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Inclusive climate action can accelerate economic growth, says Dr Sultan Al Jaber

At COP27, UAE aims to engage with participating nations and contribute to the global dialogue for climate change solutions

Inclusive climate action can accelerate economic growth, says Dr Sultan Al Jaber
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

While climate negotiators start discussions on concrete action to tackle emissions and climate risks amid mounting economic crises at Sharm el-Sheikh, His Excellency Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Special Envoy for Climate Change, has brought focus on how climate action must include pragmatic and inclusive solutions.

Excerpts from the interview:

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 countries, including the global south. 

We want to build capacity and enhance cooperation ahead of COP28, the Emirates Climate Conference, to identify practical, inclusive, and ambitious pathways to climate action that will benefit billions of people worldwide.

Explain 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.

Being the first country in the MENA region to adopt and sign the Paris Agreement, UAE is also the first to commit to net-zero by 2050. Home to three of the world’s largest solar plants and cost-effective wind plants, UAE has also deployed peaceful nuclear power and has pioneered the exploration of clean alternatives like green hydrogen. 

The UAE has invested $50 billion in renewable energy projects in over 70 countries most vulnerable to climate change. Most recently, we signed a strategic partnership agreement with the US to accelerate transition, advance shared climate goals, and strengthen global energy security. 

Earlier this year, UAE launched Etihad 7, an innovation program dedicated to securing funding for renewable energy projects in Africa, intending to supply clean electricity to 100 million people by 2035. We have set an enhanced target to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030 to advance nature-based solutions to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and contribute to natural carbon sinks. 

You recently highlighted the need for the world to maximize energy and minimize emissions. Explain this in the context of UAE’s energy transition strategy.

Our world is on its way to being home to 9.5 billion people. To meet their needs, we will have to produce 30% more energy than today. While meeting this rise in energy demand, we must focus on driving down emissions and accelerating investment in new clean energy systems. 

This is the approach we are taking in the UAE. We are the first to take proactive and global-first initiatives to cut methane intensity and emissions. 

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 remember that the solutions the world needs are also significant opportunities for the global economy. 

As the Chairman of Masdar, what do you think of renewable energy companies supporting the net-zero by 2050 plans with the help of proven technologies and investments?

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

With investments in over 40 countries with a combined value of more than $20 billion, Masdar’s projects generate over 15GW of clean power and displace nearly 19.5 million 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 offers knowledge-sharing platforms to stimulate further development in the broader renewable energy and clean-tech industry. It has plans to grow its green hydrogen capacity to 1MT by 2030. Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement to develop 4GW-capacity green hydrogen plants in Egypt by 2030.

At COP26 Glasgow, the UAE and the US joined several nations to launch the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate and announced increased investments in climate-smart agriculture and food systems. What’s the progress of this initiative?

AIM for Climate is focused on transforming food systems and building climate resilience in the agricultural sector by promoting innovation investments that lead to greater food security and climate mitigation benefits. 

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

With the help of innovation and technology, we have been able 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 tons of leafy greens every year, and farms in Al Ain grow UAE-grown blueberries and strawberries.  

UAE is looking to build capacity and enhance cooperation in preparation for the nation to host COP28 in 2023. Elaborate on this. 

COP28 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 essential 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.

Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas comes to the Middle East on 23 November 2022. Click here to know more.

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