oceans.
Yet the gap between carbon reduction targets demanded by scientists to avert catastrophe and actions thus far taken is only widening.
“I shouldn't be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” said Ms Thunberg, 16, who has become the face of a global growing youth movement against climate inaction that mobilised an estimated four million protesters in a worldwide strike on Friday.
“You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”