Abu Dhabi: The global energy transition will be one of the main areas of focus at the COP28 climate conference in the UAE next year, with its director general saying that the event will help develop a trillion-dollar plan to transform energy systems.
Speaking at the Renewables Talk in the capital organised by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Majid Al Suwaidi, UAE ambassador and director-general of COP28, added that he hoped the event will also show the world the ‘full picture’ of the UAE’s commitment to decarbonisation, and its aim of uniting the global community towards climate action and sustainability.
COP28 will organised by the UAE between November 30 and December 12 next year, and this edition of the Renewables Talk enabled permanent members of the IRENA to gain an insight on the UAE’s plans and key issues in the run up to the global conference. Following on from the 2015 Paris Agreement, COP28 will see, for the first time, a global stocktake to review whether pledges to cut emissions made by 200 signatory countries are enough to curb the global rise in average temperatures to 1.5C and 2C above pre-industrial levels.
“It is our intention to host a conclusive, frank dialogue on the status and future of energy transition. Building off the findings of the global stocktake, the first ever thorough review of the Paris Agreement, we will position energy as a key accelerant of the climate crisis. We will advocate for a transition workplan that is informed by science, backed by engineers, and endorsed by business, and facilitated by policy,” Al Suwaidi said.
The official highlighted some of the encouraging trends noted in the field of renewables.
“The world is on track to achieve as much renewable energy capacity in the next five years as in the last 20 years. This is on top of the fact that the world continues to chart new territory in renewables. The sector has outpaced all other energy sources in new investments. Renewables are now more affordable than hydrocardons. In 2021, two-thirds of renewable power was more affordable than the very cheapest of coal, and last year, renewables accounted for 81 per cent of all the investments,” Al Suwaidi said.
“What was once questions as impractical, inefficient and expensive now exceed others types of emerging markets. This is remarkable and speaks to the power of innovations and cooperation. Yet we still have a long way to go. Renewables still lag far behind when it comes to overall market share. This is a gap that much be closed for progress on climate action,” he added.
Short of targets
According to the IRENA, which facilitates cooperation and knowledge towards a clean energy future, renewables must triple in annual growth, reaching 8,000 gigawatts per year by 2030, in order to meet the temperature rise targets set in Paris seven years ago.
“Put another way, renewables must jump dramatically to 65 per cent of electricity provision,” Al Suwaidi explained.
At COP28, which will be hosted at Expo City Dubai, the UAE will therefore work to develop a transition workplan to transform energy systems, which could involve pledges of trillions of dollars. This will also highlight the nation’s clean energy actions thus far.
“We will draw on our own energy experiences as an energy leader and climate champion. When we volunteered to host COP28, we knew that it would attract global attention. We also knew that a great deal of this attention would focus on UAE as an oil and gas producing country. What we hope is that in the process of engaging with COP28, the international community comes to see the full picture,” Al Suwaidi said.
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Clean energy commitment
“Yes, they will see that we are responsible for supplies of oil and gas in an energy insecure world, but we hope that they will also see that we are committed to decarbonisation, not as theory but as practice, that we are also trailblazers in renewables, and home to three of the largest lowest cost solar plants in the world. We hope they will see that we have emerged as a major investor in renewable energy projects abroad, with $50 billion in renewable projects, and $50 billion more in the pipeline,” he added.
As an illustration of the UAE’s efforts, Al Suwaidi pointed to the 10-gigawatt wind farm that will be built in Egypt by the UAE’s Masdar in cooperation Egypt’s Infinity Power and Hassan Allam Utilities.
“We are also working with our partners in the United States to mobilise 100 billion in renewables for Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy programme. To add to this, we will aim to provide clean energy to 100 million Africans [by 2035 through the Etihad 7 programme],” he said.
The IRENA has also been hosted in the UAE since its inception in 2008, and is another symbol of the UAE’s commitment to clean energy.
Francesco La Camera, IRENA director general, highlighted the need for private sector partners and industry to raise their ambitions and actions.
“We are not where we should be, and have a challenging task ahead of us. Industry has presented 2030 renewable energy targets that are half of what they should be, and these are also just commitments, not installed capacity,” he warned.
To that end, COP28 will also see a larger Green Zone, a space for industry and the civil sector to explore deals and collaborations, as opposed to the Blue Zone that hosts UN-managed government negotiations. Al Suwaidi said the expansion of the space also followed the UAE’s participation at COP conferences, which indicated growing participation in the Green Zone.