• | 9:00 am

COP28 will be a catalyst in ensuring global decarbonization, says Walid Sheta

Walid Sheta, President, Schneider Electric, MEA, discusses why sustainability is a business imperative, how innovative technologies could solve the climate crisis, and the company’s role in the energy transition.

COP28 will be a catalyst in ensuring global decarbonization, says Walid Sheta
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

There’s never been more urgency about the need for sustainability and energy-minded technology than now. Fortunately, companies are bringing new approaches to energy management, transportation, electrification, carbon tracking, and more. 

There’s plenty of work left to do, but it’s a small comfort to know there are plenty of smart folks developing innovative new solutions to our global warming crisis.

One such company is Schneider Electric. The French company is one of the world’s best-known green businesses, offering tech solutions to  the likes of retailer Walmart, hotel group Marriott and steel business ArcelorMittal to meet their climate targets.

“Sustainability is at the heart of our business, culture, and purpose,” says Walid Sheta, President of Schneider Electric, MEA, adding that the path to net zero is complex and challenging.

“To reverse the harmful effects of climate change, we need to build bridges and find pragmatic solutions that help companies improve energy efficiency and maintain competitiveness.”

The sustainability journey, he says, is influenced and engineered by its efforts in the digital transformation of energy management and automation across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. 

“We are seeing a collective sustainability-oriented mindset across the value chain, and through the ecosystem, we operate in.”


The rising green ambition among the companies has also helped Schneider, which operates in 100 countries worldwide, to more than double its market value in the last two years to more than $88 billion. 

“The Gulf is a priority and growth region for us,” says Sheta. “We are making massive strides in the renewable and clean energy space and have taken significant steps to speed up our energy transition.” 

Citing UAE’s example, the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement and announce a strategic initiative to achieve net zero by 2050, Sheta says, “UAE has invested more than $50 billion in clean energy projects in 70 countries, including 40 developing nations, and recently announced the UAE-US partnership to accelerate the transition to clean energy.” 

With COP28 taking place in UAE this year and Egypt last year, Sheta believes the MEA region has grown to help countries achieve commitments “to reduce the impact of climate change through negotiations and to assess the progress in climate action.”

Quoting the World Economic Forum’s claim that digital technology can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15%, Sheta says reliance on digital innovation and transformation introduces “new solutions for climate change mitigation and decarbonization, smoothing the energy transition.”

“Our innovation portfolio is critical to our acceleration and progress towards a climate-positive world through a continuous flow of investments and developments in reliable and green energy for immediate and lasting carbon neutral operations,” he adds.

Schneider aims to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2025, have net zero emissions by 2030 without offsets, and have all of its products carbon neutral by 2040, with full end-to-end neutrality.


With stakes high — climate change is a real concern for the Middle East – energy transition is now among the highest policy priorities among the oil-producing countries. 

“The onus remains on us to develop and leverage innovative solutions to accelerate energy transition through alternative natural resources. We are entering a new era of renewable energy,” he says.

It is estimated that by 2026, global renewable-electricity capacity will rise more than 80% from 2020 levels, according to McKinsey, and two-thirds will be attributable to wind and solar, an increase of 150%. By 2035, renewables will generate 60% of the world’s electricity.

“Sustainability has become a business imperative,” says Sheta, adding that the real estate and construction sector needs to do more in sustainability. “However, this is gradually changing with emerging trends and innovative solutions such as Building Information Modelling, 3D printing, and digital twins.”

While leveraging emerging technologies, software, and innovative solutions is key to making the most of energy and resources, Sheta cites the importance of Schneider’s IoT-enabled solutions, such as EcoStruxure, the company’s open-architecture platform used across homes, buildings, and data centers. The platform is also used across manufacturing, food and beverage, construction, and healthcare industries.

But electrification is a massive step towards embarking on a net-zero journey, he adds.


Talking about its key role in the region’s transition towards cleaner energy, Sheta says Schneider is committed to “drive a new chapter of clean energy within the region, especially as it grows to serve as a global hub for sustainability and climate action.”

“Schneider Electric helps refine 30% of the world’s crude oil and helps with 80% of the onshore production and operation markets,” he adds. 

Sheta says technology strengthens the region’s food and water security as the region’s low- and middle-income countries “continue facing volatile food and commodity prices coupled by tightening financial conditions.”

According to the World Resources Institute, by 2050, the world will have almost 10 billion people to feed. “Today, more than ever, innovative technology is critical to meet such expansive food security and supply needs.” 


Food security and livelihoods are already being affected by climate change. The COP28, which UAE will host this year, starting on 30 November through to December 12, is viewed as vital to try to put the world on track to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, a target that scientists have warned is in imminent danger of being lost forever.

At COP27 in Egypt, Sheta says Schneider focused on local action and youth empowerment, and building on this platform at COP28, “we hope to collectively chalk out solutions for a resilient model for energy transition, one that can absorb external shocks and is agile in the face of uncertainties.” 

Emphasizing the pivotal role UAE will play as a consensus builder in the climate summit this year, Sheta says “Dubai is well-positioned to support a healthy dialogue spanning fundamental areas of focus such as energy, agriculture, investment, and sustainable transport.” 

“COP28 will serve as a catalyst in ensuring the global decarbonization effort is met,” he adds.

Last year, it was an admittedly encouraging deal on “loss and damage,” which seeks to ensure that developing nations affected by climate breakdown receive financial assistance. This year, things will get a bit more focused – the COP28 summit will be the first global stocktake since the landmark Paris Agreement – and more promises to fulfill beyond the critical temperature ceiling. After all, small changes can trigger dramatic shifts in Earth’s life support system.

  Be in the Know. Subscribe to our Newsletters.


Suparna Dutt D’Cunha is the Editor at Fast Company Middle East. She is interested in ideas and culture and cover stories ranging from films and food to startups and technology. She was a Forbes Asia contributor and previously worked at Gulf News and Times Of India. More

More Top Stories: