Now we must move from words to deeds. United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks reverberated around the world on October 5 as he announced the historic Paris Agreement on climate change will come into force on November 4.
It came as no surprise to the UAE, where a month earlier our cabinet had the foresight to ratify the agreement.
The UAE has long been setting the pace in thinking about a low-carbon future.
We were the first country in the Middle East to set a clean energy target in June, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment began work on the UAE National Climate Change Plan. This framework for action brings together government, business, academia and civil society to prove that a low-carbon future and economic growth are not incompatible.
As renewable energy costs fall, the UAE government is taking note. Policy is pivoting. Investment flowing. The agenda set.
At HSBC, we look forward to actively participating in the UN-convened Global Roundtable on sustainable finance hosted by the UAE this week, which aims to take the Paris commitments forward.
Finance has a key role to play in helping the UAE secure a low-carbon future.
The technology and techniques needed to support a low-carbon way of life often require significant investment. This is evident in the major renewable-energy projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that are going ahead despite low oil prices.
Such long-term thinking is welcome.
The UAE’s solar sector is already setting the global pace with the record breaking low energy prices projects such as the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park.
This should surprise no one. The UAE is perfectly positioned for a solar future. This is good news for consumers, corporates and the environment.
With the climate in the UAE together with many flat sites for solar farms, access to expertise at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and the global headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency and strong government support, the UAE has all the attributes to lead the world in this clean-tech industry.
At the same time, global capital markets are in search of innovative, low-carbon projects. The UAE, underpinned by a highly desirable credit rating, offers obvious attraction.
To date, more than 400 investors with $25 trillion in assets have joined the Investor Platform for Climate Actions. The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund took steps in 2015 to divest from over 50 companies with large coal assets. In 2016 it indicated that it may exclude a further 40 companies.
As Dubai attempts to derive 75 per cent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2050, private investment will be needed.
This is where finance can support Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, lead the UAE from words to deeds.
Take tools such as green bonds. These are debt instruments similar to traditional bonds, except the proceeds from their sale are used to finance projects that benefit the environment.
Like other debt investors, buyers of green bonds typically receive regular interest payments over a defined period of time, along with their principal investment when the bond matures.
Banks such as HSBC have a key role to play in helping governments and corporations turn their green aspirations into reality, building a more sustainable future for the UAE.
The benefits are clear.
The green economy will create new employment opportunities in the UAE. From the academics, scientists and engineers pioneering a clean energy future, to the skilled manufacturing and services experts building the projects.
This is the essence of a knowledge-based economy in action.
Faster deployment of existing clean technologies will be crucial over the next 15 years, when much of the needed infrastructure will be built and key systems embedded for the coming decades, such as smart grids.
If we are to succeed, a combination of public and private investment is required.
The good news is implementation of the Paris Agreement will only accelerate financial markets’ appreciation that climate change is now a strategic business priority.
There is already evidence of the likely response: China’s green bond markets are forecast to deliver $230 billion for renewable energy investment within the next five years.
Last year, $3.2 billion was raised from first-time green bond issuers in Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong, India, Latvia and Mexico.
Now is the time for proof of concept in the UAE. I am confident that working together, HSBC and the UAE will be able to co deliver the impressive vision we both have where a low carbon economy is a reality for all economies and citizens.
— Abdulfattah Sharaf, Group General Manager & CEO, HSBC UAE.