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UAE, US commit to jointly tackle climate challenge

ABU DHABI, UAE, 5 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates and the United States announced their joint commitment to tackle the climate challenge in a Joint Statement that stresses the importance and urgency of raising global climate ambition. Both countries announced their intent to cooperate on new investments in financing decarbonisation across the MENA region and beyond, and to focus on assisting the most vulnerable adapt to the effects of climate change.

H.E. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, said: “Together with the US, the UAE has affirmed that decisive, proactive climate action can be an engine for economic growth and sustainable development. Building on the legacy and experience of the UAE, which has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to sustainable development and today operates three of the world’s largest solar facilities, we will focus, together with the US, on joint efforts on renewable energy, hydrogen, industrial decarbonization, carbon capture and storage, nature-based solutions, and low-carbon urban design.

“The UAE is rich in opportunities with the world’s lowest solar power costs, and significant carbon capture investments. We look forward to sharing our experience with the international community to turn climate action into economic opportunity.”

Noting the progress made by many leading companies, both countries agreed to work closely with the private sector to mobilize the necessary investment and technology resources needed to stem the climate crisis and support the economy.

At the national level, the United States and the United Arab Emirates confirmed their intent to work towards decarbonising their economies according to their national circumstances and economic development plans, including reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates stressed their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote the success of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

The Joint Statement emerges from the UAE Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, held on April 4. The event convened climate leaders from across the MENA region and unveiled a new era of cooperation in the region for a future focused on prosperity through climate policy, investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth.

The Dialogue drew the participation of high-level dignitaries from across the region as well as critical global partners and organisations. Participants included COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma and US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, together with ministers and high-level representatives from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The event further reinforced the UAE’s regional climate leadership, providing a common ground for participating nations to build a shared vision for climate action ahead of COP26.

UAE to host GCC and MENA regional climate dialogue

ABU DHABI, UAE, 1 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates will host the Regional Climate Dialogue for climate action on April 4 in Abu Dhabi, in advance of the Leaders Summit on Climate, to take place in Washington DC later this month and in the run up to COP26. The UAE regional dialogue will include the participation of John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and Alok Sharma, COP 26 President, together with ministers and high-level climate representatives from the GCC and Mena regions.

As part of its well established role as a convener on climate action, the UAE has also invited International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director-General, Francesco La Camera, to attend the Dialogue. The event will focus on national and regional preparations for the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), set to run from November 1 to 12, 2021. The COP26 Summit, hosted this year by the United Kingdom in Glasgow, will bring together countries from across the globe to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

His Excellency Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said: “We look forward to welcoming Special Envoy Kerry and COP26 President Alok Sharma, along with Ministers and high-level representatives of the key economies of the GCC and MENA region to Abu Dhabi for this important dialogue. The UAE has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to progressive climate action and sought to promote sustainable development throughout the region.  By coming together for this dialogue, I believe we can create greater momentum for progress. The UAE views climate action as an opportunity for economic development, while contributing practical solutions to a global problem that affects us all. As the world seeks new pathways to ‘building back better’ in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Special Envoy Kerry’s visit will help consolidate efforts on smart sustainable solutions with tangible benefits for the global community.

“We are already seeing great examples of climate leadership throughout our region, including the recently announced initiative by our brotherly neighbors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The regional climate dialogue will provide a constructive platform for the MENA region to unite around progressive, practical solutions that can help the world reach global climate goals, while also fostering innovation for sustainable growth.”

Speaking in advance of the meeting, COP 26 President Alok Sharma said: “It is vitally important that the world works together to tackle climate change. That means countries coming forward with net-zero targets and near-term emissions reduction targets (the 2030 NDCs) that keep 1.5 degrees within reach. The transition to a clean economy is one which can benefit us all: through creating jobs, spurring sustainable development, and cleaning our air. We are already beginning to see progress, and countries in the MENA region are well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities of this transition. However, the consequences of climate change are already being felt across the region, and the UK will use its COP26 Presidency to build momentum on adaptation to help to keep countries, communities and people safe from the impacts of climate change.”

The Regional Climate Dialogue will provide an ideal platform for the participating countries to exchange experience in their responses to climate change and build momentum for increased global ambition in the run-up to COP26. In addition, it will enable the United States and the MENA region to examine new areas of collaboration in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation with the aim of transforming the climate challenge into an economic opportunity.

Core themes will include accelerating the deployment of renewable energy solutions, exploring the potential of new zero-carbon-energy sources, such as green and blue hydrogen, maximizing the impact of mitigation technologies, including carbon capture, and reducing the carbon emission intensity of hydrocarbon fuels, on which the world will still rely during the energy transition. The conversation will discuss policies for adaptation to the impacts of accelerating climate change trends that are of particular concern to the region, such as food and water security, desertification mitigation and environmental conservation.

The participants will seek to develop a common understanding of climate action priorities, as well as a roadmap for cooperation towards COP26 and related milestones.

Minister of Climate Change and Environment confirms UAE’s new NDC is part of its economic, energy diversification drive

DUBAI, UAE, 19 January, 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, today participated in the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition as part of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Ministry said through a Press release.

The virtual session provided an opportunity to discuss emerging experience in reinforcing energy planning and implementation at the national level, and aligning it with global climate action and goals through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Ministry said.

Highlighting the new targets set as part of the UAE’s NDC, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi said: “With the support of our stakeholders, we were able to increase our ambition to reduce carbon emissions to 23.5% compared to business as usual for the year 2030. This translates into absolute emission reduction of about 70 million tons. Our clean power capacity is on track to reach 14 GW by 2030, from 125 MW in 2015 and 2.4 GW at present. To date, we have invested more than USD 40 billion in clean energy projects locally.

“While the approval and implementation of the NDC is a key milestone, it’s only one step in the right direction. The move falls under our national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in the country’s current energy transition.”

The Minister reiterated the UAE’s commitment to doing its part to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and joining forces with the rest of the world to fight climate change.

His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi also participated in a press briefing organized by IRENA alongside His Excellency Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, and Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA.

Addressing members of the media, the Minister commended the role of IRENA in facilitating and guiding the decarbonisation efforts of its members around the world, and its significant contribution to the growth of the renewables market. Furthermore, he praised the Agency for providing its expertise to assist countries in revising their NDCs over the past year with a focus on increasing the share of renewables in national pledges.

He added: “The work of IRENA couldn’t be more important. Renewable energy holds the solution to many of the issues the world faces today, such as climate change, air pollution, and economic slowdown. Therefore, its deployment should be a key item on the world’s sustainability agenda, along with leveraging cutting-edge technologies and artificial intelligence to ensure we respond smartly, promptly, and efficiently to the most pressing challenges.”

‘The UAE leadership has a view of the future – and it is not just tomorrow’

Climate Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen

Congratulations on your appointment as Denmark’s Climate Ambassador. Could you speak on the potential areas of cooperation between the UAE and Denmark?

I think it’s remarkable the far-sighted leadership the UAE has taken as an oil- and gas-producing country. The leaders have a view of the future – and the future that is not just tomorrow, not just five or 10 years, but they are thinking ahead to 20 or 50 years from now.

We are talking about the major transformation of energy systems. The largest solar farms in the world are in the UAE, and a lot of investment is being done in this area. The country is taking energy efficiency in buildings seriously and addressing the challenge of having had, years ago, the highest carbon footprint per inhabitant.

In that sense, cooperation between the UAE and Denmark on energy and other topics related to food and maritime issues makes imminent sense. We are the country in the EU with the largest oil -production. We have oil and gas in the North Sea. But we are slowly ending our exploration of that oil and gas, and in December 2020, the Danish Parliament decided to end fossil extraction in the North Sea by 2050 with a plan for the just transition of impacted workers and a conversion of the oil and gas fields to Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)].

There is also a huge market for renewable energy, globally, as this transformation [can be seen] worldwide. In Denmark, we are building better and taller wind farms and offshore wind farms, including over the next two years in two new energy islands. As a result, there has been global interest surrounding Danish windfarm operators and wind constructors, many of whom are now in demand in a number of countries such as the US, Korea and Australia.

Could you speak more about the competitive advantage that countries such as the UAE can have from specialising in sustainable cooling solutions, both in terms of developing the expertise within the country and in terms of pioneering solutions? Do you see this to be a growing market?

The world is undergoing an energy transformation, and the UAE is also very well positioned to be part of it and, in some instances, to lead this transformation. As such, a partnership with a country like Denmark makes great sense.

When it comes to the development of cities, it’s clear that if you look at trends as a whole, [the population] is moving from the countryside to cities at an increased rate. I think the latest figures from UN Habitat and other global organisations is that almost half of the human population lives in cities. We have been going from 30-40% of the population to half, and the trajectory is pointing towards a world where most of the people are in cities.

There have been large movements in the Global South. In China, you have more than 70 cities with more than one million inhabitants, and many are newly constructed with poor quality of buildings that need to be retrofitted and rebuilt. In India, you have a growing middle-class population, and this has led to growth of new buildings in new cities or more modern buildings in new parts of the city. The same trend can be seen in the Gulf region. For a very long time, Dubai was home to most of the cranes in the world. In Africa, large cities that are already big, continue to grow. In Indonesia, we see a population in the process of moving Jakarta to a new island, because it is sinking.

Basically, in many places, the built-environment is not a done deal. We are at the beginning, not at the end. It’s only in older industrial countries in the West that the city structure is permanent. I would think the opportunities for both new buildings and retrofitting are very large, especially in warmer climates, where expertise is needed in challenging environments.

For us, in Denmark, it’s more about reverse engineering our experience with energy efficiency and insulation, and usinge and applying them in the UAE. Also, there would be solutions we need to develop from scratch, based on the circumstances and the physical environment. 

It’s clear that cooling also has some attributes different from heating. [In Denmark], some companies are experimenting with district cooling, but most are district heating, with a lot of combined power and heat plants. Also, some of them are doing this with garbage waste disposal and heat and power. With the more recent climate law, because of the move towards circular economy, we are now looking at recycling and reusing our waste rather than incinerating it.

What can further drive the development of expertise and solutions in the sustainability arena in a country?

A combination of energy pricing and embedding efficiency in building codes and regulation by central and local governments are key here. The building owner and operator might not be interested in building more efficiently because of the perceived cost, and they will try to defer the cost onto the tenants. That means rent goes up, bills go up, and they are not too happy either. That’s always a question for the less well off, that’s also the question of the fair and equitable distribution of the cost and benefit, [[when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions.].

In Denmark, people have been investing in energy efficiency because of energy cost and due to strict regulation since the 1970’s. Because of the cost of energy, there are huge paybacks at a shorter time.

In what ways can the public sector in the GCC region incentivise sustainability initiatives in the built-environment, both in terms of introducing retrofit targets and also ensuring new buildings adhere to higher energy- efficiency goals? 

For one, I would say that educating the general public is extremely important, in terms of the cost, economy, sustainability and potential social benefits.

The very practical education of engineers and economists, integrating energy efficiency into curricula in the built-environment, so that you have your own skilled engineers and technicians ¨to operate systems, do the buildings and learn from it. It is a mentality and way of thinking. We have done it for the last 50 or more years; we didn’t do it before that. It took us a long time and heavy regulation, strong incentives and a lot of private discussion among government and private sector and institutions of higher education to get that sector to operate in an efficient and integrated way. I would encourage public policy makers to think through different dimensions of how to establish a cluster of knowledge and expertise. The young students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and they have to make it work 10-15 years down the road.

District cooling utility, Empower wins two Golden Bridge Awards

DUBAI, UAE, 17 December 2020: Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower) has won two Gold Awards in the 12th edition of the Annual Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards 2020, the district cooling utility said through a Press release. The winners received their awards during a virtual awards ceremony, on December 10.

Ahmad Bin Shafar

Empower said it earned recognition as the Gold Winner for ’Company of the Year’ in the Energy and Utilities category for its impressive achievements in 2019, including the practical innovations in developing the district cooling industry in the world and raising the standards of sustainability in the sector.

Additionally, Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO, Empower, received the honour, Gold Winner Award for ‘Executive Achievement of the Year’ in the Energy & Utilities category, in recognition of his pioneering contribution in encouraging the region to adopt district cooling concepts and his prominent role in leading Empower to become the world’s largest district cooling services provider, the district cooling utility said.

Previously, Bin Shafar was named as the ‘2018 IDEA Global Leader’, in recognition of his efforts for the enhancement of district cooling sector and his support towards global strives for a better environment. In 2017, he was also appointed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as a special advisor on district cooling for its global ‘District Energy in Cities Initiative’.

On this occasion, Bin Shafar said: “The winning of these two Golden Bridge Awards is an inducement for our work teams to move forward in making a qualitative difference. It is also an international recognition for Empower’s efforts in transforming the space cooling industry, globally, and an encouragement for decision-makers to adopt district cooling solutions and apply integrated green practices.”

Bin Shafar spoke of how Empower is pioneering in the District Cooling sector locally and internationally. The company’s efforts and the leading role in the industry also led to the crowning of Dubai as the ‘Champion City’ for district cooling globally, on the sidelines of the 8th International District Energy Association (IDEA) Annual Conference, held in December 2018. 

Empower said it has bagged many international awards, as a reflection of its determination and leadership and its ability to innovate solutions and technologies in the district cooling industry. The world’s first unmanned and fully automated district cooling plant it established in the JVC Dubai community is an example of innovative practices, the district cooling utility said.

Empower spoke of how it is a partner of UNEP and plays a vital role in UN-led global initiatives, ‘Cool Coalition’ and ‘District Energy in Cities’. Empower said it is also a member of international bodies of district energy and HVAC industries, such as ASHRAE and IDEA (International District Energy Association).

Bin Shafar added that the company’s success in achieving huge savings, in terms of energy, and protection of natural resources, is the fruit of its ongoing commitment to contribute in building a sustainable future based on a diversified economy and zero carbon emissions. Empower said it saved 1,224MW of electricity, worth AED 3.2 billion, as of the end of 2019. The company’s  total district cooling networks, it said, crossed 320 kilometres. It added that it awarded contracts to various companies at a total value of AED1.13 billion in 2019.

Italy pavilion for EXPO 2020 aims to tackle global sustainability challenges, says ambassador

Dubai, UAE, 20 March 2019: The Italian tradition is a mix between beauty and function, said His Excellency Liborio Stellino, Ambassador of Italy to the UAE, following a special preview of the Italian Pavilion for EXPO 2020, presented by Carlo Ratti, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati, and one of the architects that designed the Pavilion during Italian Design Day on March 19, at the American University in Dubai. Stellino stressed that legacy is an important element driving Italy’s participation in EXPO 2020 and that the Pavilion aims to showcase key learnings related to food safety and security and future energy gained from previous Expos in a bid to address the global challenge facing sustainability in a more holistic manner.

Providing a brief history on the country’s long-standing commitment towards sustainable practices, Stellino said: “The importance of energy started in 1973, when we had the first oil crisis. From the time, we tackled problems of energy efficiency, we developed a lot of techniques, technologies and expertise. Today, in Italy, despite the lack of oil and natural resources, we save 20% [of electricity], thanks to better efficiency of buildings.”

Stellino said that despite being associated with classic and traditional buildings, Italy has made great strides in integration of technology for modern infrastructure, owing to the expertise of the engineering and architectural community, stressing that innovation is in their DNA. “The close link between entrepreneurship and art has oriented our design in a more functional way,” Stellino said. Ratti discussed the vital role sustainable cooling plays in modern infrastructure, adding that while the Italian pavilion will be generally cooled using air conditioning, there is a move to incorporate passive cooling design elements to make the most of the time of the year, when the UAE has cooler temperatures.

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