UAE: Inclusive climate action can accelerate economic growth

At COP27, UAE’s Minister of Industry & Advanced Technology & Special Envoy for Climate Change calls for unified global effort to diversify energy mixes

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change has said that the UAE believes that inclusive climate action can accelerate economic growth for all nations. 

Speaking during an interview with WAM, Dr Sultan stated that climate action is an opportunity to diversify economies and the energy mix creating new growth sectors in clean energy and new jobs for the future. 

Dr. Sultan’s comments came ahead of the UAE’s participation at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) being held from November 6th - 18th at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

He said the UAE will focus on building on its close partnership with Egypt, especially during the 50th Anniversary Year of the UAE-Egypt relations and look forward to bridging the outcomes of COP27 with COP28, the Emirates Climate Conference, to be hosted by the UAE in 2023. 

He added that the priorities for the UAE at COP27 are to engage with the nearly 200 participating nations, understand their aspirations, and contribute to the global dialogue for stronger climate change solutions and implementation.  

What are the UAE’s main objectives at COP27?

“The UAE’s primary objective at COP27 is to contribute practical solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts, accelerate low-carbon economic growth, and create sustainable economic and social development opportunities across all nations, including the Global South. We aim to highlight the UAE’s decades-long track-record of climate diplomacy and creating practical climate solutions especially across developing and vulnerable nations.

“We also want to build capacity and enhance cooperation ahead of COP28, the Emirates Climate Conference, with the goal of identifying practical, inclusive, and ambitious pathways to climate action that will benefit billions of people across the world.”

Can you explain more about the UAE’s decades-long track-record of climate action and how it can benefit the world through its inclusive approach?

“Our commitment to reducing emissions and promoting climate action is not new. Our founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan set the foundations for sustainability to preserve the environment and natural resources several decades ago.

“We are the first country in the MENA region to adopt and sign the Paris Agreement, and the first to commit to Net Zero by 2050. The UAE is now home to three of the world’s largest and lowest-cost solar plants, and we have been the first in MENA to invest in industrial-scale carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS). We have also set new records for the most cost-competitive wind power, in the UAE and internationally. 

“Further, we are the first country in the region to deploy peaceful nuclear power. We pioneered the exploration of clean alternatives such as green hydrogen. We achieved the lowest methane intensity in the energy sector 20 years before the global pledge calling for a gradual reduction was made. 

“In September this year, the UAE updated its second Nationally Determined Contributions, with the aim to reduce our carbon emissions by nearly a third (31%) by 2030.

“We work with all stakeholders globally to advance climate action because we believe that climate change needs pragmatic and inclusive solutions. Today, the UAE is one of the world’s largest investors in global renewable energy projects and has invested US$50bn in renewable energy projects in over 70 countries, including 31 island developing states that are most vulnerable to climate change. We have also committed an additional investment of US$50bn over the next decade in several countries to accelerate the clean energy transition. 

“Most recently, we signed a strategic partnership agreement with the US to accelerate transition, advance shared climate goals and strengthen global energy security. This UAE-US Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (PACE) aims to will catalyse US$100bn in financing and other support in addition to deploying 100 new gigawatts (GW) of clean energy in the US, UAE and emerging economies around the world by 2035.

“Earlier this year, the UAE launched Etihad 7, an innovation programme dedicated to securing funding for renewable energy projects in Africa, with the goal of supplying clean electricity to 100m people by 2035. We believe that such increased flows of climate finance to vulnerable communities – especially for food, water, and resilience – is also an investment in stability and peace.

“We have also empowered communities at the grassroots level, through initiatives such as the Zayed Sustainability Prize, and we are nurturing the next generation to prepare them for the jobs of the future through institutions such as the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence. 

“We have set an enhanced target to plant 100m mangroves by 2030, a programme led by 

Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, to advance nature-based solutions to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and contribute to natural carbon sinks. We also strongly support the 30x30 biodiversity target to protect 30% of sea and 30% of land by 2030, and nature-based solutions to address the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises.”

Your Excellency, you had recently highlighted the need for the world to maximise energy and minimise emissions. Could you explain this further in the context of UAE’s energy transition strategy?

“Our world is on its way to being home to 9.5bn people. To meet their needs, we will have to produce 30% more energy than today. If the basic energy needs of the billions of people across the world are not met, economies will slow down significantly, impacting the resources which need to be made available for the energy transition and climate action.

“While meeting the energy demand through the infrastructure and capital assets that the world currently relies on, we must focus on driving down emissions and accelerating investment in new clean energy systems. 

“For this, the world needs all the solutions it can get. It is not hydrocarbons or solar, not wind or nuclear or hydrogen. It is all the above, plus the clean energies yet to be discovered, commercialised, and deployed. In short, the world needs maximum energy and minimum emissions. This is the approach we are taking in the UAE.  We are a first mover in taking proactive and global-first initiatives to cut methane intensity and emissions. 

“We believe that energy transition will not happen at the flip of a switch, but it is attainable if we are pragmatic, practical, and commercially focused. We should keep in mind that the solutions the world needs are also major opportunities for the global economy. As we meet those needs, we will be helping to bring electricity to almost 800m people who don’t have it today. We will improve the lives of the 2.6bn people who have no access to clean cooking and heating fuels.  We will be lifting people from poverty, raising living standards and creating sustainable economic growth.”

As the Chairman of Masdar, how do you see the role of this renewable energy company in supporting the UAE’s strategic Net Zero by 2050 plans as well as the world with proven technologies and investments?

When Masdar was launched in 2006, many said the company was ahead of its time. Today, it is seen as the pioneer in advancing the clean energy transition and a key enabler of the UAE’s vision to be a global leader in sustainability and climate action.

“We believe access to clean technologies and climate solutions is critical, and we must deploy them at scale, a strategy the UAE has actively pursued for over a decade. With investments in over 40 countries with a combined value of more than US$20bn, Masdar’s projects generate over 15GW of clean power and displace nearly 19.5m tonnes annually.

“Across Africa, Masdar and its partners are empowering local communities, developing over 1 GW of clean energy projects capable of delivering electricity to over 845,000 homes in Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, and Seychelles. 

“Masdar also manages the Zayed Sustainability Prize, which has, for the past 14 years, positively impacted the lives of over 370m people around the world. Masdar is also offering knowledge-sharing platforms to stimulate further development in the wider renewable energy, and clean-tech industry. 

“We are further supporting the clean energy transition by leveraging the opportunity in hydrogen, which we see as the fuel of the future. Masdar has been exploring hydrogen production for more than a decade and aims to become a global green hydrogen leader supporting Abu Dhabi’s ambition to become a global hub for green hydrogen. 

“Masdar has plans to grow its green hydrogen capacity to 1MT by 2030. Earlier this year, the company signed a landmark agreement to develop 4GW-capacity green hydrogen plants in Egypt by 2030.”

Last year at COP26 Glasgow, the UAE and US joined with several nations to launch the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate and announced US$4bn of increased investment to accelerate innovation for climate-smart agriculture and food systems. What has been the progress of this initiative? 

AIM for Climate is focused on transforming food systems, building climate resilience in the agricultural sector by promoting investments in innovation that in turn lead to greater food security and climate mitigation benefits. At the same time, the global initiative seeks to protect the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers around the world who are on the frontlines of climate change.  

“The USD$4bn of increased investments announced by AIM for Climate at COP26 represents commitments to increase investments made by country partners for the period of 2021 to 2025. The UAE has pledged USD$1bn of increased investments in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation by several government entities. 

“The UAE is situated in an arid, water-scarce region, but innovation and technology have enabled us to turn deserts into farms. A key example is Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm operated by the Emirates Group, which produces over 1,000 tonnes of leafy greens every year, and farms in Al Ain that are now producing UAE-grown blueberries and strawberries.”

You earlier mentioned that the UAE is looking to build capacity and enhance cooperation in preparation for the nation to host COP28 in 2023? Can you explain more? 

“Our priority at COP27 is to work with the Egyptian Presidency and the nearly 200 participating nations to find pragmatic solutions for climate change. As we prepare to host COP28, the Emirates Climate Conference next year, it is important to understand the priorities of all the nations, and that is one of our key tasks into the next year. 

“COP28, the Emirates Climate Conference, marks the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake – a progress report of how the world has performed based on their pledges which led to the COP21 Paris Agreement in 2015. This is an important outcome for COP28 and a critical milestone as we move towards making COP28 an inclusive, and solutions-oriented climate summit. 

“This approach will focus on youth and women empowerment, accelerating climate finance, enhancing advanced technology access and deploying them at scale, and supporting indigenous and vulnerable communities. We believe that by working together for climate action, the world can unlock vast economic growth opportunities. 

“This is the long-held view of the UAE, and we are guided by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to continue to explore new opportunities for a decarbonised world.”


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