Abu Dhabi’s energy summit tackles urgency of climate change

The aim in the United Arab Emirates is to increase the contribution of clean energy to the total energy mix from 25% to 50% by 2050.
Sunday 20/01/2019
UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar Sultan Ahmed  al-Jaber during the opening  ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit. (Masdar)
New dynamics. UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber during the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit. (Masdar)

ABU DHABI - Policymakers, top government officials and academics gathered from around the world at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi to address climate change.

With only 12 years left, experts said, to keep the world below a 2-degree Celsius temperature change — said to be the limit to avoid a climate change — energy is seen as a central aspect of addressing that challenge.

The aim in the United Arab Emirates is to increase the contribution of clean energy to the total energy mix from 25% to 50% by 2050, reduce the country’s carbon footprint of power generation 70%, increase consumption efficiency 40% and save approximately $190.6 billion over the next 30 years.

“Over this past decade, the world has made advances that exceeded even the most optimistic projections,” said Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar, at the opening of the summit, which is part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

“In 2009, there were less than 14 gigawatts of installed solar capacity around the world and, today, there are nearly 400 gigawatts,” he said.

Wind power has demonstrated similar growth, expanding from 121 gigawatts to 539 gigawatts. “With wind and solar both becoming increasingly price competitive, each is on a path to breaking 1,000 gigawatts of power within only the next five years,” Jaber noted.

“Throughout this progress, the UAE has leveraged its energy expertise to play an influential role as a catalyst for and an incubator of clean energy and sustainability. As early adopters and developers of some of the largest solar plants in the world, from Shams 1 to the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the UAE has injected confidence in the renewable energy industry within our region and far beyond our borders.”

Jaber spoke of the country forging strategic partnerships with companies and governments to improve energy access from West Africa to the Pacific islands while strengthening and diversifying energy supply in the United Kingdom and Serbia with some of the largest and most complex onshore and offshore wind projects in the world.

With Masdar recently investing in offshore wind turbines in Saudi Arabia — the country’s first and the largest in the region — trends are indicating that sustainable energy will be a preferred choice for investment in the future.

“This and many other projects will definitely accelerate the most significant renewable energy market in the Middle East and will set in motion the kingdom’s ambitious 58 gigawatt-target, representing a key component of the Saudi Vision 2030,” Jaber said. “We are building bridges across borders and bringing the public and private sectors together around a single, one common cause.”

As the world’s population grows, driving demand for energy and resources, sustainable development will become more critical.

“This imperative is embedded in the UAE’s Vision 2071, which seeks to leverage disruptive technology and breakthrough innovation to advance our energy leadership, further diversify our economy and truly achieve sustainable development,” Jaber said.

“As we enter the Fourth Industrial age, artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things are multiplying efficiencies and redefining possibilities across each and every industry. This era of industry convergence has the potential of completely transforming the sustainability landscape.”

As this year’s sustainability week focused on the symbiotic relationship between sectors to create lasting and tangible effects across every facet of sustainability — environmental, social and economic, Jaber spoke of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, which evolved into the Zayed Sustainability Prize.

“From restoring power after a devastating typhoon in the Philippines to lighting up the lives of schoolchildren in Kenya and turning a grandmother in Malawi into a solar power entrepreneur, the refocused prize has been a power lever of real and true humanitarian impact,” he noted.

“It will deepen and amplify this impact by extending its focus beyond energy to include water, food and health and a special award dedicated to the next generation of young innovators who will deliver the breakthrough sustainable solutions that are very much needed for the future.”

The summit, themed “Industry Convergence: Accelerating Sustainable Development,” explored how industries are responding to digital transformation in global economies and the opportunities it presents, focusing on energy, climate change, water, the future of mobility, space and biotechnology

“As responsible global citizens, we are committed to partnering with the international community in the pursuit of sustainable development, to advancing research and development of promising and commercially viable forms of clean technology and to investing in the next generation of sustainability pioneers and innovators,” Jaber concluded.

“This commitment is embedded in the defining principles of a progressive, inclusive, tolerant and forward-thinking UAE. If we have the vision, the will and the commitment to act in partnership for a sustainable future, the possibilities of progress are just limitless.”

Sustainability is a top priority the UAE strives to implement. Thani al-Zeyoudi, UAE minister of climate change and environment, said: “The world is witnessing a technological revolution that can considerably accelerate the pace of sustainable development through connecting the physical and digital worlds.”

“Over the last couple of years, our attention as a global community has been focused on game-changing events,” said Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. “We have now added climate change, with the Paris Agreement and the dire conditions around carbon mitigation.”

Energy is a central aspect of addressing that challenge. “The energy strategy of Abu Dhabi is one of those iconic examples — 70% decarbonisation in a country with the biggest per capita carbon footprint in the world and a 44% renewable energy target is a transformational plan but it’s one that can be met,” he said.