Francois Hollande makes a point during a panel discussion moderated by Susannah Streeter (left)) at the World Green Economy Summit in Dubai on Wednesday. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: On opening day of the 2018 World Green Economy Summit on Wednesday, global luminaries in the fight against climate change lauded Dubai and the UAE as a model for embracing the transition from a fossil fuel economy to a future green economy powered by renewable energy.

For building the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant and cutting public energy consumption, to creating efficient public transportation and promoting carbon-free electric cars, Dubai was praised by keynote speakers who were instrumental in the Paris climate agreement which 195 countries agreed to in December 2015, to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C this century and lower carbon emissions.

The two-day summit, under the theme ‘Driving innovation, leading change,’ was opened by Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

Now in its fifth year, the summit is organised by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) and the World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO), in cooperation with the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy.

Keynote speaker and former President of France Francois Hollande told more than 3,000 delegates that the road toward limiting greenhouse gases is long and contended that not all countries are living up to their signatory pledge made in Paris to counter climate change.

“Almost all of the countries that took part, actually signed and made commitments. But have they followed through on them? My answer is ‘no’,” Hollande said, noting the United States’ withdrawal from the accord in particular.

“In the past two years, emissions of CO2 have increased, which have had a disastrous impact on climate,” Hollande said. He lauded countries such as the UAE, a signatory to the agreement which pledged to a national 27 per cent renewable energy mix by 2021.

“In Dubai, we have a demonstration of the will to create a green economy. There is a will to prepare for the change and transformation,” Hollande noted.

He also praised efforts such as those undertaken in Dubai to campaign public consumers to use less energy in their homes. “The best energy is the one that you do not consume,” Hollande said.

Evolution of energy use

Speaker Christina Figueres, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) overseeing the COP 21 Paris agreement, said the UAE is on the right side of history as the world moves from a 21st century dependent on fossil fuels to a 22nd century of renewable energy,

She extolled Dubai energy officials for recording the lowest renewable energy cost in the world, at three cents per kilowatt hour for solar power, and suggested that in the future, it should dip to one cent per kilowatt hour, vastly cheaper than coal.

“It’s an energy revolution the likes of which we have never seen in the evolution of human history,” Figueres told delegates. “Change always takes longer than we think but happens faster than we thought.”

Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said embracing a green future is critical for future generations. “The green economy is becoming more important with passing days, led by the United Nations with its sustainable goals,” Al Zeyoudi said. “The green economy is the only way we will be able to do business in a stable manner.”

Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, Chairman of the World Green Economy Summit and CEO of Dewa, told delegates that Dubai has created a long list of innovative eco-projects to diversify from a traditional economy to a green one.

For example, the new Mohammad Bin Rashid Solar Park in Dubai will generate 5,000 megawatts of electricity annually when it is fully operational, making it the largest concentrated solar power facility of its kind in the world.

“We have transported these initiatives into different projects that depend on innovation, in order to fulfill the sustainable development targets of the UN,” Al Tayer said.