x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Much opportunity to progress on climate change in 2012

It was a strange meeting in the end, even by the standards of the climate process. COP17, held in Durban, South Africa, ran more than a day over schedule, and saw a series of last-minute deals passed by exhausted delegates.

It was a strange meeting in the end, even by the standards of the climate process. COP17, held in Durban, South Africa, ran more than a day over schedule, and saw a series of last-minute deals passed by exhausted delegates.

It will take some time before all the details are really understood. But some important lessons are already clear.

First, the most prominent outcome was an agreement to move towards a deal with "legal force" that covers all important emitters of greenhouse gases.

This process will be launched in Doha next year and run through 2015. The fact that China, India and the US among other countries were ready to embrace such a deal suggests that climate action will become more global and more credible.

At the same time this allowed the European Union to commit to keeping the Kyoto Protocol (the world's only existing legal framework for cutting emissions) alive.

For investors, this is an important signal that markets for low-carbon technologies will only grow. Countries will be looking hard for solutions that generate economic growth and diversify the economy while keeping emissions down.

In addition, there are new rules for how developing countries can get international recognition for their emission-cutting actions.

For countries like the UAE, this is good news, and the UAE played an important role in making it happen.

The past three years have seen an expanding but focused role for the Emirates' increasingly influential delegation.

The UAE task force was a central negotiator on several issues - on rules for supporting carbon capture and storage; on developing fair ways to address aviation emissions; on technology development and transfer; and on enabling the Kyoto deal by setting out ways developing countries can have their emissions mitigation recognised.

Next year, the world will focus on our region, with COP18 to be held in Doha. It will offer a major opportunity for GCC countries to show their leadership on climate issues. Our region has long been seen as a reluctant partner in the fight against climate change - which does not do justice to the actions we are taking. Qatar deserves and will get the full support of the UAE.

We are particularly well placed to make the most of this opportunity. We are implementing an impressive array of actions that place us at the centre of the clean energy world.

At home, we are building nuclear power plants that will produce 5.6 gigawatts - 25 per cent of Abu Dhabi's power - by 2020. Abu Dhabi and Dubai both have targets for renewable energy, and national standards were passed this year to dramatically improve the efficiency of water and electricity usage in buildings.

Abroad, the UAE continues to be a major investor in clean energy. October saw the opening of a new concentrating solar "power tower" in Spain, developed jointly by Masdar and Sener. Masdar is also investing in wind power and cutting edge clean energy research.

The UAE also plays a major multilateral role. Abu Dhabi hosts the International Renewable Energy Agency, as well as an office of the new Global Green Growth Institute. We participate with the world's major economies through the Clean Energy Ministerial process and this year's G20 process on clean energy and efficiency.

The UAE is also particularly active in the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) process - for instance, our delegation played a central role in agreeing rules for supporting carbon capture and storage under the Kyoto Protocol.

These actions compare strongly with others around the world. They have not always been the obvious choice. We are and will continue to be a major (though efficient) producer of fossil fuels.

Our hot climate, lack of fresh water and fast development mean our emissions per person are among the world's highest. But our stance on energy and climate is one we should be proud of.

All this adds up to a real opportunity for the UAE in the coming year. The UAE should seize this opportunity to cement our leadership role. We need to take advantage of the focus on our region to gain a fuller recognition of the part we play in fighting climate change.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber is the UAE special envoy for energy and climate change