Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, United Arab Emirates, speaks Anjali Marar to reduce CO2 emissions, the UAE’s efforts to tackle rising sea levels and its partnership with India in tackling climate change. Excerpts from a recent email interview:
1. How does the UAE view climate change? What steps are planned to reduce the UAE’s carbon footprint?
The UAE considers climate change to be the most serious threat to the future of our planet. The nation’s climate change journey began with its accession to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1995. In 2015, the UAE became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region to sign the Paris Agreement. In October 2021, the UAE reaffirmed its leadership in climate action by launching its Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative. Federal and local governments have come together to create policies, strategies, projects and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include expanding the deployment of clean energy solutions, planting millions of trees, developing the country’s carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) network, moving to a green economy in all priority sectors – industry, energy, transport and Environment – and increasing reliance on advanced technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) works with private sector organizations across the country. To streamline the process, the Ministry launched the National Dialogue for Climate Ambition (NDCA) to ensure active stakeholder participation in the achievement of the UAE’s climate goals. The UAE is also a key event organizer for global climate action and will host COP28 in 2023. We intend to host a productive, solution-oriented and inclusive, youth-engaging event that will make a powerful business case for climate action and mobilize countries to increase the scale and pace of their efforts to tackle climate change.
COP28 is of particular importance as it will provide a platform to present the results of the first global inventory of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which aims to assess global progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Can you elaborate ways in which the UAE can request a contribution from India to meet its climate targets?
The UAE and India share a common goal of accelerating the clean energy transition and decarbonizing industries. Earlier this year, Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy on Climate Change, is visiting India to discuss opportunities for cooperation in this area with senior government officials and private sector leaders.
In May this year, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India aimed at creating a framework to enhance cooperation on climate action and help implement the Paris Agreement. We have also set up a joint working group for this purpose. We are committed to working with India on our respective climate change goals. Additionally, we see great potential in working with India on smart and climate-resilient agriculture, bringing the dual benefits of increasing food production while reducing the sector’s carbon footprint. We are very interested in sharing knowledge and experience in this area.
Our latest project in this space, Food Tech Valley, currently taking shape in Dubai, will provide a platform for companies from around the world, including India, to develop and test their breakthrough innovations in agriculture and food systems. Given the significant innovative capacity of Indian companies, the UAE also encourages start-ups and SMEs from India to participate in its innovation competitions such as B. the Climate Innovations Exchange (CLIX), which takes place every year during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). . Next year, India will host the 18th G20 Summit. We fully support the Indian Presidency’s focus on promoting green and digital transformation and the attention it intends to give to disadvantaged sections of society.
3. What are the major climate change impacts that the UAE has experienced in the past few decades? How does your government intend to deal with the long-term increase in precipitation and heat-related climatic conditions?
Located in an arid desert region, the UAE is feeling the effects of climate change quite severely – from rising temperature and humidity to uneven rainfall distribution and the increasing frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events such as storms and flash floods. In addition, climate change is exacerbating the challenges of water scarcity and limited arable land, which has negative consequences for agriculture and food security.
One of the greatest threats to our country from climate change is sea level rise. Given that the UAE has nearly 1,300 kilometers of coastline and that around 85 percent of the population and over 90 percent of its infrastructure reside in low-lying coastal areas, any sea level rise poses a major risk. According to the United Arab Emirates climate report, forecasts for Precipitation in the region represents a great deal of uncertainty, and average total precipitation may either increase or decrease. It is suggested that precipitation will become less frequent, but the intensity of precipitation events may increase.
As part of our National Climate Change Adaptation Programme, we have assessed the risks associated with climate change in four key sectors – energy, infrastructure, health and environment – and are currently preparing sectoral adaptation action plans. To address the threat of rising sea levels, we have taken several measures such as: B. raising buildings in coastal areas to 1.2 to 1.4 meters above sea level and building breakwaters. To cope with higher temperatures, we have implemented the lunch break rule, which requires outdoor workers to stop work between 12:30pm and 3:00pm to avoid heat-related illness. And to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on our agricultural sector, we invest heavily in agricultural research and development. We try to use the latest technologies and innovative cultivation methods such as vertical farming and hydroponics. We also focus on developing drought-resistant crops.
4. Does the United Arab Emirates, which has a significant number of Indian expats among its workforce, see greater involvement of skilled Indians in combating global warming?
Indian experts are already actively involved in combating climate change in the UAE. They have played an integral role in our international climate negotiations as well as in the development of the UAE’s National Climate Action Plan 2017-2050, the National Climate Change Adaptation Program and other strategic documents. People with qualifications in a wide range of fields can make a meaningful contribution to our fight against climate change.