The 13th Irena Assembly delegates in Abu Dhabi on Saturday Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2023 kicked off in the capital today with the launch of a world energy transition stocktake at the 13th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The energy transition assessment by ministers, policymakers and senior industry executives at the Irena Assembly is expected to inform the Paris Agreement global stocktake at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), which will be held in the UAE in November.

“COP28 will be a milestone moment as the world conducts the first global stocktake to assess progress under the goals of the Paris Agreement. But we don’t need to wait until the global stocktake to know just how much work there is ahead of us,” announced Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, and the UAE COP28 President-Designate.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, and the UAE COP28 President-Designate, addressing the assembly Image Credit: Supplied

“As we seek to close the gap between ambition and reality, no sector offers as much potential as renewable energy, and never has Irena’s been mission been more important than in the crucial years ahead of us,” Dr Al Jaber said as he addressed the high-level Assembly.

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Championing sustainability

The ADSW is a global initiative championed by the UAE, and its clean energy developer Masdar, to accelerate sustainable development, and advance economic, social and environmental progress. For over 15 years, ADSW has reinforced the UAE’s commitment to addressing global challenges as a responsible leader on climate action, energy transition and sustainable economic development.

Each year, the annual Irena Assembly kicks off ADSW with a focus on renewables as a part of the global energy transition.

Limiting global warming

This year, the Irena Assembly is focussing on assessing the global adoption of clean energy in light of its role towards realising the Paris Agreement. The Agreement is an international climate change treaty adopted at COP21 in 2015 with the aim of limiting global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, and thus limiting the devastating effects of climate change.

“At current policies, we are looking to 2.3 degrees of global warming by the end of the century, and the consequences of this will be devastating. Several parts of our planet will become uninhabitable, and for many communities, this will be a death sentence. If we are to prevent a climate catastrophe, renewables present the only credible path forward. Today, their share in global electricity generation is about 30 per cent. This must grow to 60 per cent by 2030, and 90 per cent by 2050. And it is possible if we act now,” Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, said in a video address.

He recommended the removal of international property barriers for renewable technologies, increased access to materials and components for renewable tech, the switching of subsidies from fossil fuels to clean energies, and the hiking of private investment in renewables to the tune of $4 trillion (Dh14.69 trillion) a year.

Triple installed capacity

According to the Irena, installed renewable capacity must triple every year until 2030 in order to meet the global warming limit set in Paris. This can include well known renewable energies like wind and solar, complemented by hydrogen and ammonia technologies, said Franceso La Camera, Irena director-general.

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(from left) Franceso La Camera, Irena director-general, and Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, at a press conference on the sidelines of the assembly Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

“Since its foundation, Irena has paved the way for the extraordinary growth of renewable energy capacity that we have seen worldwide… Last year, renewables accounted for 81 per cent of all new energy capacity installed and the centre is now on course to expand more in the next five years than over the last 20 years combined. Wind and solar are now the most affordable new energy sources, and their economic case has already been proven,” Dr Al Jaber said.

UAE’s commitments

“Over the next seven years, we will need to more than triple renewable energy capacity worldwide. The world must move much faster than ever before and Irena has a critical role to play in leading the global acceleration across all regions, sectors and communities… The UAE will continue to be Irena’s closest partner and strongest advocate,” he added.

The minister also highlighted the UAE’s efforts to support Irena.

“To meet the scale and pace of change we need, Irena will need to adapt and innovate. The Early Transition Accelerator Platform is a good example of this. Launched on the sidelines of COP26, ETAF is already helping to gather funding for emerging economies. The UAE has already committed $400 million (Dh1.4 billion) in initial funding to support ETAF,” he said.

These efforts are complemented by the UAE’s own efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which are charted in the Net Zero 2050 pathway approved in 2022.

“We have built the world’s largest and lowest-cost solar plants that are fundamental to our Net Zero Development Pathway. We have also invested $50 billion (Dh183 billion) in renewable energy in six continents. Through these investments, we have seen that you can be pro-climate and pro-growth [at the same time],” Dr Al Jaber said.

Need for financing

While there is now global acceptance of the need for a clean energy changeover, adoption efforts have been complicated in the past three years by the COVID-19 pandemic and various global conflicts. Raj Kumar Singh, Indian Minister of Power and New and Renewable Energy, and President of the 13th Irena Assembly, urged greater financing towards the decarbonisation of electricity, and a steady progress towards the decarbonisation of other sectors.

In addition to ETAF, the innovative financing tool that aims to attract joint investments towards renewable solutions in developing countries, the UAE is also exploring the introduction of green bonds and sukuk.

“We see tremendous potential for a domestic green bond and sukuk market in the UAE. It is important to see climate action not as a cost to bear but an opportunity to seize. Going forward, we hope to see a significant increase in in issuance [of these green bonds] by all player. High volumes will help us achieve our collective climate ambitions, and solidify the UAE’s status as a regional hub for climate action,” Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said on the sidelines of the Irena Assembly.

She added that the UAE has set an 18 per cent emissions reduction target based on a 2019 baseline.

“As a result of doing this, we can [cumulatively add] three per cent to the GDP, and add 200,000 jobs between 2025 and 2050,” the minister said.

ADSW schedule

The Irena Assembly will run until tomorrow, and is set to see to see the participation of 1,800 participants from 147 countries and the European Union.

On Monday, the ADSW will see its official opening, and the announcement of winners for the 2023 Zayed Sustainability Prize. The Prize supports sustainable development across the world, and has so far benefitted 370 million people with solutions since its first edition in 2009.