Let’s get to know what the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mheiri had written in her open letter to Emirates youth. It was published on October 27th, before COP26.
To our youth,
With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, Cop26, in Glasgow approaching, people all over the world, especially the young, are demanding more robust and ambitious climate action.
In your own unique way, you have become our sustainability partners. As digital natives, you have harnessed the power of social media to raise awareness about our planet’s declining health.
And through your dedication to combat the climate crisis, you have forced changes to school curriculums, transformed perspectives, agendas, policies and leveraged technology to come up with innovative climate solutions.
In short, you have had a real impact on a cause in which you truly believe.
Your awareness of the challenges ahead and your passion to be part of the solution gives us hope for a brighter tomorrow.
No one is too young to make a difference
In the UAE, we realised early on that our young people are the backbone of the environmental sustainability movement. Figuratively speaking, they are the ultimate source of renewable energy that, when properly channeled, can fuel the way to a sustainable and climate-resilient future.
Qualified, trained and empowered youth can have a major influence on all aspects of development. Innovation and technology skills are the most important in coming up with out-of-the-box solutions to sustainability challenges.
We are committed to bridging the gap between youth and policy makers, engaging young people in our fight against climate change at home and abroad, and ensuring that young voices are heard in shaping the future of our nation.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future, in central Stockholm, Sweden, on October 22. Reuters
In this context, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launched the Emirates Youth Climate Strategy that aims to develop environmental leadership skills among young people, promote their participation in decision making and climate action, and enable them to contribute to solving the environmental concerns of today and tomorrow. Young people played a key role in reviewing the UAE’s Nationally Determined Contribution – the country’s pledge to reduce its carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement – and the National Climate Change Adaptation Program, as well as in the preparations for the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting in 2019.
Furthermore, in the UAE, young people are always included in the country’s delegations to relevant international conferences and involved in climate negotiations. Just recently, Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, led the UAE delegation to the Milan Pre-Cop26 and Youth4Climate meetings. We support the highest levels of youth engagement in Cop28, which we are bidding to host in Abu Dhabi in 2023.
Today, the young generation is leading the way to a more sustainable world. And you too can be leaders of change. You can build the future you want to live in.
Earlier this month, we witnessed a bold new development in our climate efforts – the launch of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative that aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. I would like to call on you to help us reach this ambitious goal.
Whatever path you may choose to take in life, remember to be a friend to the environment and make sustainable and responsible decisions. There are countless ways in which you can do your part. A few simple steps can go a long way. For example, you can take advantage of our public transport network, carpool with friends, reduce, reuse and recycle waste, and make sustainable choices while shopping. You can inspire your families, peers and wider communities to follow your example and create a domino effect. If each one of us makes these small changes, it will eventually amount to a bigger impact.
No one is too young to make a difference. And we are here to support your ambitions for a greener, healthier world. Under the guidance of our wise leadership, we are dedicated to helping you protect your future and the future of the generations to come.
I take this opportunity to assure you that we understand your concerns, and encourage you to step up and become sustainability advocates. After all, we only have one planet, so let’s take good care of it.
The UAE’s prominent role in climate change initiatives at the Cop26 summit shows the country is ready to “ride the crest of a wave” of global progress, said Mariam Al Mheiri in Glasgow on November, 5. She said UAE wants to double $4bn AIM for Climate investment ‘in the next few years’.
Ms Al Mheiri, who has been for the launch of the UAE and US joint initiative AIM for Climate to drive rapid and transformative climate action in the agriculture sector, said the nation began its energy transition 15 years ago.
“We like to ride on the crest of the wave, not under it, in many things that we do. I think it’s also part of our DNA,” Ms Al Mheiri told The National in Glasgow.
The UAE has been a leader in the drive to net zero for some time, she said.
“When you look at all the discussions that are happening here, everyone’s talking about the energy transition. Actually, the energy transition started 15 years ago, our leadership saw the writing on the wall and said we must invest in diversifying our energy mix, even though we are a hydrocarbon producer and exporter. But it’s really important that we invest in this and we become experts in it,” she said.
The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate unveiled at Cop26 this week has so far mobilised $4 billion of investment, including $1bn from the UAE, to enhance the agriculture sector’s resilience to climate change.
Ms Al Mheiri said the mission plans on “going big”, matching US President Joe Biden’s pledge to double the investment to $8bn “in the next few years”.
The joint initiative is the first global agriculture and climate change coalition and so far has 33 countries on board from six continents, as well as prominent non-governmental backers, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
We see that food systems are a solution provider for the whole climate mitigation efforts. Innovation and research and development is really key in driving how you can grow foods,” Ms Al Mheiri said.
“The last few months, it’s been about mobilising the political will, mobilising investments and putting together a coalition so that we can accelerate our efforts in the next five years to be able to push the boundaries and transition our food systems.”
She highlighted the UAE, a country with a hot, arid climate that does not have arable land and where water is scarce, as an example of the challenge.
“But we’ve got the sunshine, we’ve got the sea and we’ve got the sand, so how can we now look at innovation and technology to actually grow food?” she said.
With the UAE importing 90% of its food, she said food security was a top priority for the country.
“The leadership recognised from an early stage that in order for us to be more resilient, we really need to invest more money and effort into building more sustainable food systems. So in 2018, we launched the National Food Security Strategy, we set up the governance model in the UAE and this is all towards a national transition.”
Look at the UAE today, Ms Al Mheiri said, and it is home to a number of ag-tech companies growing blueberries, raspberries, quinoa, salmon and even tomatoes, “food that no one ever thought would be possible to be grown in the desert”.
“It’s all down to innovation, research and development that this is now possible and commercially viable. Now, we want to do the same thing globally, helping everyone because it’s really our duty as responsible global citizens to share the knowledge to help each other to transition to a more resilient and sustainable world.”
The UAE was the first GCC country to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement and the first country in the MENA region to commit to an economywide reduction in emissions.
Unveiled last month, the UAE’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 will see Dh600bn ($163.35bn) invested in clean and renewable energy sources in the next three decades.
These commitments highlight how the UAE is driving the global net-zero agenda, the minister said.
““We’ve invested so much in renewable energies that today we’re actually operating the three largest in capacity, and lowest in cost, solar power plants in the world,” she said.
“In the region we were the first one that has an industrial scale, carbon capture, utilisation and storage network currently at the capacity of 800,000 tonnes per annum and expanding.”
The UAE becoming the first country in the region to have a zero carbon emission nuclear power plant and the country becoming the permanent host country for the International Renewable Energy Agency are other examples of its commitment to a green future.
“So it was a natural step for us to then also launch the Net Zero by 2050 initiative. And, yes, we’re now taking the knowledge that we have on solar power and solar innovation to the world. The UAE has so far spent $17bn already in over 70 countries with another $163bn to be spent in the next three decades as well,” Ms Al Mheiri said.
She also welcomed the UAE’s bid to host Cop28 in November 2023.
“We want to be global, responsible citizens and that’s why we’re here with such a strong delegation. And we’re so excited and we hope that we win Cop28 and invite the world then to come to the UAE to see to see the actions that we’re taking and to help other countries accelerate their efforts as well.”
Read more about UAE pledges at COP26: endorsing Declaration on Forests and Land Use, launching $1 billion global platform to accelerate renewable energy here.