Regional experts reacting to the recent, dire report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say the Middle East is more than up to the job of responding to its red alert for humanity.
The report confirmed that human influence has indisputably warmed the climate system, raising global surface temperature.
It also confirmed that there is no going back from some changes already affecting the climate system. With contributions from 750 authors, citing more than 14,000 studies, and over 78,000 comments from governments and climate-change experts, the report says the level of future emissions will determine the level of future temperature rise and the severity of future climate change, associated impacts and risks.
“We only need to look at the images of wildfires blazing across western America, Siberia, Greece and Turkey, while floods deluge China and western Europe in recent months, to realize what a critical moment we have arrived at,” says Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). “This is our world as we have designed it. Now it’s time to redesign it with a cleaner, greener mindset.”
The report says carbon dioxide concentrations have rapidly increased in the earth’s atmosphere, with those from human activities responsible for approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1900. Over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5C of warming.
“Unless there are rapid, sustained and large-scale reductions of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane and other gases, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C compared to pre-industrial levels, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement, is said to be beyond reach,” says the report. “This assessment of the latest science is a severe warning regarding the well-being of human society and all life on Earth. It is testimony to the fact that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades have been wholly insufficient.”
For Dr Taoufik Ksiksi, a professor at the United Arab Emirates University’s biology department, echoed the call for urgent government and corporate action.
“Now we need to act, as it may be too late for some regions,” he says. “In the Middle East, we can act now for two reasons: resources and strong belief in the immediate threat of climate change to our daily lives.”
The Middle East has made tremendous strides in recent years to diversify its energy mix by increasing investments into renewable energy solutions. For Al-Hosany, it is critical that the region becomes a global advocate and leader of clean solutions, like solar and green hydrogen, as two examples of forging a future that runs on clean energy.
To this end, the UAE recently inaugurated the Middle East and North Africa’s first industrial-scale green hydrogen plant in Dubai. “Importantly, this collaboration between the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Siemens, shows how the Emirates is working with the international community and global players to develop cutting-edge solutions to our future energy needs,” she explains.
The green hydrogen plant is the latest in a long line of renewable energy firsts and world records recently achieved by the UAE. The country is also home to the world’s largest single-site solar park in Noor Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) also secured the world’s lowest tariff for a solar power plant, with the 2-gigawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) project in Al Dhafra receiving a bid of 1.35 US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).
“The UAE’s 2050 Energy Strategy, which calls for 50 percent clean energy in the total energy mix by 2050, has laid down a roadmap of how to achieve our energy targets,” Al-Hosany adds.
The biggest challenge the region is facing? Just like the rest of the world, it’s that we are all running out of time.
“That’s the question that drives everyone involved in the UAE’s energy sector, every day,” she says. “All of this is underway in the UAE right now, and we are constantly looking for ways to accelerate our efforts to become a global leader in renewable energy solutions.”
Ksiksi echoes her thoughts, explaining that more research, resources and immediate action plans to mitigate and control climate change are crucial.
“At all three levels, we need to act now,” he says. “Climate analysis is a starting point, especially local climate assessments. But regional as well as global efforts are the secret of any chance of success on this front.”
He believes that the UAE can take the lead on this vital topic of climate change mitigation and control.
“Concerted efforts are urgently required, and now,” he adds. “The advantage within the UAE’s grasp is its universally good relations across the global stage.”
For Al-Hosany, the report’s biggest takeaway is that immediate action can mitigate the worst effects of climate change. And that means a drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions, reaching global net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and investing in developing more renewable energy solutions.
“What’s more, we know what we need to do to get there,” she says. “If anything, the IPCC report reinforces my conviction that we must urgently diversify the global energy mix and invest in renewable energy solutions.”
The world should take note of what the UAE has accomplished so far in committing wholeheartedly to a future powered by clean energy under the slogan, “Impossible is nothing.”
“If an emerging economy rooted deep in the desert can harness the sun, the water and the wind to produce all the energy that we will ever need,” she says, “everyone can do it.”