Climate change
Go big on climate change action, and for the Middle East to host the next two COP rounds will be significant. Image Credit: Muhammad Nahas/Gulf News

Dubai: As the two-day World Green Economy Summit kicked off in Dubai on Wednesday, one message was made very clear: We have seen many theories and plans, now we need to see action, and we want to measure it.

Addressing a session titled ‘Implementing the Paris Agreement: Building a MENA climate action legacy’, Hana Al Hashimi, Chief Climate Negotiator, Office of the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, said the UAE has been at the forefront of implementing climate mitigation for years now.

“We have spent decades in decarbonising the oil and gas sector and in moving to renewables. It’s just part of the overall security landscape,” she said.

This is one of the reasons, she said, that COP27 and COP28 were happening in the regions.

“The significance of these COPs is that they are not happening outside Europe by design, but by ambition that the Middle East countries have. This is a young and innovative region, and has an opportunity to take the world into the future as far as climate action is concerned,” she added.

This is a young and innovative region, and has an opportunity to take the world into the future as far as climate action is concerned.

- Hana Al Hashimi, Climate Change Negotiator, Office of the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change

Transparency and access to funds

James Grabert, Director, Mitigation Division, UNFCCC, added that while countries like the UAE and parts of Europe have made progress, much more needs to be done, and called for greater transparency in the changes being made and the funds being utilised.

“COP 27 and 28 have to be about implementation. We have made many plans but now it’s time to take it forward. How will we fund the implementation? There has to be greater transparency in the efforts that are being made. We are lacking clarity in what has been made available, how it’s made available, and how it’s being used,” he said.

This lack of transparency and access to funds is especially impacting developing countries, the panel agreed.

“Small island nations are facing the risk of rising sea levels and increasing temperatures. We are facing problems in meeting financing needs,” said Kavydass Ramano, Ministry of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change, Mauritius.

The minister highlighted that developing counties, especially those in Africa, have other issues such as food security and health that need addressed, and while climate plans are also afoot, it’s the lack of access to funds that slows things down. One also need to take into consideration crises such as the pandemic and the Ukraine war.

The implementation plans, when they become actionable, have to be just. That’s the way to convey this to the individuals. That’s how we will tell the common man that this is what we are doing. This is what you need to do. This is how it affects you.

- James Grabert, Director, Mitigation Division, UNFCCC

Magnified impact in MENA

Dena Assaf, Resident Coordinator, UN Resident Coordinator in UAE, added that climate change was something MENA countries cannot afford to take lightly.

“We know by living in the MENA region that climate change can have a magnified effect here. A 2 degree Celsius change globally can have a 4 degree impact here. The health implications, too, will be far greater.”

The bottlenecks

Dr. Muawieh Khalid Radaideh, Minister of Environment, Jordan, said access to funds has not been easy.

“Every time we come closes to the money, we are told we need NDCs (nationally determined contributions), we need action plan, we need stocktake. It’s good, but there has to be progress.”

“Mauritius is facing big challenges to be heard at the worldwide level. The crisis of Ukraine has put forward tough challenges, even for countries in Europe. The impact is greater for smaller states,” said Ramano, adding that it’s harder for developing countries to always stay on track to meeting their climate goals.

Staying on track

Experts agreed that while crises such as the pandemic and the Ukraine war threaten to derail a country’s progress in fighting climate change, it’s important to stay on track.

Al Hashimi highlighted how the UAE has the foresight to slowly transition to green energy even though it’s a major fossil fuel producer. She said a transition that’s well thought out doesn’t have to come at the cost of stopping economic growth and derailing climate plans.

“You are talking about cutting emissions, not the economy. That’s the approach that’s necessary. It’s not about what you have to give up but what you stand to gain,” she said.

Jordan’s Radaideh highlighted that the county is an example of small climate action pioneer.

“29 per cent of Jordan’s electricity is coming from renewables. 15-16 per cent of transport is hybrid and electric. This makes us not only a regional but also a global leader. We are a small country, but we have been slowly proceeding along this track, even though other issues threaten to derail us from time to time.

Emirates Energy Awards: The winners

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE), and Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of DSCE and MD & CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, handed out the Emirates Energy Awards on Day of the WGES.

Here are the winners:

Category: Energy Projects

Gold: ACWA Power (Development of Utility-Scale Renewable Energy)

Silver: Sweihan PV Power Company (1,200 MW solar PV plant)

Bronze: Al Rawabi Dairy Company (Electricity generation from organic waste)

Category: Energy Efficiency – Public sector

Gold: Egypt Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy (Energy efficiency strategy and programs)

Silver: Abu Dhabi Municipality (Retrofit of public buildings for water and electricity savings)

Bronze: Dubai Airport Freezone (Retrofit of buildings for water and electricity savings)

Category: Energy Efficiency – Private sector

Gold: Riyad Refinery – Saudi Aramco (Retrofit of wet gas compressor)

Silver: Izzat Marji Group, Jordan (Net-zero building)

Bronze: Dubai Airports and Johnson Controls Int’l (Retrofit of buildings to reduce water and electricity consumption)

Category: Education and capacity building

Gold: Moroccan Solar Cluster (Renewable energy and green technology ecosystem)

Silver: Dr Kamelia Yossef, Egypt (Raising public awareness through simplified materials and publications)

Bronze: Centre of Excellence in Energy Efficiency, Saudi Arabia

Category: Applied research and product development

Gold: Hamad Musabeh Alteneiji, UAE (Light tapping dynamic photovoltaic module)

Silver: EXPEC Advanced Research Centre, Saudi Arabia (ARC plug, a sustainable environmentally friendly solution for drilling fluids)

Bronze: Saudi Aramco R&D Centre (Mobile carbon capture technology for vehicles)