x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Event to bring wind of change on climate

A workshop in Abu Dhabi this week will gather international officials to discuss ways of fighting against climate change.

ABU DHABI // With international action on climate change slow to achieve results, countries are asking what they can do to ensure that emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced.

These questions - and answers - are the subject of a two-day workshop opening in Abu Dhabi today.

Some 25 academics, businesspeople and government officials, including those from the Directorate of Energy and Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are expected to attend the workshop.

The event is expected to put local officials in touch with global experts. While the workshop is by invitation only, the public can attend a panel from 6.30pm tonight at the InterContinental Abu Dhabi hotel.

The event, hosted by New York University Abu Dhabi, will explain the significance of the latest round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, last month.

"The most significant thing in the Durban developments is breaking through the sharp difference in the treatment of developed and developing countries," said Richard Stewart, a professor at the New York University School of Law who is moderating tonight's panel.

At the Durban meeting, governments agreed to start work on a climate treaty that would be legally binding for developed and developing nations alike. The treaty would require all participants to lower their emissions. The issue had been a stumbling block for years.

"It is clearly a breakthrough and a concession from China and India and other developing countries," said Prof Stewart, who is also the director of the university's Centre for Environmental and Land Use Law.

The agreement should be developed by 2015 and come into force in 2020, but "there are still questions that need to be resolved", he said.

The uncertainty, as well as the extent of the discussed measures, are leading an increasing number of scientists to question whether an agreement will help the world avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change.

"This is about the best the international process can do," said Prof Stewart, adding that this was why action by countries, cities and companies - the subject of the workshop and panel - is so important.

"There are things that can be done in the next eight years outside of this international diplomatic process to move things forward," he said.

Energy efficiency standards, renewable energy and carbon-emissions trading schemes such as the one already implemented by the European Union are good examples of what can be done, he said.

Bryce Rudyk, senior fellow at the Centre for Environmental and Land Use Law and director of the university's Global Climate Finance Project, said the UAE is likely to be suffer if humanity fails to slow down the rise in greenhouse emissions. Drought, desertification and an increased risk of storm surges and rising seas are all among the expected effects on this country.

He said the UAE is already taking some action.

"We think what is happening in the UAE around Masdar and the International Renewable Energy Agency are good examples of what could happen outside of the international climate negotiations process," he said.

vtodorova@thenational.ae