OP-ED: Pioneering a just energy transition

His Excellency Mahash Saeed Al Hameli, UAE Ambassador to South Africa. Picture: Supplied.

His Excellency Mahash Saeed Al Hameli, UAE Ambassador to South Africa. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jan 31, 2023


By His Excellency Mahash Saeed Al Hameli, UAE Ambassador to South Africa

As South Africa embarks on an ambitious plan to transition away from fossil fuels, the country can chart a path forward for Africa on climate action and energy security.

The global climate community will reconvene for its most significant meeting yet this November, with COP28 set to take place in Expo City Dubai. The summit will come at a vital time when the world seeks to evaluate progress made in implementing the Paris Agreement through the Global Stocktake.

Where the previous iteration of the event - COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh - saw momentum on the issue of losses and damages associated with climate change, COP28, the most significant multilateral event the UAE has ever hosted, will focus on reigniting momentum on mitigation and bringing the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees within reach.

Key to this will be ensuring consensus on the global response to the Stocktake and building the necessary partnerships to drive climate ambition. As part of its prioritisation of mitigation, COP28 will aim to accelerate the energy transition, and work to reform land use and food systems.

As an established focal point for energy and industry, as well as being a global crossroads for commerce, business, and tourism, and an important hub for logistics, transportation, and technology, the UAE is uniquely positioned to build bridges and accelerate inclusive climate progress.

In fact, the UAE is building on a long track record of climate innovation to drive sustainable economic growth and has leveraged its natural and technological advantages as an energy hub to create a powerful ecosystem for climate solutions. Indeed, the UAE was an early pioneer in renewables and has emerged as a global leader in this fast-growing sector. The country is now home to three of the largest and lowest cost solar plants in the world, and is a major investor in renewable energy globally, with $50 billion invested across 70 countries and equally as much more in the pipeline.

The UAE continues to prioritise innovation and has used its experience with renewables to embark into new technologies and markets. The country was the first in the region to deploy industrial-scale carbon capture technology, and the first to deploy zero-emission nuclear energy. It is also a pioneer in new zero-carbon energies such as hydrogen.

The UAE has always seen climate action as an opportunity to contribute practical solutions to a global problem that affects the entire planet, while also diversifying its economy and creating knowledge, skills, and jobs for youth.

For COP28 UAE, we are passionate about enabling transformational change through constructive partnerships that will ultimately deliver solutions with significant and measurable outcomes.

Working together, the COP28 leadership team, comprised of Dr Sultan Al Jaber as COP President-Designate, Razan Al Mubarak as UN Climate Change High-Level Champion, and Shamma Al Mazrui as the UAE Youth Climate Champion, COP28 UAE will work with parties and partners to drive results. The COP28 leadership has been clear that this will be an inclusive process and the team will strive to strengthen the voices of underrepresented and vulnerable communities. This includes efforts by the High-Level Champion to build support amongst civil society, cities, and private sector partners, as well as a prioritisation on youth empowerment and engagement from the UAE’s Youth Champion.

Alongside the need to prioritise mitigation, the COP28 UAE Presidency will look at creating the conditions to deliver the Global Goal on Adaptation, including efforts to double finance for adaptation to the tune of $40 billion per year.

Building on success at COP27, the UAE will focus on operationalising the fund for loss and damage. Climate change continues to impact people and communities around the world, and COP28 will further prioritise the needs of the world’s most vulnerable communities, including working with parties to advance loss and damage funding arrangements.

Underscoring all of this is the need to unlock trillions in climate finance to deliver on collective climate ambitions. The COP28 UAE Presidency will work to deliver on existing public finance commitments, broader global financial institutions reform, and the mobilisation of ever-greater multiples of private finance. We feel these are urgent priorities for unlocking increased global action.

On each of the priorities outlined, the UAE will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with African countries.

On the adaptation side, the UAE, a member of the Mangrove Alliance, has long partnered with Mozambique and others to undertake reforestation. The UAE has set an enhanced target to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030 to advance nature-based solutions to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and contribute to natural carbon sinks.

Likewise, the UAE-US flagship agricultural initiative, AIM for Climate, continues to grow, with USD 8 billion in investments earmarked for climate-smart agriculture and food security.

On mitigation and energy access, the UAE used COP27 to announce a 10GW wind farm to support COP27 host Egypt. And across the continent, the UAE’s Etihad 7 Initiative continues working to expand clean electricity access, with the goal of reaching 100 million people by 2035.

More broadly, the UAE, along with the United States, also announced the Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (PACE) at COP27, with the goal of mobilising USD 100 million in clean energy investments for emerging economies.

As it prepares to host COP28, the UAE is determined to strengthen dialogue and mobilise international action in order to ensure an inclusive and meaningful discussion around what such a global transition looks like, how it connects to climate action, and how it must be context specific. South Africa’s experience will undoubtedly prove useful in this regard.

As two of the largest economic hubs in our respective regions, the UAE and South Africa have an important role to play in advocating for a fair balance between development and climate change mitigation.

The UAE’s enduring and deep-rooted relations with South Africa and other partners across the continent provide a solid foundation upon which additional climate action can be built. With COP28 quickly approaching, the international community must move forward collectively, with ambition, determination, and cooperation. The UAE looks forward to continuing its close partnership with South Africa, and the entirety of the continent, to make COP28 a “COP for action, and a COP for all”.

*The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of IOL and Independent Media.