The 2016 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) focused on stimulating international dialogue and action on sustainable energy, water, waste, cities, women in sustainability, climate change and sustainable development.
The week, which included a series of events, conferences and exhibitions, brought together thousands of delegates from government, industry and civil society with the aim of addressing challenges and opportunities in policy, finance, investment, and technology and innovation.
21 January 2016: The 2016 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) focused on stimulating international dialogue and action on sustainable energy, water, waste, cities, women in sustainability, climate change and sustainable development. The week, which included a series of events, conferences and exhibitions, brought together thousands of delegates from government, industry and civil society with the aim of addressing challenges and opportunities in policy, finance, investment, and technology and innovation.
Key events of ADSW 2016, held from 18-21 January, included the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), the International Water Summit, the Ecowaste Exhibition, the Future Cities Forum, the Egypt Energy Forum, the Zayed Future Energy Prize awards ceremony, the Second Blue Economy Summit, the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) Forum and the Abu Dhabi Global Action Day. The ADSW was preceded by the sixth Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), taking place from 16-17 January. The week also included youth and community awareness-raising events.
During the ADSW opening ceremony on 18 January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drew attention to 2015 “landmark” agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change, calling on governments, the private sector, and regional and international organizations to start working on their implementation. On SDG 7, on sustainable energy, he stressed the need to invest “every dollar of the trillions that will be spent on new infrastructure in the next 15 years” in climate-friendly projects.
Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Chairman of Masdar, called on governments and businesses to create durable partnerships to “capitalize on this historical opportunity to lift the global economy and shape a practical pathway towards a sustainable future.”
Keynote speaker Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, shared his country’s experience in transforming the energy sector through renewable energy and energy efficiency, including by regulation and investments.
The Abu Dhabi Global Day of Action, held on 18 January, focused on the topic of turning the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into policy, investment, technology and partnership solutions.
Keynote speaker Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France and President of the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), noted that the full impact of the Paris Agreement and Conference will only be measured over the years. Describing 2015 as a year of “negotiation and decision,” he outlined a “four-p plan” for 2016, consisting of: “process,” in relation to signature and ratification of the Paris Agreement; “precisions,” with regard to the Bonn Climate Change Conference in May 2016, where countries should “flesh out the principles and mechanisms they have agreed upon”; “pre-2020 action” by the public and private sector, including on bunker fuels and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); and “preparation” for COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November 2016.
Speaking on a panel on ‘Translating the 2030 Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement into Action,’ UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Mogens Lykketoft stressed the “total interdepence” of the SDGs, and called for dedicated measures and strong global partnerships to support their early implementation. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres outlined bringing together the vision of the 2030 Agenda and the legally-binding agreement of Paris as a key task for 2016.
The first day of WFES, 19 January, included panels on global energy trends and economic outlook, and on renewables, climate change and natural gas in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Paolo Frankl, International Energy Agency (IEA), called for creating a level playing field for renewables, suggesting that now is the moment to introduce carbon pricing and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Stating that there is now a strong business case for renewables in the MENA region, Masdar Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Belhoul described the renewable energy sector at present as “much more commercially-focused.” On the impact of declining oil prices, he said energy policy decision makers focus on longer time frames.
The Future Cities Forum, held on 20 January, which also hosted the Habitat III Sustainable Energy Thematic Meeting, opened with a discussion on sustainable energy, climate and the New Urban Agenda. Explaining that 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to cities, UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Executive Director Joan Clos: stressed the increasing role of local authorities in sustainable energy generation and distribution; and called for direct access of cities to the electricity grid.
Hakima El Haite, Delegate Minister in Charge of Environment of Morocco and UNFCCC COP 22 President Designate, described cities as a source of finance and innovation, and stressed that the “1.5°C temperature goal requires cities’ involvement.” IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin called for the Habitat III conference, taking place in Quito, Ecuador, from 17-20 October 2016, to come up with a “solutions-oriented outcome” for COP 22 in Marrakesh.
The WiSER forum, held on 20 January, was aimed at mentoring, empowering and inspiring women to be catalysts of innovation, leaders in industry and drivers of commercial solutions. The event included panel sessions, featuring speakers from government, academia, industry and media, on the linkages between climate objectives and SDGs, transformative action post-Paris and the use of innovative business models for distributed renewable energy access.
An initiative of the Government of Abu Dhabi, the UAE, the ADSW, organized annually in January, aims to act as a platform for sustainable development and clean energy discussions, bringing together business and policymakers, to “address challenges and celebrate achievements in sustainable development and clean energy.” [ADSW 2016 Website] [UN Press Release] [Emirates News Agency Press Release] [UNGA Press Release] [IISD RS Story on Sixth IRENA Assembly] [IISD RS Story on Second Blue Economy Summit] [IISD RS Story on 2016 Zayed Future Energy Prize] [IISD RS Sources]