CC Forum Middle East Highlights that the Covid-19 pandemic should not slow down our shift towards a resilient and inclusive green economy

CC Forum Middle East Highlights that the Covid-19 pandemic should not slow down our shift towards a resilient and inclusive green economy

 

Qais Al Suwaidi, Director of the Climate Change Department at MOCCAE (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change and Environment) at the CC Forum Investment in Sustainable Development

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a wake-up call for all of us, making us realize that to ensure the continuity of life on Earth, we must live in harmony with our environment. The greatest health crisis of our time has driven home the importance of integrating the environmental dimension of sustainable development into our post-pandemic recovery plans with the aim of equipping our world with the tools to respond to climate risks. The coronavirus should not slow down our shift towards a resilient and inclusive green economy. Instead, it can catalyse the transition.

The UAE is a keen adopter of this approach. Despite the challenging times, our country has remained steadfast in its dedication to building back better. In addition to our decisive response to the pandemic, we have launched our historic mission to Mars, started operating the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world, and restructured our cabinet to streamline governance and decision making. In the midst of the recovery efforts, we have strengthened our commitment to climate action, and proceeded to submit our enhanced, second Nationally Determined Contribution – NDC – under the Paris Agreement.

The NDC reflects our climate change mitigation and adaptation ambitions. Specifically, it highlights our target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23.5 percent compared to business as usual for the year 2030. By then, we aim to expand our clean energy capacity to 14 GW, rising from just above 100 MW in 2015. We have also pledged to plant 30 million mangrove seedlings by 2030 to conserve our coastal blue carbon ecosystems. Given our harsh desert climate and scarce water resources, we are also exploring innovative climate-smart agriculture, and sharing knowledge and technology with other countries that face similar challenges.

While our NDC is a major milestone, it is only one step in the right direction. The move falls within the framework of our national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in our current transition to clean energy.

I’m proud to note that we have recently adopted two landmark policies – the UAE Environmental Policy that facilitates the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the UAE Circular Economy Policy 2021-2031 that seeks to optimize the use of resources and reduce waste, thus promoting sustainable production and consumption. The policies complement our ongoing efforts in the fields of green growth, biodiversity conservation, and environmental protection.

Governments have the responsibility to spearhead an inclusive and efficient green recovery. However, the scale of the investment required is well beyond the capacity of the public sector alone. Therefore, we have launched the UAE Sustainable Finance Framework 2021-2031 to step up cooperation between the public and private sectors, and channel capital towards climate-resilient and environment-friendly investments.

The framework includes comprehensive actions around three key pillars: mainstreaming sustainability and climate action in financial decision-making and risk management, enhancing supply and demand for sustainable products and green investments, and creating an enabling environment for sustainable finance.

A major opportunity in this regard is food security – one of our priority areas for green recovery. The pandemic has highlighted the need for a stable food supply chain. Despite the climate-related limitations of our agricultural sector, we are seeing promising innovation, especially from our young people, who are passionate about advancing sustainable agriculture through cutting-edge technologies and novel business models.

With a positive outlook, we will continue to reinforce the role of the green economy as the cornerstone of COVID-19 recovery, and we hope that our experience can serve as a source of inspiration for the world.

We are dedicated to doing our part to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and joining forces with the rest of the world to fight climate change. This year, we look forward to the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow later this year, and to exchanging experience with other countries in advancing climate action in a postCOVID-19 world. The event will be the world’s opportunity to demonstrate leadership and agree on a shared vision for raising climate ambition in the context of a green recovery.

As countries battle the triple threat – the pandemic, climate change and economic recession – enormous opportunities for stronger global cooperation are emerging. We are already witnessing remarkable endeavours by the world’s scientists collaborating to develop effective vaccines, countries committing to ambitious science-based emission reduction target, and international organizations rallying together to provide technical assistance and financial aid to the most vulnerable countries.

It is notable that in working to build back better, governments are being avidly supported by the private sector that has seen a renewed focus on sustainability. We need to capitalize on this momentum through establishing enabling regulatory and financing frameworks, and prioritizing investments in sustainable projects to empower private sector companies to drive the green recovery.

As climate impacts mount and our ecosystems come under increasing pressure, we must double down on our efforts to protect and support those most at risk. As a responsible and ambitious nation, the UAE will continue to play an active role in the international community in sharing knowledge and resources to help build a resilient post-pandemic future that leaves no one behind.