Held by the UAE government in partnership with its clean energy powerhouse, Masdar, ADSW was held between the 14-19th of January. It brought together heads of state, industry mavens, investors and policymakers throughout the week. ADSW hosted 30,000 participants from 150 countries, including eight country Presidents and Prime Ministers, over 50 government Ministers and more than 600 global speakers. The event sought to address the interconnected challenges that “affect the wide-spread acceleration and adoption of sustainable development and the clean energy transition” and demonstrate the UAE’s commitment to practical and inclusive climate action.
Hosted under the theme “United on Climate Action Towards COP28”, the event aimed to catalyse partnerships for action; among people, the planet and profit, serving as a roadmap ahead of COP28. The President-designate of COP28, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, stated that “there has never been a more critical time for global leaders to come together to advance our collective needs for climate action”.
The appointment of Sultan Al Jaber as the president of COP28 has caused some controversies, given his role as Chief Executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oli Company (ADNOC). The company is one of the biggest fossil fuel producers in the world, potentially jeopardising the negotiating process during the upcoming climate summit.
However, a spokesperson for UAE suggested that due to Dr Sultan’s long career as a minister, and business leader in the energy sector and his work as founding CEO of Masdar, his experience is essential for a global transition to net zero. He is uniquely positioned to “lead both the public and private sector to achieve goals” and net zero aspirations. Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, believes that Dr Sultan’s “diplomatic and commercial experience…has both the standing and capability to offer ground-breaking leadership for COP28“.
Dr Sultan addressed COP28 in his opening statement, promoting this next COP to be one of action, “where the Global North and South really listen to each other and deliver a new deal on climate finance“. He also emphasised the importance of moving towards renewable energy – exemplified by ADNOC’s 24% stake in Masdar. Masdar is aiming to grow its global renewable capacity to 100 GW by 2030.
ADSW came to a close with a resounding commitment to accelerate climate action and net zero targets ahead of COP28. There was a particular focus placed on reinforcing the importance of nature in combating climate change, especially the role of financing nature-based solutions, given that nature provides a third of the mitigation solutions to achieve 1.5 °C targets. Despite this, the UAE’s carbon emissions are ranked among some of the highest globally, with critically insufficient climate policies and action in place to reach the 1.5 °C goal stated in Paris Agreement. While the UAE was one of the few countries to strengthen their new NDC (31% emissions reduction target below a business as usual (BAU) scenario) policies ahead of COP27, the Climate Action Tracker rated their national emissions reduction target as ‘highly insufficient’.
The country is planning a significant increase in fossil fuel production and consumption. Therefore, as it currently stands the UAE will not be able to achieve its NDC with current policies, an uncomfortable statistic given their COP Presidency. This coming year presents an opportunity for the UAE to amend these targets and set realistic goals, to ensure their emissions are within pre-industrial levels and set the precedent ahead of COP28.
Georgina Murrin is a Sustainability Analyst in Itriom’s London Office.
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