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(from left) Meera Al Mheiri, Omar Al Braiki, and Ali Al Shimmari are Fellows of the National Experts Programme Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Fellows of the National Experts Programme (NEP) have spoken of how the initiative has equipped them to help drive change as they continue putting their skills and knowledge into practice at this week’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW).

With the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) taking place in the UAE this year, the 2023 edition of ADSW features a range of high-level sessions on key priorities for sustainable development, driving discussion and debate ahead of COP28.

Among the industry professionals, experts, policymakers and leaders that have gathered in Abu Dhabi are three experienced Emiratis who have graduated from NEP. Developed under the direction of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, NEP fosters the development of UAE-based sector leaders who will help shape the country’s future, equipping them with the skills to have a transformative impact on key social and economic sectors aligned with the UAE’s national priorities.

Building bridges

Omar Al Braiki, Head of Negotiations at the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change and NEP 2.0 Fellow, joined the UAE delegation to COP27 last November. He highlighted that ADSW is a key bridge-building event to carry on the outcomes of COP27 in Egypt and to raise awareness on important climate change issues ahead of COP28.

He said: “[ADSW]is a key event on the calendar as we gear up for COP28, especially as it is the most important sustainability event since Egypt hosted COP27. I was fortunate to attend COP27, which gave me the opportunity to support climate action through global negotiations and support the Egyptian presidency in building consensus and driving forward in many priority areas a including mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation.”

He added: “The UAE delegation is supporting the ADSW team as we want to maximise this opportunity to build momentum for COP28 and learn from the wide range of discussions between government officials, private sector leaders and civil society on finding a practical way forward that showcases solutions for all.”

Describing NEP, having specialised in the Sustainability and Renewables sector, Al Braiki said: “It is an invaluable programme has really provided the tools I need to advance. Not only did the program broaden my knowledge and skills, but it was a was a platform that connected me with experts and influential leaders from across the world, which played a key role in growing my expertise.”

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Playing a vital role

Ali Al Shimmari, International Assets Manager for GCC region at TAQA and NEP 2.0 Fellow from the Energy and Economy sector, offered his expertise in the panel discussion ‘Empowering Youth Participation in Climate Decision Making’ at ADSW. He shared insights from his experience at COP27 as part of the TAQA delegation, highlighting the importance of sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

He said: “As national experts, we play a vital role as ambassadors of the UAE by representing our sectors and showcasing the crucial role these sectors will play in contributing to the UAE’s economic growth, in turn achieving the nation’s goals. While I am representing TAQA, I am also participating in several panel discussions, including one onpolicymaking with other members of the NEP community.”

During NEP, he was mentored by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who was recently appointed as President-Designate for COP28. Dr Sultan is Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, as well as Managing Director and Group CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Al Shimmari said: “It was an honour to work under Dr. Sultan’s mentorship. He helped me leverage and expand my network, and I had the opportunity to learn from him personally about the challenges in my sector. His teachings aided my decision-making process in critical situations facing the energy sector. My mentorship with Dr Sultan helped me become bolder in my decision making and in being on top of my sector.”

He added: “[NEP] helped shape the best version of myself. This transformation was a result of going through a journey with NEP that helped change my competitive mindset to a collaborative one.”

Pioneering nuclear inspector

Meera Al Mheiri, a senior inspection engineer at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation and a Fellow of NEP 2.0, joined the panel discussion with Al Shimmari on involving youth in climate change decision making. As the first Emirati to serve as a Nuclear Safety Inspector in the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, Meera plans to use her panel discussions and presence at ADSW to inspire future generations.

She said: “The UAE Government has emphasised how important sustainability is across different sectors and has integrated sustainability into its plans, strategies, policies and programme. When it comes to educating youth, we need to give them the right knowledge and right guidance to continue the legacy of our leadership, who are making great strides in tackling climate change.”

She added: “It’s vital to start involving them early on. If you’re a policy maker, you need to ensure you have youth in your team so they can follow in your footsteps and adopt the same mindset. Events such as ADSW are key in raising awareness for young people.”