COP-27: Our proudest moment was the launch of National Net Zero by 2050 Pathway, says Minister Almheiri - News

Minister for Climate Change and Environment shares insights into the implementation of the strategic initiative, which the UAE introduced last year – the first in the Mena region



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File photo

Published: Mon 21 Nov 2022, 8:28 PM

The 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP-27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, has closed its doors. In addition to climate change mitigation and adaptation and the hot topic of climate finance, the event focused on addressing loss and damage due to climate change, keeping up the momentum created at last year’s COP-26 in Glasgow, Scotland. For the first time, it also featured an official Food and Agriculture Pavilion, signifying the increased importance of the link between climate change and food security.

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, was part of the UAE delegation to the world’s largest annual gathering dedicated to climate action, led by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and comprising more than 1,000 representatives of 105 leading government and private sector entities.

Khaleej Times spoke about the outcomes of the conference, which will be held in Abu Dhabi next year.

Edited excerpts from the exclusive interview:

What were the main objectives of the UAE’s participation in COP27?

This year, we went to COP with the largest-ever delegation with the aim of demonstrating the UAE’s global climate leadership. Among the diverse participants, government organisations took the lion’s share, followed by the private sector, including waste management, consultancy, energy and power, manufacturing and real estate. Meanwhile, academia represented nine per cent of the delegation, and civil society accounted for five per cent.

Our second objective related to being the host of next year’s COP-28 – we were in listening mode to gain insights and understand the priorities of all countries and stakeholders. We will leverage this knowledge to prepare a relevant programme for COP-28 that builds on the great work done at COP-27, addresses the most pressing concerns and highlights the most promising opportunities. We also explored new prospects for partnerships in the run-up to COP-28.

What was the highlight of the event from the UAE’s perspective?

Our proudest moment at COP-27 was the launch of the National Net Zero by 2050 Pathway that will drive the implementation of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, which we introduced last year as the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

The Pathway is based on four principles – compliance with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13: Climate Action; strengthening environmental and socio-economic benefits; the UAE’s vision for climate leadership in mitigation and adaptation; and implementable, real-world solutions.

In our integrated approach, we will prioritise six climate change mitigation measures. These include accelerating a transition to clean energy sources, utilising climate-friendly raw material substitutes in hard-to-abate sectors, reducing waste generation and expanding waste treatment, focusing on green mobility-orientated development, increasing energy efficiency across all sectors, and fostering R&D in direct air capture (DAC), carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), and small-to-medium nuclear reactor industry.

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The National Net Zero by 2050 Pathway will deliver significant benefits. It is projected to result in annual cumulative GDP growth of three per cent. It will create 200,000 jobs across the economy, and we expect to future-proof existing jobs by greening our industries. The reduction and capture of emissions will notably improve air quality in our cities, thereby enhancing public health and quality of life. And finally, it will give us the opportunity to boost the competitiveness of our future low-carbon exports with a focus on green metals and minerals as well as clean hydrogen.

The UAE has teamed up with Indonesia to launch the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC). Why Indonesia, and what does the initiative aspire to achieve?

The MAC brings together governments, organisations, businesses, academia and civil society from around the world that recognise the importance of mangroves as an effective nature-based climate change solution to strengthen the conservation and restoration of mangrove ecosystems worldwide.

It aims to scale up cross-boundary cooperation, knowledge exchange, research, and use, conservation, restoration and planting while ensuring that the most vulnerable communities can benefit from its efforts. It also seeks to reduce loss and damage due to climate change, and enable least developed countries to obtain sustainable carbon credits eligible to finance nature projects.

Indonesia was a natural choice of a founding partner for us, as we are already collaborating in mangrove conservation and development. Together, we plan to establish the Mohamed bin Zayed International Mangrove Research Centre on the Bangka-Belitung Islands in Indonesia. The facility will specialise in studying, assessing, managing, protecting and restoring mangrove ecosystems, including conducting studies on mangrove ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and ecotourism and their economic valuation.

At COP-27, we welcomed five other countries to our alliance – Australia, India, Japan, Spain and Sri Lanka – as well as several new partner organisations.

In the UAE, we intend to plant three million mangroves over the next two months to support MAC. This also aligns with our target of planting 100 million mangroves across the country by 2030.

Last year at COP-26 in Glasgow, the UAE joined forces with the US to launch the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate). At that time, the initiative garnered $4 (Dh14.69) billion of investment commitments from its partners to be expended on agricultural innovation and R&D between 2021 and 2025. And in February this year, during the Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week at Expo 2020 Dubai, AIM for Climate pledged to double the amount by COP27.

Has the initiative achieved its target?

We have not only achieved it, but we have also exceeded it. We now have commitments worth $7 (Dh25.71) billion from 23 government partners and another $1 (Dh3.67) billion from our innovation sprint partners. We also more than tripled our membership base. At COP-26, we had 79 partners, and now we have over 275 – 42 government and 235 non-government partners, respectively.

In addition, we have significantly increased the number of innovation sprints — investments in specific, impactful, expedited efforts. At COP-26, we had eight, and since then, we have added 22 new ones, bringing the total number to 30. This is a very important development because innovation sprints help us achieve faster, and we need as many solutions as possible at the intersection of global hunger and the climate crisis.

The country used COP27 to launch the UAE Green Business Toolkit 2.0. What is the purpose of this updated edition?

In the four years that have passed since we issued the first edition of the Toolkit, public awareness of the critical need for sustainability has seen tremendous growth, and options for businesses to participate in climate action have evolved as well. Another important development was last year’s launch of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.

If we are to deliver on our climate ambitions, companies across all industries will need to do their part by modifying their operational practices, but at the outset, making such a commitment may seem daunting. And that’s why we developed the second edition of the Toolkit specifically to address the topic of net zero as it pertains to the business sector. In line with the latest climate science, it seeks to demystify the concept of net zero, and equip companies with tools and the know-how that will help them along the journey to climate neutrality.

The document outlines 92 measures businesses can take to become greener, such as switching to clean sources of energy, electrifying the company vehicle fleet and replacing conventional raw materials with low-carbon alternatives.

At COP-27, the UAE presented a new situation analysis report, prepared in support of the development of a green bond and sukuk program in the UAE. What has prompted the issue of such a document?

Having emerged as an increasingly popular asset class in recent years, green bonds and sukuk are among the most promising financial instruments for sustainable projects. Aimed at setting the fundamental rules for the sustainable management of this industry and helping bridge any information gaps, the report outlines the current conditions in the UAE and offers recommendations for further development of the domestic green bond and sukuk market.

In preparing the document, we have gathered insights from leading financial institutions and relevant public sector stakeholders to gauge their market readiness for issuing and investing in green bonds, as well as the needs and priorities for the development of the green fixed-income market in the country.

Has the UAE taken any new steps to enhance the participation of domestic entities from the public, non-profit, and private sector in implementing the Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative?

Emirates Nature-WWF, in collaboration with Alliances for Climate Action (ACA), launched the UAE Alliance for Climate Action (UACA) that has called on non-governmental stakeholders to join as members and ramp up their decarbonisation efforts in line with the Paris Agreement. The Coalition will support signatories of the UAE Climate-Responsible Companies Pledge by building capacities and providing them with the tools and expertise to adopt and achieve net-zero targets.

We signed an agreement with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Emirates Nature-WWF to strengthen collaboration in scaling up nature-based climate change solutions, such as blue carbon ecosystems, in the region.

We entered a partnership with EAD and Majid Al Futtaim Retail to help conserve natural resources and protect the environment by promoting multi-use products and alternatives with a low carbon footprint to address the challenge of excessive plastic waste.

Together, we will conduct studies of user incentives when it comes to purchasing multi-use products and raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastic pollution, most importantly single-use bags. We will also work closely to measure the impact of the initiative by monitoring the decrease in plastic bag use and the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from this important shift in behaviour.

The UAE is committed to building synergies with other countries to achieve common climate and environmental goals. Has the country initiated any new partnerships at COP-27?

In line with the UAE’s efforts to support a just and inclusive clean energy transition worldwide, Masdar, our flagship renewable energy company, along with its joint venture with Infinity, Egypt’s main renewable energy developer, and Hassan Allam Utilities, signed an agreement to develop a 10 gigawatt (GW) onshore wind project in Egypt. This will be one of the largest wind farms in the world and Masdar’s largest project to date. In addition, Masdar will build a 2 GW green hydrogen facility in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

We also signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with Japan, covering multiple areas of environmental protection and climate action, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, air quality management, waste management, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

Last year at COP-26, the UAE, Jordan, and Israel signed a declaration of intent to initiate the Prosperity Project. Can you tell us more about this venture and its latest developments?

The landmark collaborative effort aims to address the threats posed by climate change on water and energy security in the region by building renewable energy and water desalination capacity.

Phase One, Prosperity Green, involves building solar photovoltaic plants in Jordan with a combined capacity of 600 megawatt (MW) that will export clean energy to Israel. The Government of Jordan has chosen Masdar to execute this programme. Phase Two, Prosperity Blue, is a sustainable water desalination programme in Israel that will supply Jordan with up to 200 million cubic metres of desalinated water per year.

We spent the past year conducting feasibility studies, and at COP-27, we took an important next step by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to implement the project that will go a long way in promoting stability in the region.

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