As the world is gearing up for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), set to run in November in Glasgow, the next stage of climate action is seeing a tremendous shift, driven by the universal demand for a green COVID-19 recovery and the return of the United States to global climate leadership.
There is no question that the shift in climate action benefits people and the planet. It also urges countries to show up at the Summit with more ambitious climate commitments that will be scrutinised to ensure they can put the world on a path towards meeting the targets of the landmark Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and achieving carbon neutrality.
However, despite the positive outcomes that will result from expediting global climate action, we must ask ourselves: Does the journey to a climate-safe future as charted by the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) attain climate justice among different regions and countries?
Combating climate change
Can we combat climate change and enhance adaptive capacities without clearly identifying its impacts on each region? Should African countries have the same carbon emission reduction target as major industrialised countries? And should the increase of the share of renewable energy, particularly solar, be demanded equally of Northern Europe and the Arabian Gulf region?
Tackling the climate crisis should take an approach similar to clinical pharmacy, where the treatment is patient-centred, meaning that the pharmacists first looks closely at the patients’ lifestyle, physical condition, and health issues before administering them medication to guarantee a speedy and effective recovery.
The shortage — and, in some cases, absence — of knowledge of regional climate impacts hinders the ability of countries of the same region to devise an action plan that factors in their climate specifics, economic potential, and population make-up to better deliver on their climate commitments.
Relying on solar energy
For example, countries of the Arabian Gulf region can rely heavily on solar power and expand its capacity, unlike Northern European countries that get a lot less sunlight. This was evident in the past winter, when solar plants in some European countries stopped generating power amid cold waves and snowfall.
Another example is asking countries with modest industrial sectors to reduce the same amount of carbon emissions as highly industrialised countries, which — according to UN reports — are responsible for 75 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, while the rest of the world accounts for the remaining 25 per cent.
To bridge the knowledge gap, countries of the same regions must conduct joint research on the current and projected impacts of climate change, region-specific climate mitigation and adaptation measures, and ways to leverage modern technologies — particularly AI — in the fight against climate change. Regional research efforts will create an integrated knowledge base that is essential for successful collective climate action.
The UAE has taken the lead in this area. With the support of its wise leadership, the country cofounded the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organisation that counts supporting climate science among its objectives.
And to generate more climate research momentum in the Middle East region, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment established the UAE Climate Change Research Network in January 2021. The platform brings together a group of committed scientists and researchers to advance climate data collection and policy-relevant research on climate change impacts and adaptation specifically for the Arabian Gulf region.
Through monitoring, analysing, and projecting the impacts of climate change, the network aims to inform strategies for enhancing the climate change adaptive capacity of the region’s countries.
To ensure the network achieves its ultimate goal, the research outcomes and recommendations will be made public to fill in the knowledge gap, and educate the community about the future impacts of climate change and ways of strengthening resilience.
Through the UAE’s climate action in general and the work of the UAE Climate Change Research Network in particular, we seek to deliver a message to the world that our true ability to face challenges depends on how well we understand them and how we use this knowledge to guide our response.
Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi is the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment