UAE welcomes the responsibility of hosting COP28: Minister Almheiri

Minister of Climate Change and Environment speaks exclusively to Khaleej Times about the outcomes of the global summit and the way forward

Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE of Climate Change and Environment. – Wam
Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE of Climate Change and Environment. – Wam

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 8:44 PM

The UAE has recently wrapped up its successful participation in the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, during which the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced that the young Arab nation has been chosen to host COP28 in 2023.

The event also witnessed the launch of Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), a joint UAE-US initiative aimed at increasing and accelerating investment in agricultural innovation and research & development (R&D) over the next five years. AIM for Climate has already garnered a strong coalition of support, including more than 30 countries and around 50 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and mobilised $4 (Dh14.69) billion of increased investment, with $1 (Dh3.67) billion pledged by the UAE.

Another feather in the UAE’s cap was the launch of the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing (ETAF) platform in partnership with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The new global climate finance platform intends to fast-track the shift to renewable energy in developing countries. The UAE committed $400 (Dh1,469.24) million in funding, provided by Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), for the initiative that seeks to secure $1 (Dh3.67) billion in total.

Managed by IRENA from its Abu Dhabi headquarters, ETAF will help mitigate investment risks and finance renewable energy projects in developing countries that may otherwise struggle to secure Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, was part of the UAE delegation to the global gathering, led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and comprising representatives of leading government and private sector entities.

Almheiri attended multiple high-level events and bilateral meetings at the conference, where she highlighted the UAE’s endeavours to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect its environment, and enhance its food and water security. She also made several important announcements on behalf of the country.

Khaleej Times spoke to the minister about the outcomes of the summit and the way forward.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What are your thoughts on the honour for the UAE to host COP28 in 2023 and the Arab League’s support for the young nation to host such a momentous event?

We appreciate the support of the international community for our bid, and are proud of the UNFCCC’s vote of confidence that reaffirms the UAE’s climate leadership. At a time of rapidly rising climate risks that threaten all countries, we welcome the responsibility of hosting COP28. We seek to leverage our solid track record as a global climate action convener to deliver a productive event with high youth engagement that builds a strong economic case for climate action, and mobilises countries to increase the scale and pace of their efforts to address climate change. We are committed to driving multilateral diplomacy aimed at preserving our planet for the next generations and building a better future for all humankind.

Why does the UAE believe climate action is an opportunity to achieve sustainable economic growth?

As a result of climate change impacts, governments bear costs in healthcare, disaster relief and rebuilding damaged infrastructure that amount to billions of dollars, and businesses face risks ranging from disrupted supply chains and higher insurance costs to labour challenges. Meanwhile, people – particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable populations – are affected by food and water insecurity, higher food prices, lost incomes and livelihoods, adverse health effects and displacement. According to UN estimates, every dollar spent on preparation for climate disasters could save seven dollars in disaster relief costs. In addition to the savings, tackling climate change through innovation creates new knowledge, new industries, new skills, and new jobs that fuel economic growth. So, it’s clear that climate action makes good business sense and provides valuable opportunities for sustainable development, on which we shouldn’t miss out.

What measures are being undertaken to implement the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative?

Federal and local government authorities have joined forces to issue policies and strategies and launch projects and initiatives aimed at cutting down on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These include expanding the deployment of clean energy solutions, planting millions of trees, developing the country’s carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) network, shifting to a green economy across priority sectors – industry, energy, transport, and the environment – and increasing reliance on advanced technologies and AI.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) is working with private sector entities nationwide to devise plans and implement projects that will help them shape a low-carbon development path.

How would the UAE promote inclusive climate negotiations?

Inclusivity will be the guiding principle of COP28. We understand that each region and country have a different starting point and might move at its own pace. The event will provide an ideal opportunity to learn from our peers which path is working under what circumstances. We will ensure that the voice of every nation – whether developed or developing – and every stakeholder is heard, and that the specific geographic, climatic and socio-economic conditions of every country are considered when charting a global roadmap to a climate-resilient future. We are keen to promote a just and inclusive transition to a sustainable way of life that truly leaves no one behind.

How is COP28 an opportunity to ‘bring the world together to explore effective solutions to the most pressing challenges our planet faces’?

If we want to achieve the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (C), we need all hands on the deck. And as the home of IRENA and an experienced host of high-profile international events, the UAE provides an ideal venue to convene world leaders to tackle climate change on a global level.

COP28 is particularly important because it will provide a platform to present the results of the first global stock taking of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that aims to assess the world’s progress in reducing GHG emissions. We plan to focus on advancing climate change adaptation, raising our collective climate ambition and stepping up global climate finance commitments.

How is the UAE planning to ‘work closely’ with John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate?

In addition to collaborating on AIM for Climate, the UAE has endorsed the US- and EU-led Global Methane Pledge that aims to reduce global methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. We also seek to jointly identify opportunities for strategic investment in the clean energy transition worldwide, develop and scale clean energy technologies, and work to enhance climate security.

During his previous visits to the UAE, Mr Kerry toured our clean energy projects and participated in the UAE Regional Climate Dialogue. He praised the country’s efforts to lead other nations in the search of new technology to address the global climate challenge.

Data shows that the UAE already has about 60 million mangroves, and aims to increase the number by 50 per cent. What steps are being taken to increase the mangrove cover?

The UAE has always been a pioneer in leveraging nature-based solutions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As we are a coastal country, we seek to harness the power of our blue carbon ecosystems, including mangrove forests that protect our coasts from rising sea levels and storm surges, provide critical habitats for biodiversity and serve as effective carbon sinks.

In our second NDC, we pledged to plant an additional 30 million mangroves by 2030 – the 50 per cent increase that you mentioned. And at COP26, we stepped up our ambition by raising this target to 100 million. The move will bring our total mangrove forest area to 483 square kilometres and boost the CO2 sequestration rate to nearly 115,000 tonnes per year. We are working closely with NGOs and the private sector to achieve our goal. A prime example of such collaboration is the Dubai Mangrove Forest, an initiative of Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG) sponsored by P&G.

How is the UAE improving global water security through cloud-seeding technology?

To explore the significant unrealised potential of rain enhancement, the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) runs the UAE Rain Enhancement Program (UAEREP). Since its inception, the program has established a network of more than 1,200 researchers from over 500 institutions around the world. UAEREP has gained a prominent position in the global quest to address water security challenges through innovation, and placed the UAE at the international forefront of rain enhancement research.

Under the programme, the UAE has been one of the first countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region to use the cloud-seeding technology that modifies a cloud’s structure to increase the chance of rain by adding small, ice-like particles. UAEREP’s research focuses on boosting the efficiency of cloud seeding through various methods, such as leveraging nanotechnology to accelerate water condensation and using drones to minimise the environmental impact of the operations.

How is the UAE becoming a key player in the hydrogen industry?

January 2021 marked the inception of the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance that aims to establish our capital as a pioneer in green and blue hydrogen.

We launched the first industrial-scale solar-powered green hydrogen project in the region at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai in May 2021 while expanding blue hydrogen production to diversify our energy mix.

At COP26, we introduced the UAE Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap, a comprehensive national blueprint for developing the hydrogen economy. The high-level strategy seeks to drive the nation’s transition to a low-carbon economy in line with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, and establish the country as a competitive exporter of clean hydrogen, targeting a 25 per cent share of the global market.

And just a few days ago, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) have announced the formation of a new joint venture focused on renewable energy and green hydrogen.

How is the UAE participating in the efforts to reduce global methane output by at least 30 per cent this decade?

The UAE’s hydrocarbon industry maintains one of the world’s lowest methane intensities of 0.01 per cent. The Global Methane Pledge that we endorsed at COP26 provides us with an opportunity to share our capabilities and experience in best-in-class methane performance with the other signatories. On the home front, we aim to reduce human-caused methane emissions through domestic policy-making and developing innovative solutions in sectors such as oil and gas and waste management. Our methane mitigation strategy is part of our holistic approach to climate action.

More news from Government