ABU DHABI // UAE efforts to minimise its contribution to climate change could serve as a model for the rest of the Gulf, says the UN diplomat heading up efforts to reach a global climate deal.
Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is in the capital for the World Future Energy Summit.
Through its commitment to incorporate renewable sources of power in its energy mix, and initiatives such as the clean-energy Masdar city, the UAE "stands out" among other oil producers, Ms Figueres said on the sidelines of the summit yesterday. "The UAE has become a very clear leader in integrating climate concerns in their national policy."
While investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy - derived from the sun, wind or ocean power - were good for the environment, they also made business sense, she said. Even for oil-rich countries such as the UAE, "investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency make a lot of sense from a national point of view".
"We are expecting that will become more of the situation in other oil-producing countries," said Ms Figueres.
While the UAE is only taking initial steps towards limiting its negative impact on the climate, rich industrialised countries have had to commit to legally binding targets for greenhouse emissions. Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrialised states have to reduce their emissions by 10 per cent on 1990 levels. The first commitment period of the protocol expires next year.
During talks in Cancun, Mexico, in December last year, rich countries agreed to deepen the cuts to between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020. However, the new targets are not yet part of a legally binding agreement. Environmentalists are hoping that this will be finalised during a next round of talks at the end of this year in South Africa.
Ms Figueres said if catastrophic changes to the climate were to be averted, industrialised countries needed to commit to more. "It is very clear that what we have on the table now is insufficient."
While the pledges negotiated at the moment were "the deepest commitment" in the history of the Convention, they were only 60 per cent of [emission cuts] needed to ensure the planet warmed by no more than 2°C, Ms Figueres said.
She said she did not think the remaining 40 per cent would be on board by the summit in South Africa, because most of the gains had to come from industrialised countries facing a variety of political and economic barriers to reaching a domestic agreement.
"It is becoming increasingly urgent that they do come forward with that difference," she said. "The more they delay, the more expensive it is going to become."
A successful outcome in South Africa would require several preliminary meetings among countries. A session in June has already been scheduled, while additional talks in April and and the autumn are also likely.