Government, business leaders discuss ‘sustainable development’ in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI - Heads of state, senior government officials and business leaders convened in Abu Dhabi for the largest sustainability gathering in the Middle East.
From the United Arab Emirates’ Vision 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week addressed global sustainability challenges and opportunities.
“This summit is an important expression of the vision of the founder of our nation, the late Sheikh Zayed, who recognised opportunities to initiate change,” said UAE Minister of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan at the opening of the summit.
“We are able to mobilise resources to bring change about and, most important, to convince others to share his vision for the future. The UAE’s leadership has sustained and extended Sheikh Zayed’s vision by creating a national strategy for the future, manifested in effective plans for a knowledge-based economy, human resource development, regional and global engagement and economic and environmental sustainability.”
The Emirates designated 2020 as a year for planning for the next 50 years of development. Sheikh Nahyan said the challenges of sustainability cannot be confined within the country’s borders, rather, they require international dialogue and cooperation.
“Our vision of the future closely aligns with the global quest to reach the UN SDGs by 2030,” he said. “We share with all nations of the world, the conviction that reaching those goals will require the efforts of all local and global leaders, [those] from faith, government, business communities and the media.”
He said the United Arab Emirates had learnt that sustainability must become more than a fashionable word or noble concept, that it must become the dominant motive for national and global actions to balance economic, social, environmental and cultural needs of all communities.
“Therefore, we must work comprehensively to promote a culture of social responsibility that makes the sustainable use of economic resources a guiding principle, not just for research and policy-making but also for actual practice,” Sheikh Nahyan said. “Today, in light of the disturbing events we observe daily around the globe, it has become supremely urgent that we not only understand but actively promote the bonds that unite us.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke of a need to work together to address climate change and find alternative energy sources to meet the world’s growing needs. He stressed the environmental challenges that will define this century.
This creates challenges but also opportunities to clean the air, to reduce the noise and to build new cities for new generations,” he said. “That is why we are undertaking one of the biggest initiatives in our country’s history, building a new capital city from the ground up. This new capital city will be the showcase of the most advanced technologies and way of living.”
Climate change was largely described by summit participants as one of the most threatening issues. With Earth facing a crisis caused by changes in world climate, global action on climate and sustainability were said to be critical priorities.
“As businesses, governments, academia and civil society, we need to reflect on what more we can do and what we must be doing to address the omnipresent risk of climate change,” said Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, managing director of Mubadala Investment Corporation.
“The actions we take today will not only define the legacy we leave for the future generations but the very future of our planet. Climate change is equally a threat to the UAE, as everywhere else on the planet, and as a globally engaged and responsible nation, we have to be part of the solution.”
UAE Minister of State Sultan Al Jaber, who is also chairman of Masdar, outlined the Emirates’ efforts in harnessing technologies to drive sustainability.
“In the first two decades of the 21st century, we saw life expectancy reach new heights, global child mortality cut in half and the middle class more than double,” he said in his opening address. “However, while human progress is accelerating, another key challenge is emerging: how to produce the energy and resources the world needs while protecting the world we all share together.”
The United Arab Emirates has made great strides in promoting and investing in advanced energy through initiatives such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Masdar and renewable energy projects totalling almost 12 gigawatts locally and across more than 30 countries.
Nationally, it has grown its renewable energy portfolio more than 400% and is on track to double it in the next 10 years.
“To complement our clean energy portfolio, this year, we will become the first country in the region to deliver safe, commercial and peaceful nuclear power,” Jaber said. “In short, the UAE not only talks the talk but walks the walk when it comes to delivering sustainable, clean energy. We do this because it is right and it makes perfect economic sense.”