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The UAE on Saturday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a target to achieve net zero emission target by 2060 and commended its leadership and people for the progressive step and for convening the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) while making the case for practical solutions to tackle climate change.
Speaking at a panel session titled ‘Countdown to COP26 – State of Play Ahead of a Critical Summit’ at the one-day forum in Riyadh, Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, said: "The UAE highly commends the leadership and the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly the youth, for such a landmark, bold and long-term strategic initiative. It represents a paradigm shift in ambition for this region; it underlines the vital role this region can and should play in providing practical climate solutions; and it represents another example of how this region can help address global challenges."
"As a region, we have always had to live with harsh climate conditions and we will have to continue to innovate in both mitigation and adaptation. I firmly believe that an inclusive, partnership-based approach that embraces the energy transition as an economic opportunity is the best way to achieve truly sustainable global progress. The UAE’s Net Zero Strategic initiative is an open invitation for the world to partner with us in developing this new economic model for progress."
Dr. Al Jaber noted political climate action has slowed even as investment in renewables has risen and the world needs practical solutions that are commercial and scalable. He expressed optimism about COP26 (the UN Climate Conference, taking place in Glasgow from November 1-12, 2021) and provided insights on the UAE’s offer to host COP28.
"After the highs of Paris, political climate action has slowed even as investment in renewables has risen and the world has experienced a series of climate-related weather events. So, it is evident that COP26 needs to start shifting the goals towards an action-oriented approach. The world needs practical solutions that are commercial and scalable and COP26 provides a timely platform to shift gears. I strongly believe it will be an important step in the right direction.
"It is through this approach that the world can truly take the opportunity of the energy transition which is to use the wave of investment in low-carbon solutions to drive economic prosperity for all. For that to happen, it is clear that developing countries must get the finance and technical support they need to rewire their energy systems and to put climate mitigation measures in place.
"We need a functioning Article Six to set up carbon markets which can help direct the flow of capital to low carbon solutions. We need greater ambition on emissions targets to close the gap between current NDCs and the Paris goals, and we need strategic roadmaps to make sure ambition becomes reality. Critically the world needs an umbrella approach with flexibility under which each country can have its own path to lower emissions," Dr. Al Jaber said, as he explained that these are some of the reasons the UAE is keen to host COP28.
Speaking alongside Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Minister of Energy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Marco Alverà, CEO of Snam, and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Dr. Al Jaber added that the UAE will be looking to work closely with the United Kingdom (UK), as hosts of COP26, Egypt, as hosts of COP27 and the UNFCCC.
"Progress at COP26, COP27, and COP28 will be all about having an inclusive approach that brings all sectors – public, private, academic, and civil society – together. And this approach must include countries with major hydrocarbon resources because these countries have a crucial role to play through the energy transition."
Responding to a question on the UAE’s Net Zero Strategic Initiative by 2050 from Fred Kempe, President and CEO of Atlantic Council and the moderator of the session, H.E. Dr. Al Jaber explained that the strategic initiative closely aligns with the development path the UAE is already embarking on in diversifying its economy.
"This initiative is really a holistic economic program inspired by our leadership’s 50-year vision for our country’s progress. We fundamentally believe that the pathway to net zero is a powerful vehicle for economic opportunity and we will use this opportunity to develop new industries, new skills, and new jobs."
"In fact," Dr. Al Jaber added, "it is already delivering results." He emphasised that the business of tackling climate change is good business.
"As just one example, the UAE operates three of the largest and lowest-cost solar plants in the world. We are investing to increase the UAE’s renewable energy capacity four-fold to about 9 gigawatts by the end of 2025. This investment is developing people and delivering jobs and opportunities."
On the energy transition, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted it will take time and require a diversified energy mix. "Today, more than 80% of the global energy system is fossil fuels, and around 55% is oil and gas so it is clear that oil and gas will continue to play an important role in meeting the world’s need for energy. Renewables are the fastest-growing sector of energy but they still meet only around 7% of global energy demand. Renewables will increase their market share, but that will take time."
Sharing his perspective on the current global energy supply crunch, Dr. Al Jaber noted it is a result of long-term under-investment in traditional fuels and said investment in carbon-efficient hydrocarbons must continue to avoid supply shocks during the energy transition. He pointed out that since 2014, oil and gas investment has been running 15-20% down, and last year it dropped by a third compared to 2019 even though demand is rising to almost 100 million barrels a day.
"This consistent under-investment makes the world vulnerable to supply shocks when the unexpected strikes, or when a number of events happen at the same time. So the world must reverse this trend of under-investment and it must make the investments it needs to ensure energy security and economic prosperity."
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