By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | Aug 17, 2022
ABU DHABI – The UAE and the region is at the beginning of a very critical decade for climate progress, said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the Climate Envoy of the UAE and the President-Designate of the upcoming COP28 UAE climate change conference, as he gave the opening speech for the Zayed Sustainability Prize ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2023, which took place in January.
The ADSW was set up in 2008 by the UAE with the singular goal of convening key stakeholders and leaders from both the government and private sectors around the world to drive forward climate action and formulate a roadmap for equitable, sustainable economic development for all.
The opening ceremony of the 2023 edition of ADSW was attended by the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as several high-level dignitaries from the UAE, Korea, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Seychelles, Angola, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Morocco, among others.
Addressing the gathered delegates, Dr. Sultan stressed that 2023 carried a very special significance, because this year the UAE will be the host of COP28. He further added that this marks the start of a critical decade for climate progress, and that the UAE approaches its role with a mixture of humility, responsibility and a sense of urgency.
“We share the risks of rising temperatures with all countries and, with all countries, we share the ambition to make transformational, game-changing progress,” said Dr. Sultan. “The UAE has always risen to challenges by getting ahead of the future. The transformational progress we have achieved in only 50 years has been anchored by the principle and true practice of genuine partnership.”
He went on to elaborate the several forward-thinking measures the country has already adopted in its journey towards sustainable economic progress and development. “We have been blessed with the leadership that has invested the wealth of the nation in the health of the nation, balanced economic growth with environmental responsibility, and put climate action at the heart of our development strategy,” he said.
He mentioned how the UAE had recognised that renewables would be crucial for the future even before there was a global spotlight on the transition. He further spoke about how the country has stayed its course in the development of MASDAR, and how it has embedded sustainability at the core of all its operations.
“We will continue to invest in clean energies of tomorrow as we drive down the carbon footprint of the energy the world needs today. For us, sustainable development is about never settling for the now. It is always about the next: about building on previous breakthroughs and building new, innovative partnerships, staying one step ahead and never hitting the pause button, because the next never stops,” he said.
In his speech, Dr. Sultan acknowledged that, despite the progress being made currently and what has been achieved in the past, the world is still “way off track”. “We need to go much further and much faster,” he stressed, adding that the world is playing catch-up in its attempts to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was the global limit set by the Paris Agreement that was signed by most nations in the world in 2015. This limit is believed to be paramount to mitigate the worst consequences of unchecked global warming and climate change around the world.
“We need to reverse emissions while moving economies forward, enabling an inclusive and just transition that leaves no one behind. That's why we are determined to make COP28 a COP for all and a COP of action,” he said.
Dr. Sultan went on to define the vision for COP28, to be held in Dubai Expo City in November 2023. “This will be a COP where the Global North and Global South really communicate and listen to each other, a COP where we move from goals to getting it done, across mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage – a COP where we deliver a new transformative deal on climate finance,” he said, eliciting thunderous applause from the gathered audience and dignitaries.
The UAE Climate Envoy acknowledged that the task ahead is massive, but stated that it also presents a huge opportunity: “The road to Net Zero represents the biggest market transformation with the greatest economic promise since the First Industrial Revolution – a low-carbon pathway to a high-growth destination with inclusive growth for all.”
In the next part of his speech, Dr. Sultan focused on the objectives and importance of the Zayed Sustainability Prize. The Prize, established the same year as the ADSW, is a pioneering global award set up by the UAE. It is aimed at recognising and rewarding sustainability-related innovative solutions from around the world. Once every year, during the ADSW, the Zayed Sustainability Prize is awarded in five categories: Energy, Water, Health, Food, and Global High Schools.
Speaking of the award, Dr. Sultan said: “Driving inclusive progress is what the Zayed Sustainability Prize is all about. The prize has been empowering positive change-makers for more than 15 years. Their initiatives are changing lives from Asia to Africa, from the Caribbean to the Pacific, so let us take inspiration and hope from their stories and their impact.”
Ending his speech, Dr. Sultan signalled his belief that the world can indeed come together and cut emissions by half, and that this ambitious goal can be achieved over the next seven years – by 2030.
“I believe in the power of human progress. I believe in the power of our leadership's vision for progress through partnership. I believe that together we can turn the greatest challenge we face into the opportunity of our lifetimes,” asserted Dr. Sultan.
He concluded his speech by issuing an open invitation for everyone to cooperate, collaborate, share ideas, and “put the principle of partnership into real practice”.
“Let us make practical and real progress, because next never stops. Now is the time to unite – now is the time to act,” he concluded. “This is the time to turn rhetoric into tangible results.”
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber calls for unified action against climate change at WGS 2023
The COP28 President-Designate also highlighted the UAE’s important role in fighting climate change as it stands at the “crossroads of the Global North and South
The 13th Assembly primarily focused on plans to increase the share of renewable energy worldwide to reach 100% of global energy capacity by 2050.