With only a few days left until the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), 197 world leaders, along with tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses, and citizens, are gearing up to participate in the 13 days of talks that will accelerate climate action and give the world a chance to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 C.
Marking the beginning of a ‘decade of action’, COP26 will be shaped by major political dynamics and developments, with China’s pledge to become carbon-neutral before 2060 at the forefront. This bold commitment from the world’s biggest emitter has been labelled as a game changer by observers and will inject fresh momentum for action. In addition, the US’s return to the Paris Agreement under President Joe Biden’s administration will be key to shifting the world’s largest economy onto a net-zero footing for 2050.
Regionally, the UAE has been leading climate efforts and setting a benchmark for climate ambitions. The launch of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative in early October 2021 was the outcome of extensive and ongoing work of the nation’s institutions, and represents an opportunity to advance the country’s economic diversification to develop new industries, technologies, skills, and jobs while protecting the environment.
Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, said, “With the unprecedented rise in the frequency and scale of climate change impacts seen today, net zero has become a necessity, and countries can either sink or swim. Being the first country in the region to take such a step will give us a first-mover advantage to become a regional leader in the low-carbon economy. We will bring all hands on deck and leverage our net-zero drive to boost green economy. We strongly believe in the gains from becoming climate-neutral, therefore we have committed to investing US$160 billion in clean and renewable energy projects by 2050.”
The UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative saw the light of day after the completion of a comprehensive government accelerator programme.
The programme was specially designed to integrate the work of key government and private sector entities to prepare and implement an inclusive sustainability plan for all sectors that will set the course for net zero without compromising the country’s economic potential.
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) is leading and coordinating efforts to execute the initiative and ensure collaboration at national level to fulfil this objective. Stakeholders in vital sectors, such as energy, economy, industry, infrastructure, transport, waste, agriculture, and the environment, will update relevant plans, strategies, and policies, and implement projects to achieve net zero by 2050 in line with their needs and growth requirements.
The contribution of private sector actors is more important than ever to help the UAE become climate-neutral by mid-century, adapt to the impacts of climate change to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise finance, and deliver on its climate goals faster. MoCCAE is currently working with private sector entities nationwide to scale up their participation in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ensure they are resilient in the face of climate change.
One of the main enablers of a net-zero goal is the deployment of clean energy at scale. Having invested over US$40 billion in local clean energy ventures to date, the UAE is on track to generate 14 GW of carbon-free power by 2030.
Mindful of the dire effects of climate change on crop production and the fact that food systems generate one-third of global GHG emissions, the UAE has joined forces with the US to launch the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) at COP26. With a membership base of 33 countries to date and the support of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative seeks to increase investment in agriculture innovation and R&D for climate-smart food systems over the next five years.