Tomorrow, we celebrate Earth Day under the theme ‘Restore Our Earth’. The annual movement aims to garner support for the environment and mobilise concerted action for protecting the Earth with a consensus that a healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.
In recent years, climate action has taken center stage at Earth Day events. As a clear acknowledgement of the power of Earth Day, the Biden administration is holding a global leaders’ summit on the day to galvanise efforts to tackle the climate crisis and pave the way for more ambitious climate commitments that can put the world on track to meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement.
Given the Paris Agreement’s overarching goal of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the second half of this century, carbon neutrality is emerging as one of the touchstones for defining climate ambition.
Pledges to go carbon-neutral
Several countries and private sector companies have announced their pledges to go carbon-neutral. Today, neutrality commitments cover 70 per cent of the global economy.
The socioeconomic case for decisive climate action is clear. A 2018 report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate put forth a conservative estimate of $26 trillion in direct economic gains by 2030, resulting from bold climate action as compared to business as usual.
Further, according to an analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), for an energy transition consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, every $1 spent would bring a payback of between $3 and $8 in environmental and health externalities. The number of renewable energy jobs would reach 42 million by 2050, about four times higher than the current level.
Cutting down on carbon emissions
As part of its future readiness drive, the UAE has taken great strides in cutting down on carbon emissions. The country has set an enhanced emissions reduction target in its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, and is investing in nuclear energy and renewables, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS), electrification of transport, sustainable agri-tech, and blue and green hydrogen.
The UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution focuses on achieving future water and food security through bioengineering and renewable energy, enhancing economic security through digitalisation and blockchain technologies, and optimally utilising satellite data for urban planning.
Notably, a low-carbon future can only become a reality with the active engagement and full commitment of the private sector. Many UAE private sector entities have adopted science-based emission reduction targets. Others are managing their resource consumption, and monitoring and reporting their emissions.
Net zero emissions by 2050
Prime examples that fill us with hope are Etihad Airways that pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 as the first airline in the GCC region and one of the first in the industry to set a target of this scale, and Majid Al Futtaim Holding that has announced a long-term goal to produce more energy and water than it consumes, reaching a Net Positive business model by 2040.
Our partners in the private sector recognise that mainstreaming climate-friendly business models and carbon footprint reduction into their future growth plans is not only an environmental imperative but can also yield economic dividends.
The private sector is our long-standing trusted partner in steering our country towards a brighter tomorrow. We call on businesses across all domains to raise the bar, and take concrete steps to reduce their carbon emissions. Let’s make sure we are ready for the future!
Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi is the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment