The past few months have surely been eventful. There was significant progress in the world's race to overcome, or at least mitigate, the effects of ever-growing issues related to climate change.
COP27 in Egypt reached a breakthrough agreement to provide "loss and damage" funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters, while the COP15 summit on biodiversity in Canada stroked a historic deal aimed at safeguarding nature and made a commitment to protect a third of the planet's natural environment by 2030.
Meanwhile, the UAE, among other things, announced plans to introduce sustainability standards for buildings, roads, and homes to reduce its carbon footprint, whilst Dubai accelerated its green economy transition with the announcement of a roadmap to make public transport in the emirate emissions-free by 2050.
These steps cannot come soon enough, as in 2022 we also saw some of the most significant climate-related stories dominating the world headlines.
Floods, blizzards and storms
The unprecedented floods in Pakistan caused untold humanitarian and economic crises for the country.
Europe recorded the hottest summer ever in 2022, before reeling under high winter temperatures which forced ski resorts to close due to lack of snow, whilst historic winter storms wreaked havoc in the US and Canada.
What the world is experiencing is certainly not normal. These unusual extreme events are becoming increasingly common and serve as a reminder for all of us to speed up climate action efforts, both at the local and global levels. These events can also forewarn the consequences, not least the enormous costs of inaction that the world might experience.
Hope lies in innovation
As we face these mammoth challenges, hope comes in the form of innovative technologies which offer solutions to tackling the climate crisis. To better deal with these challenges, we will need to scale up and localize these innovations in addition to creating solid policies to encourage cooperation from all sectors.
Recognising its paramount significance, innovation will be one of the key topics discussed at this week's Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2023, organized under the theme 'United on Climate Action Toward COP28'.
Masdar City's global initiative called Innovate is one such program that includes a panel discussion featuring innovators and industry experts discussing critical climate topics. The programme also hosts an exhibition at the World Future Energy Summit, where regional and international start-ups and small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) showcase some ground-breaking technologies.
Global events like ADSW and COP28 are the perfect examples to show UAE's commitment toward embracing innovation for the sustainable future.
The nation has been at the forefront of creating an enabling environment for developing innovative solutions to global challenges and is home to thought leaders and innovators from different parts of the world.
Building a green economy
In line with its efforts toward building a green and innovation-driven economy, as well as its ambitious vision for a path to net zero, the country is also home to some of the most innovative and green-tech initiatives, including Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world using the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is another example, which contains one of the world's largest clusters of low-carbon buildings.
Moreover, the concept of sustainable living is picking up within the UAE, with and more and more residents switching to sustainable lifestyles and becoming increasingly environmentally conscious.
For example, at Sharjah Sustainable City, the first sustainable master-planned community in the Emirate of Sharjah, we have seen an increased number of people reaching out to learn about the residential project.
Here also, innovation plays a significant role and is at the heart of its development. Equipped with renewable energy produced from rooftop solar panels, the city is built with sustainable materials, energy-efficient appliances and passive designs that help reduce utility bills and operational costs.
The community also aligns with national efforts related to the food-energy-water nexus as it provides practical solutions related to food security, water and energy management, as well as natural resources conservation.
It's also committed to supporting start-ups and innovators, especially youth and women, to develop more innovations in the field of sustainability and cultivate a culture of sustainopreneurship in Sharjah and other emirates.
For this reason, we are joining forces with different organizations to support initiatives such as Access Sharjah Challenge, which empowers innovative, creative start-ups to grow and develop in the emirate of Sharjah.
Events such as ADSW and COP28 will undoubtedly accelerate our efforts toward sustainable development, and innovation will always be the key to unlocking the doors of progress and a sustainable future.
We must also embrace new ideas and technologies to drive positive change and shape a better future for both ourselves and future generations.
Yousif Ahmed Al-Mutawa is the Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah Sustainable City