KT Exclusive: Climate change is the most serious threat to the future of our planet, says UAE Minister Almheiri

She is in Glasgow as part of the UAE delegation to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference that ends on November 12

UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri-Wam
UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri-Wam

By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Mon 8 Nov 2021, 3:21 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Nov 2021, 5:09 PM

As the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri leads the Ministry’s mission of spearheading the UAE’s drive to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect the country’s ecosystems, and enhance its food and water security. She is currently in Glasgow as part of the UAE delegation to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that ends on November 12 .

Khaleej Times asked her about the young nation’s efforts to become a game changer in global climate action.

Edited excerpts from the exclusive interview:

What’s been the UAE’s stand on climate change?

The UAE views climate change as the most serious threat to the future of our planet. The nation’s journey in climate action started with its accession to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1995. In 2015, the UAE became the first country in the GCC region to sign the Paris Agreement that seeks to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Last month, the nation reaffirmed its climate leadership by launching the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative as the first country in the region to pursue a net-zero pathway.

The UAE is also a prime convener of global climate action, having staged events such as the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting in 2019, the UAE Regional Climate Dialogue in 2021, Climate and Biodiversity Week at Expo 2020 Dubai, and the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Earlier this year, the country announced its bid to host COP28 in Abu Dhabi in 2023.

What is the UAE Vision 2021? How can it bring about sustainable development?

Sustainable environment and infrastructure is one of the six national priorities under the UAE Vision 2021. The National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021 focuses on improving air quality, conserving water resources, boosting the share of clean energy in the country’s energy mix, increasing the percentage of treated waste out of the total waste generated, and implementing green growth plans in sectors such as infrastructure, telecom, logistics and housing.

How has the UAE integrated climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning in light of the National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017-2050?

The Plan charts the UAE’s path forward in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Within its framework, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) is implementing the National Climate Change Adaptation Program that aims to strengthen the country’s climate resilience. As part of the program, we have assessed climate risks across key sectors – energy, infrastructure, health and the environment – and are working to prepare sectoral adaptation action plans. The Ministry is also currently developing the region’s first climate change law.

How has the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) evolved as the heart of the clean energy revolution?

IRENA was established in 2009 – at a time when the development and deployment of renewables was accelerating, but many barriers remained.

Since then, the Agency has emerged as a credible source of knowledge on all aspects of renewables – from science and policy to technology – and is an authority on national and global information and trends in this domain. Its role involves national capacity building on renewable energy, facilitating renewables finance, helping countries map their renewables potential, and identifying market trends and enablers.

IRENA works with other relevant international agencies to advance the global clean energy transition and climate action.

As the host country and key supporter of IRENA, the UAE is proud of the Agency’s achievements.

How is the UAE committed to developing a healthcare system resilient to climate change?

In July 2019, the UAE Government launched the UAE National Framework for Action on Climate Change and Health 2019-2021 in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). The Framework outlines the country’s strategic response to public health challenges posed by climate change. It considers high-priority risks that emerged from the risk assessment exercise undertaken as part of the National Climate Change Adaptation Program while laying the ground for continued assessments and capacity building among stakeholders. Under the Framework, a National Committee on Climate Change and Health has been established to coordinate the development of a relevant policy and action plan.

Why should COP26 succeed for the sake of the Middle East?

COP26 must succeed not only for the sake of the Middle East but for the sake of the people and the planet. Climate risks are increasing, and devastating impacts of climate change are already being witnessed all around the world. For a fighting chance to keep global warming below 1.5°C, we must scale up and accelerate our efforts to achieve net zero by the middle of the century. The window of time to act is closing, and COP26 provides a prime opportunity for the international community to reinforce its commitment to climate action.


Lastly, should the least developed countries and developing nations pick up the tab on behalf of their more prosperous and developed counterparts?

Just the opposite – developed countries must support developing nations in reducing their carbon footprints and strengthening their climate change adaptation capabilities by mainstreaming climate change solutions in development aid, facilitating technology transfer and building local capacities. At COP26, we are looking to developed countries to meet their commitment to allocating US$100 (367.30) billion of public finance for climate action.

One of the key enablers of a climate-resilient future is renewable energy, and the UAE is leading by example in supporting the deployment of renewables in developing nations. To date, we have invested $16.8 (Dh61.71) billion in renewables ventures in 70 countries. To facilitate project financing, we have launched the $350 (Dh1,285.55) million IRENA/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) Project Facility, as well as the UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund and the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund, valued at $50 (Dh183.65) million each.

And just a few days ago, at COP26, the UAE partnered with IRENA to launch the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing (ETAF) platform that seeks to mobilize $1 (Dh3.67) billion in renewable energy financing for developing countries by 2030. ADFD has already contributed $400 (Dh1,469.20) million to the platform.


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