Experts at the path-breaking Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting, the precursor to the UN Climate Action Summit set to take place in September 2019 in New York, outlined a series of key recommendations that they believe are non-negotiable if the global community is to meet targeted climate action objectives.
The first of these is driving green economy and finance. Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said that the business case for climate action has never been stronger with renewables becoming the cheapest source of power, and businesses realizing that investing in sustainability is not only environmentally sound but also profitable.
Reinforcing the priority accorded to renewables, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General took a helicopter tour over Noor Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest single-site solar project comprising 3.2 million solar panels during his visit. He noted that in addition to playing an integral role in tackling global warming, scaling up renewables in all countries offers a prime opportunity to create new and better jobs, and to improve people’s health through cutting down on pollution.
On the same note, the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting featured a leaders’ roundtable on energy transition for climate action that evaluated the economic and political levers for transformative reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector.
Al Zeyoudi and Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, led the session.
At the roundtable, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment announced the UAE’s commitment to launching a 2GW solar project in Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi that is set to exceed the performance of the record-breaking 1GW Noor Abu Dhabi Plant.
The second recommendation from the environmental advocates is to engage young people from across the globe as catalysts for climate action and encourage them to lead the climate conversation. The meeting featured two youth-centered sessions.
The first, themed ‘Enabling Youth in Climate Action’, saw young activists from 30 countries pose pressing questions to Al Zeyoudi and António Guterres. Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, moderated the session.
During the second session, a youth consultation, the chairs of the previous day’s leaders’ roundtables shared key takeaways from their respective discussions with an audience made up entirely of young people. Following the chairs’ presentations, youth delegates led a lively conversation with the speakers and provided their feedback. In closing, Al Zeyoudi and Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, sent a message to young people around the world to hold leaders accountable and demand a heightened climate action pledge.
To a question on the most effective ways of tackling plastic waste, Al Zeyoudi answered that there is currently a growing global movement to stop manufacturing single-use plastics and thereby reduce plastic waste. He pointed out that raising public awareness of sustainable production and consumption patterns and the smart use of plastic are the most effective ways to address the plastic pollution challenge, given that plastic is an essential component in most industries.
The third recommendation emanating from the meeting is to establish the health and climate nexus. Participants of the First Climate and Health Ministers’ Meeting, hosted in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN, concurred that the recommendations for the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 should incorporate health impacts in climate change solutions across three key areas – air pollution, climate-induced stress and disasters, and finance.
Al Zeyoudi, Dr Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems at WHO, and Dr Hussein Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Centers and Health Clinics at the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, co-chaired the session.
He said: “Under the guidance of its visionary leadership, the UAE has become a globally acclaimed convener of key players in climate action. This is the result of the relentless efforts led by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and his team, including Dr. Sultan bin Ahmad Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar, and other ministers. Their unwavering commitment to the cause contributed to the country’s winning bid to host the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2019, to organizing the Abu Dhabi Ascent – the prelude to the UN Climate Summit 2014, and to the launch of Masdar City – one of the world’s most sustainable urban communities – in 2006.”
He added: “At the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting, we sought to shift the perception of climate change among the international community from a challenge to an opportunity, and make the business case for climate action and sustainable investment more explicit to the world. As an example, we provided an overview of the UAE’s pioneering experience in transitioning to a green economy.”
Al Zeyoudi commended the 62 volunteers from Happiness Imprint for their important role in coordinating the activities at the meeting and assisting its participants.
The Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting aimed to review and finalize the initiatives, commitments, and achievements that will be announced at the upcoming UN Climate Action Summit, as well as to examine key opportunities and challenges related to global climate action. Running from June 30 to July 1, 2019, the event drew the participation of more than 2,000 delegates from around the world. Distinguished guests included Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, and Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA.