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Illuminating the path to a greener tomorrow

As the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UNFCCC convenes in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, we examine the role it will play in regional and global climate action efforts

- Nasser Al Nowais, Chairman, Rotana

In November this year, world leaders will gather in the UAE for the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Unfolding on November 30, Expo City Dubai will welcome over 140 heads of state, senior government leaders, over 70,000 participants and 5,000 media professionals during the two-week summit. And while this global convergence will see people from all walks of life, it will unite everybody towards one common goal, which is tackling the most pressing challenge of our time – climate change.

It is a great honour for a nation as young as ours to host one of the decade's most significant climate conventions. It is also a tremendous responsibility for our country and one that greatly underscores our commitment to positive climate action. Thanks to our brilliant leadership, we have been able to fast-track our environmental efforts over the past decade and implement bold strategies to defy our historical image as an oil-dependent economy, thus earning the world's trust to host an event of this calibre.

It's in our roots

The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the nation's Founding Father, was known for his profound passion for the environment. He believed that our nation's unique topography was significant to its cultural identity. He was, therefore, deeply committed to preserving the UAE's natural heritage, including delicate desert ecosystems, mangroves, oases and coastal environments.

He initiated and supported a host of conservation projects, including the establishment of wildlife reserves and protected areas. He was particularly dedicated to the protection of endangered species and their habitats.

He also believed in educating each and every person who called this land their home to do their part towards protecting the natural world. His efforts left a huge legacy behind and his vision has played a pivotal role in shaping the UAE's present-day environmental policies and initiatives.

Laying the foundation

When the Paris Agreement – the historic treaty on climate change – was adopted at COP21 in 2015, the UAE became the first country in the Arab world to ratify this agreement. In doing so, the nation highlighted its commitment to the summit's overarching goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The UAE also became the first country in the region to announce its Net Zero by 2050 strategy, in support of this global goal. And now, eight years and several initiatives later, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed announced 2023 as the ‘Year of Sustainability’ to dovetail with this historic summit.

Building a strong sustainability track record

The UAE's impressive slate of initiatives over the past years has positioned the country as a responsible climate leader on the world stage. Perhaps one of the biggest has been the establishment of the alternative and renewable energy company Masdar, also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. It was founded in 2006 as the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city.

Another notable endeavour is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site solar park in the world based on an independent power producer model. Similarly, the Sharjah Waste-to-Energy project is a groundbreaking scheme that is at the heart of the emirate's goal to become a zero-waste city. In its first year of operation, the project has generated enough power to supply 2,000 homes, using household and industrial waste. And finally, the sophisticated Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant marks the nation's foray into nuclear energy which is known for its low-carbon attributes and minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

Once again, drawing from our founding father's love for nature, a host of initiatives are underway to safeguard the country's natural habitat, especially the mangroves that act as natural carbon sinks and the endangered species found in the region. The Oryx Reintroduction Programme is one successful example as it has seen the population of the Arabian oryx grow tremendously over the last few years. Additional grants have been made available to similar projects in the region that contribute to the overall health of the planet.

So when the world comes together on November 30 to take stock of the global progress in this fight against climate change, we can confidently say that the UAE has actively paved the path towards a greener and more environmentally friendly future – not just for our country and the region, but also the whole world. It shows that our vision is firmly intertwined with international pursuits aimed towards positive climate action.


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