Opinion Piece: UAE poised to promote climate change action among oil producing countries
Dr. Deepti Mahajan Mittal
Programme Leader- Climate and Energy, EWS-WWF
This week, the world’s leading climate change decision makers, researchers, businesses and NGOs will gather in Germany for the 23rd annual UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 23). These communities will be working hard to detail the rules to implement the Paris Climate Agreement and identify new ways to meet the ambitious goal of keeping warming below 1.5°C.
There has never been a more urgent time for action. Only last week, scientists published the sobering news that global CO2 levels, the main gas responsible for warmer temperatures and climate change, reached new record levels. With global weather events like intense hurricanes and heatwaves, it is easy to see that climate change impacts are already being felt.
Unfortunately, implementation of the existing climate pledges made by countries will fall short of the goals of the Paris Agreement and warm the planet by about 3-4oC this century, with devastating consequences for our planet, people and wildlife. However, there is now also unprecedented action and momentum on climate change. The challenge is how fast can we make the changes required to avoid the worst climate impacts and prepare to adapt to the unavoidable ones.
More governments, businesses, cities and non-state actors are collaborating to address the issue, with renewable energy, along with energy efficiency, forming the bedrock of solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. Forty-eight of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world have set targets to be powered 100% by renewable energy by 2050. Renewables-based projects have already taken off in the MENA region. Morocco, for example, has set a target to generate 52% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and its pledge to the UN was assessed by the Climate Action Tracker (an independent group assessing national climate goals) as the only one globally being compatible with a 1.5oC temperature limit.
The UAE has seen substantial momentum on climate action and was the first major oil producer from the GCC region to officially ratify the Paris Agreement. Since submitting its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2015, the UAE has adopted more ambitious goals and policies. There is now a 44% national renewable energy target and a 40% energy demand reduction goal for 2050 in addition to a national climate change plan. These initiatives are further supported by the water security strategy. Additionally, Emirate-based entities spanning a range of sectors are also adopting initiatives to move towards low-carbon development. The UAE also recently joined the Climate Leadership Network, of which my organization (WWF) is a member, to promote more action to close the ‘emissions gap’. These efforts indicate that action on climate change is recognised as critical to the future growth and development of the country.
The UAE is already seen as a leader on climate action in this region and has an incredible opportunity to influence oil producing nations to develop sustainable energy and climate change policies, and further engage the private sector in these initiatives. Businesses are showing increasing appetite to move in this direction, with many in the UAE beginning to measure, report and reduce their CO2 emissions.
All sectors of society have a crucial role to play. Though our climate and energy projects, EWS-WWF is playing a critical role in facilitating and catalysing climate action and we are committed to continue working with like-minded partners to drive action in the UAE and the region. We have no option to fail; there is no Planet B!