UAE: Officials say climate change bigger threat than Covid-19

Mena climate week: 'Renewable energy has become the most important source of new power in the recent decade'


Waheed Abbas

Published: Sun 3 Apr 2022, 12:07 PM

Although Covid-19 continues to be a threat to humanity today, climate change remains the largest threat that humanity faces in this century, senior government officials said at the first Middle East and North Africa Climate Week conference.

“Covid-19 is, without a doubt, the most immediate threat humanity faces today. Climate change, on the other hand, continues to be the century's most pressing issue. Although the two issues are distinct, the principle of collaborating to address common global threats is the same. It is imperative that we join hands to embark on a new path to pursue green development by speeding up the change in the growth model and strengthening a low carbon economy through innovation,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, chairman of the World Green Economy Organization and managing director and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).


He said the current period is fraught with both challenges and opportunities.

“On one hand, the pandemic has impacted global development and exacerbated obstacles to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while on the other hand, it has served as a catalyst for policy shifts in many countries toward a green economy. However, there is still a need for a holistic approach to transitioning to an inclusive and green economy, tailored to each country's unique circumstances,” Al Tayer said.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), praised the UAE's proactive role in combating climate change.

“The country's aspirational net-zero emission ambitions, as well as the world’s largest solar energy fields, serve as a model for the rest of the world,” Espinosa added.

The four-day Mena Climate Week conference, which was held last week in Dubai, attracted over 15,000 participants from 40 countries around the world who attended in person and virtually. It also attracted 500 global speakers and experts, including ministers and officials from the government and private sectors, and climate champions, in addition to officials from UN climate organisations.

Renewables have a key role to pay

Nawal Al-Hosany, UAE’s Permanent Representative, Irena, stressed that transitioning to renewable energy is vital for climate mitigation.

“Energy demands will rise in tandem with predicted global population increase, and we cannot afford to risk the planet's health as we raise future generations. Renewable energy has become the most important source of new power in the recent decade. When energy consumption reduces substantially, as it did during the pandemic, renewable solutions were able to meet the demand of entire nations at a far lower and more efficient rate than traditional energies,” added Al Hosany.

Khalida Bouzar, UNDP assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for the Arab States, said renewable energy has a key role to play in the region’s sustainable energy transition.

“Given its great resource potential, notably in solar energy, the MENA region has evolved swiftly in energy transitions. The Arab world has enormous potential to grow in the renewable energy sector, which accounts for only seven per cent of total energy in the region. The need for quick actions and collaborations to explore strategies and adapt to climate change impacts, through local knowledge, as well as corresponding technical and financial support, is critical,” she added.


Key recommendations of Mena Climate Week:

>> Reaffirm our continued commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially SDG13 to address climate change.

>> Call on all stakeholders to continue providing constant, multi-sectorial and multi-layered assistance towards achieving our carbon neutral targets, which can contribute to the creation of sustainable economies, increased employment, social security and prosperity.

>> Invite development partners and the private sector to continue contributing significantly to the sectoral transformations mainly in the energy, urban infrastructure and transport sectors with the view to approach these transformations as opportunities for sustainable and inclusive economic development.

>> Commit to keeping the issue of gender equality and the full participation of the youth central to the development and delivery of activities, including in policy development to combat climate change.

>> While recognising the urgent need for climate finance being made available for mitigation but also for adaptation purpose, there is an urgency for national governments to establish policies and regulatory frameworks to de-risk private sector investments, to mobilize finances and guide investors

>> Recommend the international community that when setting the new collective quantified goal on climate finance, an important consideration should be given to the quantity of climate finance in a manner that addresses the needs and priorities of developing countries, but also to the quality of finance to ensure climate finance is accessible.

>> Encourage national governments and development partners to align their interventions, combine their efforts and initiatives and ensure a whole-of-society inclusive approach with meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement for climate action, including civil society, the private sector and academia.

>> Recommend that the planning and development of long-term low emission development strategies which currently largely involves the Ministries of Environment and/or Climate Change is extended to Ministries of Economy, Finance, Energy and others to truly unlock the potential of this process and consider the establishment of macro-economic roadmaps of just transition and accompanying policy options, involving all relevant Ministries and breaking down silos.

>> Recommend that proper consideration is given to just transition and long-term planning as it goes beyond more than simply energy transition. It is a holistic approach to the transition of societies and economies and must be approached as such, by considering and implementing planning through a cross-sectoral, economy-wide approach, with multi-stakeholder engagement.


>> Encourage the incoming Presidency of COP27 and the Government of the UAE as the future host of COP 28 to take note of the outcomes of the Mena Climate Week which will be presented to them in the coming weeks with the request to consider them and to advance negotiations in particular in the areas of adaptation, mitigation and climate finance.

>> Encourage the incoming and future Presidencies of COPs to shift the focus of the negotiations to making implementation of the Paris Agreement, ensuring it becomes a cornerstone of future mandates and decisions.

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