On energy, we identified that today offers the best investment case in recent history to make progress outside electricity.
On health, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), we brought together health and climate ministers for the first time ever in order to strengthen and endorse health-centered mitigation and adaptation initiatives.
On green finance, we need a new focus on funding the proven interventions that we must apply more widely.
The Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting provided new impetus to make 2019 a year to focus on the economic opportunities of climate action.
The UAE was proud to host the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting, the precursor to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, presided over the gathering, sending a clear signal that we are once again raising our level of ambition.
Over 2,000 delegates – including ministers, experts from the region and beyond, as well as representatives of the public and private sectors – presented, debated and agreed on concrete steps to provide the basis on which we can shape the UN Climate Action Summit 2019. High-level roundtable meetings, plenary sessions and breakout groups held over two days offered the participants an ideal opportunity to embrace a new era of economic growth spurred by a global collaborative investment in climate action. Ministers from around the world presented their countries’ plans to adopt green policies to overcome the challenges to achieving the scale and speed of climate action required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Considering our youth population’s firm belief in the climate cause and unwavering dedication to a sustainable future, youth engagement was an important element of the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting. We greatly benefited from the participation of young delegates, who shared their experiences, new ideas and passion about climate action.
We kicked off the event with the recognition that we have viewed climate action as a challenge for too long, and now it’s time to turn the tables and start seeing it as an opportunity. António Guterres inspired us to act on this, reminding us: “More and more governments, cities and businesses are beginning to understand that climate solutions can protect our environment while strengthening our economies and enhancing our common security.”
As the host, I was determined that our UN guests left Abu Dhabi with a set of winners that inspire people around the globe. And in our discussions, we made progress:
On energy: We identified that today offers the best investment case in recent history to make progress outside electricity. Our experience – here in the UAE and through our aid for renewable energy in other developing countries – shows that in every single case, solar and wind, even with batteries, have been cheaper than diesel. We were able to demonstrate that here, in a region known for its hydrocarbon economy, we’ve implemented forward-thinking policies that have made solar the cheapest source of power. The UN Secretary-General came to see the record-breaking 1 GW Noor Abu Dhabi plant and heard us announce another ambitious commitment to a new 2 GW solar project in Al Dhafra region in Abu Dhabi that is set to outperform Noor Abu Dhabi.
On health: In partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), we brought together health and climate ministers for the first time ever in order to strengthen and endorse health-centered mitigation and adaptation initiatives, and demonstrate political commitment to the dual consideration of climate and health. We agreed that the factors affecting the climate are also affecting our health. This goes especially for air pollution, given that outdoor air pollution causes four million deaths per year, with indoor air pollution responsible for another three million. Total estimated costs of the health impacts of air pollution stand at US$5.11 trillion per year. These are not separate challenges, therefore it’s imperative to align the climate change and air pollution agendas.
On green finance: We need a new focus on funding the proven interventions that we must apply more widely – early warning systems, healthcare facilities powered by green energy, and investment in crops and livestock to mitigate the impact of CO2 on nutrition levels. For every US$1 invested in resilience, we will save over US$10 in disaster response costs.
On the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): We need to update them, and incentivize the public and private sectors as well as the philanthropic and civil society partnerships that will ensure progress and commitment.
The Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting helped us galvanize ourselves to go further in partnership than we would go alone. The consensus was that in 2019, climate action is about people, not just the planet. It will advance economic prosperity, create jobs and new industries, and improve the health of our most vulnerable people. Climate change knows no borders, and neither should we. Our challenge now is to keep this momentum going until New York in September and beyond.
This article was authored by His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment. He was appointed the Minister of Climate Change and Environment for the United Arab Emirates in February 2016. In this role, he oversees the Ministry’s mission to spearhead the UAE’s drive to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change and protect the country’s ecosystems through developing and implementing effective measures, policies, and initiatives.