Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting: what happened and what comes next

The two-day event was attended by the UN chief and more than 1,000 delegates - but what happens now?

Delegates at the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, on Monday Chris Whiteoak / The National
Delegates at the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, on Monday Chris Whiteoak / The National

More than 1,000 government ministers, energy experts and business leaders attended a major climate change conference in the UAE over the past two days.

The Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting aimed to highlight the critical dangers posed by the threat of global warming and form the agenda for an emergency UN summit this September in New York.

But what actually happened and what is the path ahead?

Why was the Abu Dhabi meeting held?

Seas are rising, corals dying, ecosystems collapsing and waves of extreme weather batter the world. Just last weekend, France experienced its highest recorded temperature of 45.8°C.

So the Abu Dhabi event aimed to increase efforts to implement the 2015 Paris climate accord and fight these worrying trends.

What is the Paris agreement?

Agreed to in 2015 and now signed by 195 countries including the UAE, the objective of the Paris deal is to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

But experts in Abu Dhabi again warned that within a decade the world faces increases of more than 1.5°C if countries fail to act.

What was discussed in Abu Dhabi?

The meeting was not a negotiation or deal-making exercise. Those attending outlined what was possible to reduce emissions in different sectors such as energy, transport and industry.

Delegates spoke passionately about the challenges of financing the battle against climate change, particularly in helping poorer countries to lessen its effects.

By 2020, the UN wants $100 billion (Dh367.3bn) a year, contributed by public and private sources, to fund the fight in developing countries.

The event heard calls for more penalties on pollution, shifting taxes from salaries to carbon and phasing out coal-fired power plants within a few years.

The conference also heard it was crucial to harness youth leaders in the drive to convince a sceptical older generation about climate change.

The UN Secretary General’s special envoy for the New York summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba, said the event chiefly laid the groundwork for September’s summit and pointed to 2020 – a critical moment for the Paris agreement.

By the end of next year, countries must pledge what they will do to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.

“That’s why we are calling for this summit this year,” Mr de Alba told The National.

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, also urged for more focus on the health aspect of climate change.

“The medical bills from climate change are staggering," Dr Al Zeyoudi said. "The humanitarian bills are staggering and the number of deaths is unacceptable.”

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment. Chris Whiteoak / The National

What is Abu Dhabi doing to cut emissions?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas emission that is mainly created by fossil fuels.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi says the emirate’s carbon dioxide emissions per capita are about 37 metric tonnes, one of the world’s highest rates.

But the emirate on Sunday announced a commitment to a new 2 gigawatt solar project in Al Dhafra, which will eclipse the record-breaking 1GW Noor Abu Dhabi Plant already in operation.

The UAE generates less than 5 per cent of its electricity through renewables, with most coming from solar parks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This compares with about 25 per cent from renewables globally. But this is set to increase sharply.

By 2050, the UAE wants 44 per cent of power generation to come from clean energy: 38 per cent from gas; 12 per cent from clean coal; and 6 per cent from nuclear.

The UAE government has also committed to diversifying from oil and its announcements on solar energy underlined this.

What will determine if the Abu Dhabi and New York summits are a success?

Mr de Alba said the world needed to move on from the countries that doubted the true effects of climate change or lacked the will to change.

“We are very much aware other countries are not on track and some countries including the US have publicly said they will abandon Paris,” he said.

“The majority needs to start moving. The majority can make the difference.”

What happens next?

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has convened the September New York summit to present ways to boost commitments under the Paris agreement.

This will be discussed again in Chile this December at another UN climate meeting.

By December 2020, signatories to Paris must commit to their enhanced pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.

This, in theory, lays the groundwork to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We need to raise our ambitions before the end of 2020, which is what Paris states,” said Mr de Alba.

“By 2020, all governments need to come with revised and enhanced contributions.”

Updated: July 2, 2019 03:38 AM

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