Economic case for climate action

ABU DHABI, 6th November, 2022 (WAM) - - Sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – or COP – have been running since 1995.

They review progress made by members of the global community to limit climate change. Since 2015, these sessions have focused on progress to implement the Paris Agreement.

As countries set out for COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the sober reality is that the window of opportunity to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is narrowing. All three of the key UN agencies have produced sobering reports in the last two days.

The UN environment agency’s report found there was “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place”, while the UN’s meteorological agency reported that all the main heating gases hit record highs in 2021, with an alarming surge in emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

More ambitious and vastly accelerated climate action has therefore become a necessity. Thankfully, the economic case for climate action is stronger than ever.

The UAE’s experience shows that climate change action can have a positive impact on a country’s economic performance, helping to drive growth; attract new investment; act as a springboard for new industries, as well as modernise existing ones; and create new, high-quality, sustainable employment opportunities.

Foreseeing the substantial job growth potential of the green economy, five years ago the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launched the UAE Green Jobs Programme. It found that investment of one to two per cent of GDP per year could create up to 165,000 new jobs by 2030, providing the basis for a just transition.

The UAE has consistently been proactive on climate action, and has seen the benefits of moving early on climate action.

It was the first country in the Middle East & North Africa to deploy large-scale renewable energy. It was the first to pursue peaceful nuclear power, starting operations at the third of four nuclear power units earlier this year, and the first to commercialise industrial-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS). Today, the UAE is actively pursuing new emissions-free technologies, such as green hydrogen.

The UAE is home to three of the world’s largest solar power projects, such as Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi, which set a record for low-cost solar energy in 2020 for cost at 1.35 cents kW/hr. This further underscores the economic benefits of climate action – unlimited and affordable energy.

As a proactive and responsible member of the international community, and aware of the immense economic benefits, the UAE is working with other countries to realise these opportunities.

Today, the UAE is one of the world’s largest investors in global renewable energy projects and has invested $50 billion in renewable energy projects in over 70 countries, including 31 island developing-states that are most vulnerable to climate change. These include the Zarafshan Wind Farm in Uzbekistan, which will power half a million homes and displace over 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

The nation has also committed an additional investment of US$50 billion over the next decade in several countries to accelerate clean energy transition.

Most recently, the nation signed a strategic partnership agreement with the US to accelerate transition, advance shared climate goals and strengthen global energy security. This UAE-US Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (PACE) aims to will catalyse US$100 billion in financing and other support in addition to deploying 100 new gigawatts (GW) of clean energy in the US, UAE and emerging economies around the world by 2035.

Similar projects are underway across the globe. From hurricane-resilient solar in the Caribbean, to the London Array – a vast offshore windfarm – the UAE is working with partners to ensure an ambitious and practical energy transition. One that guarantees energy security, economic growth, and reduced carbon emissions.

While getting nations to agree on key climate actions is understandably challenging, the COP process provides a platform for negotiated outcomes and ambitious partnerships, often with success. Only last year at COP26 137 countries swung behind reversing forest loss, while 190 nations agreed to phase down coal-fired power generation. The number of new coal power plants is expected to fall by as much as 76%. These positive developments show that collection action works.

At COP27, the UAE delegation will seek to bring together both public and private partners to put forward ambitious and economically viable partnerships that help drive climate action. This includes many of the leading businesses that have driven the UAE’s ambitious approach, including Masdar, Mubadala and Tabreed.

In presenting this ‘whole-of-UAE’ approach to climate action, the UAE is sending that message that climate change should be viewed not only a challenge, but also as an opportunity. The reality is that climate action pays. The business case for climate action is overwhelming and the UAE is evidence of that.