background image

The surprising truth behind COP28's host nation: why this could be the best COP yet

author image

By Selwyn Duijvestijn

· 7 min read

As the world converges for the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), the event is poised to be a watershed moment in the global climate narrative. Notably, it marks the critical halfway point since the Paris Climate Accord and the deadline of 2030, underscoring the urgency for tangible and impactful climate action. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the host, emerges as a central figure in this pivotal conference, showcasing its potential to lead transformative change in climate policy and action.

Economic diversification and innovation: paving the way for a sustainable future

The UAE has embarked on a transformative journey of economic diversification, aligning its growth with sustainability and innovation. This strategic shift is particularly significant given the UAE's status as a major oil-producing nation. Since the discovery of oil in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which propelled the nation into rapid economic growth and development, the UAE has been synonymous with oil wealth. However, the country's leadership, especially the forward-looking vision of the Sheikh, who anticipates the production of the last barrel of oil, reflects a profound commitment to transitioning towards a more sustainable and diversified economy. This vision marks a stark contrast from the early days of oil dependency, showcasing the UAE's dynamic evolution over the decades.

The vision of producing the last barrel of oil

The statement by the UAE's leadership about looking forward to producing the last barrel of oil is more than symbolic; it's a clear indication of the nation's commitment to a future beyond oil. This vision is grounded in the understanding that long-term economic prosperity and environmental sustainability are intertwined. It's a bold acknowledgment that the future lies in renewable energy and sustainable practices.

Diversification efforts and their impact

Over the years, the UAE has made significant strides in diversifying its economy. The nation's GDP, once heavily reliant on oil, now tells a different story. According to the UAE's Ministry of Economy, the non-oil sectors contributed approximately 70% to the nation's GDP in recent years, a stark contrast to the past decades when oil was the dominant contributor. This shift is the result of deliberate policies and investments in various sectors - it´s an example of how the country operates.

The UAE's visionary leadership in sustainability:

The UAE has emerged as a global leader in sustainability, underpinned by a series of ambitious projects and strategic initiatives that showcase its commitment to a sustainable future.

Energy strategy 2050: A blueprint for sustainable growth

 The UAE's Energy Strategy 2050 exemplifies the nation's proactive and practical approach to sustainable development. More than just a blueprint, this strategy is actively shaping the UAE's energy landscape. It sets forth a diverse energy mix, aiming for 44% renewable energy, 38% gas, 12% clean coal, and 6% nuclear energy in the national grid by 2050. The UAE is already making significant strides towards these targets, with tangible projects and investments in various energy sectors. This dynamic approach goes beyond diversification; it's a concerted effort to slash the carbon footprint of power generation by 70% and boost energy efficiency by 40% within the next thirty years. The UAE's commitment is evident in its rapid progress, marking a decisive shift towards a sustainable and low-carbon economy.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park: A renewable energy milestone

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park epitomizes the UAE's dedication to renewable energy. As one of the largest solar parks in the world, with a planned capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030, it is a significant step towards achieving the goals of the Energy Strategy 2050. This solar park is not just a power generation facility; it's a symbol of the UAE's shift from an oil-dependent economy to a more diversified and sustainable one. The project also includes an Innovation Centre, dedicated to enhancing the development of green technologies, further cementing the UAE's position as a hub for sustainable innovation.

Masdar City: pioneering sustainable urban living

Masdar City stands as a testament to the UAE's vision for sustainable urban development. Designed to be one of the world's most sustainable cities, Masdar City integrates clean energy technologies with innovative urban planning. The city's design focuses on minimizing waste, conserving water, and promoting energy efficiency, setting a new standard for eco-friendly living. Masdar City is not just a model for sustainable urban development; it's a living laboratory where businesses, researchers, and residents come together to test and develop solutions for a sustainable future.

The green economy initiative: driving sustainable development

Launched in 2012, the UAE's Green Economy initiative underscores its commitment to becoming a global leader in sustainability and green technology. This initiative spans a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy, green buildings, sustainable transport, and waste management. It aims to foster economic growth while ensuring environmental sustainability, reflecting the UAE's holistic approach to addressing the challenges of climate change.

The UAE's role in regional and global climate policy:

The UAE's influence in shaping climate policy extends beyond its borders, playing a pivotal role in regional and global discussions on sustainable development.

Hosting international forums: facilitating global dialogue

The UAE's efforts in hosting international forums, such as the World Future Energy Summit, are a clear indication of its commitment to fostering global dialogue on sustainable development. These forums provide a platform for world leaders, policymakers, and industry experts to discuss and collaborate on issues related to energy and sustainability, furthering the global agenda on climate action.

COP28: setting new standards in climate leadership

As the host of COP28, the UAE is in a unique position to influence the global climate narrative. This event is an opportunity for the UAE to showcase its achievements in sustainable development and to inspire other nations to adopt more ambitious climate strategies. The UAE's leadership in COP28 is crucial in setting new standards in climate leadership, especially for countries in the Middle East, encouraging them to transition towards more sustainable practices.

The pivotal role of COP28: a midpoint assessment and the UAE's commitment to climate action

COP28 emerges as a landmark event in the global climate agenda, marking the crucial halfway point between the historic Paris Agreement of 2015 and the critical 2030 milestone for climate action. This conference is not just another annual gathering; it represents a moment of reckoning and reflection, a time to evaluate our collective progress and recalibrate our approach to meet the ambitious goals set for 2030.

The midpoint of a decisive decade

As we approach the end of 2023, COP28 stands at the intersection of past commitments and future aspirations. This conference is a vital checkpoint, assessing how far the world has come since the Paris Agreement and how much further we need to go to achieve the targets set for 2030. It's a time to confront the reality of our global climate response, to acknowledge the successes and to address the shortcomings. The urgency is palpable – this is a decisive decade for climate action, and COP28 is its midpoint.

The UAE's commitment and leadership

The UAE, as the host of COP28, is uniquely positioned to steer this critical conversation. The UAE's commitment to sustainable development and climate action is evident in its ambitious national projects and policies. As a nation that has made significant strides in renewable energy, sustainable urban development, green technology and investments in nature-based solutions, the UAE embodies the transformative change that the global community seeks to achieve.

Showcasing achievements and inspiring action

The UAE's role in COP28 goes beyond hosting; it's about setting an example and inspiring global action. By showcasing its achievements in implementing large-scale sustainable projects and nature-based solutions, the UAE can demonstrate what is possible when vision meets action. The nation's success stories, which are not just plans but active, ongoing initiatives, serve as powerful and tangible examples for other countries to emulate.

COP28 offers the UAE a prime stage to not just display its concrete achievements in environmental sustainability but also to actively drive global climate action. The UAE is set to use this influential gathering to propose and commit to bold, actionable targets reminiscent of the Paris Accord's impact, galvanizing international collaboration and emphasizing the shift from planning to real-world implementation.

Conclusion: a turning point for global climate action

COP28 is not merely a routine summit and it's much more than a midpoint check-in. Under the guidance of the UAE, COP28 is poised to be a seminal event, potentially rivalling the impact of the Paris Agreement. It represents a critical juncture, with the UAE's evolution from a reliance on oil to a champion of environmental sustainability serving as a compelling story of change. This narrative underscores the UAE's significant influence in guiding the global community toward a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

Subscribe to our COP28 newsletter here to get comprehensive coverage of the world's largest climate conference delivered straight to your inbox.

This article is featured in illuminem's Thought Leadership series on COP28 proudly powered by Tikehau Capital.

Did you enjoy this illuminem voice? Support us by sharing this article!
author photo

About the author

Selwyn Duijvestijn is the CEO of DGB Group, ​a purpose-driven boots-on-the-ground organisation focused on bringing excellence to the development and operation of carbon projects.

Other illuminem Voices

Related Posts

You cannot miss it!

Weekly. Free. Your Top 10 Sustainability & Energy Posts.

You can unsubscribe at any time (read our privacy policy)