By Dr. Sultan Al Jaber | April 04, 2023
The COP28 President also announced the UAE’s plans to quadruple renewable energy production in the next seven years.
To effectively fight climate change and mitigate its effects across the world, there is no single solution: every single available option, from renewables to carbon capture to hydrogen to nuclear energy, needs to be explored, along with increased investments into new technology that will aid this process.
Countries around the world need to work together to usher in a just energy transition that leaves no one behind, said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber in his keynote speech delivered at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue this March.
Dr. Al Jaber, who is the President of COP28 as well as the UAE UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the country’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, also invited German as well as global energy partners to work alongside the UAE to deliver commercial renewable energy projects across the world in the effort to combat climate change.
In his keynote address, Dr. Al Jaber noted how the UAE and Germany have long held a close strategic relationship across many sectors including energy, security and sustainable industrial development. “As the home of the UN FCCC Secretariat and the host of three COPs, Germany plays an essential role in addressing the climate challenge,” he said. “And as the UAE prepares to host COP28, we do so with a commitment to truly correcting course and enabling a meaningful, practical, pragmatic, transformational progress.”
According to the latest reports from the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the world is currently off-track and “losing the race” to arrest global temperature rise to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. “We have a small window of opportunity to make a massive course correction,” Dr. Al Jaber stressed. “There is still time, but we must act now, and we must act together. We must anchor our response with a rapid, well-managed, and just energy transition.”
To meet current climate change goals, it is necessary to achieve a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030, which presents a challenging task. The key objective is to do this while being able to meet the energy demands of a growing population, which is set to increase by half a billion people within the next seven years.
It is not logical to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, the The COP President stated, adding that globally, every available option to fight climate change and mitigate its damaging effects needs to be explored.
The solution does not lie with renewables alone, or hydrogen or nuclear power or carbon capture, or even using only the least carbon-intensive oil and gas – the need of the hour is to embrace all of the above while also considering new technologies that are yet to be invented, and which, once invented, will be commercialised and effectively deployed.
“We must triple renewable energy capacity over the next seven years and expand it six times by 2040. That is 250,000 terawatt-hours, a very ambitious target,” Dr. Al Jaber explained. “Renewable energy is transforming the power sector, providing almost 90 percent of all new generating capacity last year. We must capitalise on that progress and build on that growth.”
He went on to note how the UAE and Germany are working on a shared vision when it comes to the future of renewable energy. “Both our countries have embedded wind and solar into our energy mix. In Germany, renewable energy has grown to 40 percent of power generation in 30 years. In the UAE, we have built the three largest and lowest cost, single site solar plants in the world,” he said.
He further noted that the UAE plans to grow the country’s renewable energy portfolio fourfold over the next seven years, going from the existing 25,000 megawatts of operational renewable power to over 100 gigawatts.
At this point, he extended an open invitation to both German as well as global partners to work with the UAE in order to deliver commercial renewable energy projects across the globe.
Dr. Al Jaber emphasised that focusing on renewables is not a comprehensive solution for the world’s zero-carbon energy requirements. “There are more than 5,000 steel, cement, and aluminium manufacturing plants in the world today – none of them can run on only wind or only solar alone,” he said, noting how these sectors, combined with heavy transportation, contribute more than 30 percent of global carbon emissions.
He highlighted the importance of exploring alternative solutions such as hydrogen, which is an area the UAE has been exploring with Germany. “I was in Hamburg last October with His Excellency Dr. Robert Habeck [the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action] to witness this country’s very first hydrogen shipment, which came proudly from the United Arab Emirates,” he said, noting that the hydrogen value chain, while possessing great potential, is still at a nascent stage currently.
Therefore, he said, the world needs to also consider other technologies such as carbon capture. “The IPCC has been saying since 2016 that carbon capture is an essential enabler for curbing emissions, yet there are still only 44 million tons per annum of operational carbon capture worldwide,” he said. “I’m sure we all agree that is nowhere near enough. We need to multiply that amount 30 times.”
“We need to explore emerging carbon capture technologies like direct air mineralization and osmosis,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “Allow me again to extend an open invitation to engineering, technology, energy, and industrial players from Germany and all over the world to partner with us and develop the carbon capture value chain of the future. We must find solutions to turn carbon capture from a cost we cannot afford into an opportunity we cannot afford to ignore.”
He further noted that the main obstacle in reducing carbon emissions is the cost involved. To address this, global governments must introduce smart and progressive policies and regulations that can encourage private sector investment. This is important because carbon capture technology can serve as a crucial bridge in the transition towards clean energy, explained Dr. Al Jaber.
While working to deliver a global energy transition, it is essential to ensure that no one gets left behind, particularly those in the most vulnerable countries, Dr. Al Jaber said: “Last year, developing economies received only 20% of clean tech investment. These are economies that represent 70% of the world’s population – over 5 billion people, 800 million of whom have no access to energy at all. They must have access to the least carbon-intensive energy options available today.”
In order to achieve this, there is a need for the energy sector, including oil and gas, to “up its game”. “We need to align around Net Zero by 2050 or before and eliminate methane emissions by 2030. If we can do this in the United Arab Emirates, I am sure everyone can and should pursue the same,” Dr. Al Jaber said.
He added: “We need to reimagine the relationship between the energy sector and all other sectors – a relationship where the energy sector partners with heavy emitters, technology companies, the finance community, as well as civil society, to find the breakthrough solutions we all desperately need.”
One key success factor in enabling the development of a safe, sustainable energy system of the future is the requirement of large amounts of capital. This would require a holistic reform of the global international financial architecture, including the multilateral development banks. “These institutions were established almost 80 years ago to solve post-war inequity and drive reconstruction. We need to modernise their mandate and update their operating models to cater for and adapt to the 21st-century requirements,” said Dr. Al Jaber.
The COP28 President then urged for the availability, accessibility, and affordability of concessional finance to be increased, which he said would be crucial to mitigate risk and activate private capital at a greater scale. Only if timely action is taken to create the necessary financial infrastructure can the world explore the possibility of building a low-carbon pathway to achieve high-growth outcomes.
Calling the energy transition the biggest leap in human and economic development since the First Industrial Revolution, Dr. Al Jaber said: “It will only happen in the timeframe required if everyone does their part and pulls in the same direction. No one can be on the sidelines; no one can be left behind. Failure is just not an option.”
“Imagine the benefits success can bring to all – a world that creates economic growth while eliminating and reducing emissions, a world where prosperity and sustainability go hand in hand, and the world where all people can look forward to enjoying the advantages of sustainable economic development,” he concluded, saying that we must usher in “a world where we hold back emissions, not progress, for the sake of this generation and all that follow. Success is our responsibility and our obligation. Let’s make success our destiny.”
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