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Experts Highlight Energy Transition as Fundamental to Combatting Climate Change

Evaluating the economic and political levers for transformative reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the energy sector, the discussion revolved around the achievements of various countries and the challenges they face in decarbonizing their economies

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Renewables, Renewable energy, Climate change

Press Release: The first day of the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting, the precursor to the UN Climate Action Summit set to take place in New York in September 2019, featured three leaders’ roundtables that discussed the most pertinent strategies to tackle climate change.

His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, led the roundtable on Energy Transition for Climate Action.

Opening the session, His Excellency Dr Al Zeyoudi said: “Today, we have a big task.  The Secretary-General is requesting us to roll up our sleeves and talk about what we can achieve on the energy transition by the time of the Climate Action Summit in September. The Secretary-General asked us to leverage the excellent work of the energy coalition – which is led by Denmark and Ethiopia, with Rachel’s support, and many partners like the International Renewable Energy Agency.”

He added: “I would like to frame our conversation today with two take-aways from the UAE’s own experience. First, solar PV is our cheapest power source – less than two cents per kilowatt in the daytime, compared to seven cents for natural gas.  CSP is basically equal to gas around the clock.  The UAE has provided US$1 billion of aid for renewable energy in other developing countries, especially small island developing states.  In every single case, solar and wind, even with batteries, have been cheaper than diesel.

“Second, today offers the best investment case in recent history to make progress outside electricity.  The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, for instance, will soon be making a major announcement on expansion of its carbon capture and sequestration, taking emissions out of sector that has not always seen progress on that front. It estimates that this expansion is profitable.”

Following His Excellency Dr Al Zeyoudi’s address, Rachel Kyte said: “We are here to galvanize ourselves to go further in partnership than we would go alone.”

Evaluating the economic and political levers for transformative reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the energy sector, the discussion revolved around the achievements of various countries and the challenges they face in decarbonizing their economies. The participants noted that the transition to renewable energy alone is not sufficient to counter the rising risks posed by climate change, and that the international community needs to take additional drastic measures.

Another roundtable, chaired by Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), explored raising ambition to accelerate climate action in various national contexts. 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.

In his opening remarks, His Excellency António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said: “This roundtable is about ambition, and ambition is indeed what we need. Climate change is moving faster than we predicted, and we are losing this race. Currently, we have three historic records that should make us act: the concentration level of greenhouse gases, the record temperature, and the speed of the rising sea level. We are indeed facing climate emergency, and we need to raise our ambitions. Let’s be very pragmatic and very efficient, and let’s win this battle.”

Reinforcing the Secretary-General’s comments, Patricia Espinosa said: “We need more ambition on climate finance, which implies the mobilization of US$100 billion annually by 2020. We must ensure that all finance flows to enable societies to achieve low emissions and climate-resilient development through aligning the financial sector with our sustainability goals.”

The participants agreed that decarbonizing transport and power is key to stopping climate change. Transport emits around 23 percent of the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming, and if action is not taken, this could increase to 60 percent by 2050. Furthermore, the session highlighted the sound economic sense in adopting renewable energy that is proven to be the cheapest source of power in a large part of the world. The roundtable also examined ways to overcome the challenges to achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, as underlined by the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The third roundtable focused on enhancing nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – a set of indicators set out in the Paris Agreement of 2015 that highlight the efforts of each country to reduce national GHG emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change. Carolina Schmidt, Minister of the Environment of Chile and President of COP 25, and Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), led the session.

Achim Steiner highlighted the focus of the session on lessons learnt from the NDCs so far.

For her part, Carolina Schmidt said: “People all over the world are seeing the impact of climate change in their daily lives. That is a golden opportunity for us because we have more political support to really make an effort in increasing our NDCs.”

Emphasizing the importance of the alliance between the public and private sectors, she added: “We have the opportunity to strengthen the Conference of the Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) as a process to really work together in order to address climate action and the NDCs as the main tool, as well as the long-term low-emission strategies.”

The participants proceeded to review the first round of the NDCs and identify best practices for their enhancement, including involving the government in their design and implementation.

The Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting aims to review and finalize the initiatives, commitments, and achievements that will be announced at the upcoming UN Climate Action Summit, as well as to examine key opportunities and challenges related to global climate action.

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