Young people are leading efforts to tackle global warming, a senior UAE climate official said, as initiatives backed by a global coalition of nations, businesses and scientists were announced on Tuesday on Science and Innovation Day at Cop26.
Hana AlHashimi, Head of the Office of the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, said the UAE was proud that engaging young people was at the heart of its bid to host Cop28.
She told a panel at Cop26 that often, when engaging young people is mentioned, “we talk about how they will lead in the future”.
“I think what we’re seeing, quite clearly, is that young people are already leading today,” Ms AlHashimi said.
Her comments came as the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, stressed the crucial role of science and innovation in enabling every country to find the tools they need to reduce emissions quickly and to adapt to the effects of climate change they are already experiencing.
He said that climate change was a bigger problem than Covid-19 because of its overall effect on humanity and that “if this is not stopped, this will be a bigger, bigger challenge to the way we live and lives will be lost”.
Mr Vallance, who previously said tackling climate change would require behavioural changes such as eating less meat and flying less, as well as green technology, said behavioural change must be made the easy option.
“Behaviour change is part of this, and some of that is down to what we do as individuals and some of it is what needs to happen to make things easier for us.
“We can’t assume it’s going to be dramatic personal behaviour change that’s going to be the solution to this unless we make some way of making that easier, so that the green choice is actually the easy choice,” he said.
Mr Vallance noted some encouraging announcements that have been made by countries in the 10 days of Cop26 so far, including statements on curbing methane emissions and deforestation, and on funding agricultural innovation.
“These are all important steps in the right direction. I hope we will see more over the course of this week,” he said.
“This is tough, 1.5°C is really tough. It’s not an easy target.”
A series of initiatives was launched on Tuesday, that will support the introduction of the goals announced during the World Leaders Summit and other country commitments made during the first week of the conference.
They include commitments to accelerate innovation and low-carbon transition in industry and cities.
A global Adaptation Research Alliance will be formed to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities on the front line of climate change.
Independent experts will track progress against the breakthrough agenda announced by world leaders at Cop26 and advise on action and collaboration.
A global scientific research community will also produce annual climate risk assessments to ensure world leaders fully understand the dangers.
“The facts are clear: we must limit warming to 1.5°C [above pre-industrial levels],” Mr Vallance said. “Thanks to science, that is feasible. The technologies are already available.
“Investment in research and development will deliver new, clean technologies, while policies to create markets will ensure they are deployed.
“At the same time, science will help us adapt to the impacts of climate change we’re already seeing around the world and transform our economies.
“Through research and innovation, we will adjust essential systems and ensure continued safety, security and prosperity.”
The global average surface temperature has already risen about 1.1°C since the industrial era began.
“The window [for 1.5] is closing, but there is still time for us to act,” Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, said.
UK and Canada funding to launch research programme
The Adaptation Research Alliance will be a network of more than 90 organisations in 30 economies, in which governments, research institutions and communities will collaborate to increase the resilience of the communities facing the worst effects of climate change.
The Climate Adaptation and Resilience research programme, jointly funded by the UK and Canada, will put the alliance’s work into practice.
Britain will announce a further £48 million ($65m) towards the programme, bringing the total UK aid funding to £100m.
Canada will provide £10m to support the development of solutions in communities most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.
Of the UK’s contribution, £40m will be focused on Africa. In total, the programme is set to benefit at least five million people around the world.
“Action-focused research is crucial to effective, inclusive and sustainable climate adaptation, particularly to protect the most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change,” said Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Cop26 champion for adaptation and resilience.
“We will ensure women’s voices shape these conversations and women’s leadership and expertise are championed to deliver gender-sensitive adaptation solutions.
“The Adaptation Research Alliance and the UK’s support for the Climate Adaptation and Resilience research programme will improve the effectiveness of adaptation, putting people at the heart of climate research to build the resilience of those living on the front line of the climate crisis.”
Separately, Ms Trevelyan on Monday unveiled plans to invest more than $390m to help the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Four clean technology missions set to launch at Cop26
A coalition of 23 governments will on Tuesday announce four new “innovation missions”, in which countries will work together to quicken the development of clean technology for cities, industry, carbon dioxide removal and the production of renewable fuel, chemicals and materials.
To support implementation of the breakthrough agenda, a new global checkpoint process will seek to sustain and strengthen international co-operation in each of the emitting sectors.
Independent experts led by the International Energy Agency, with the International Renewable Energy Agency, based in Abu Dhabi, and the UN climate action champions will produce an annual report to track progress and advise on action. Countries will then discuss how they can work together for faster progress.
A group of leading international scientific organisations will make a new commitment to improve the assessment and communication of climate risk, which will inform world leaders’ decisions.
The coalition, including the World Meteorological Organisation and the World Climate Research Programme, will seek to ensure that research and reports for policymakers set out clearly the full scale of the dangers if global temperature increase is not held below 1.5°C.
UAE part of low-carbon steel consortium
The Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative will also be launched, with the UAE, UK, India, Germany and Canada working together to create new markets for low-carbon steel and concrete.
Member governments will commit to the disclosure of carbon in major public construction by no later than 2025, pledge to achieve net zero in building steel and concrete by 2050 and work towards an emission reduction for 2030, to be announced next year.
The UK, in partnership with Italy, is establishing a global partnership to use the power of science and innovation to address important challenges blocking the path to a climate-resilient, net-zero future.
This partnership will unite countries to pool scientific expertise and bring citizens’ voices into policymaking, by running region-led projects to tackle specific net-zero challenges.
And 47 countries, including Malawi, Spain, Morocco and the US, have committed to building health systems that are able to withstand the effects of climate change and which are low-carbon and sustainable.
These include 42 nations, producing more than a third of global healthcare emissions, that have committed to develop sustainable, low-carbon health systems.
Twelve of these countries have set a deadline of 2050 or earlier, by which time their health systems will reach net zero.