Wanted: leadership and collaboration on climate change
We live in interesting times. Just less than two weeks ago we were celebrating the Paris Climate Agreement coming into force after unprecedented global momentum to ratify it, including from China and USA, the two biggest emitters of Greenhouse Gas emissions. Now following the US elections, there is a risk of a leadership void on climate change, especially as President-elect Donald Trump has previously claimed that climate change is a hoax propagated by the Chinese.
While politics is like a pendulum, the science has never been clearer on the need to tackle climate change, with 2016 about to go down in history as the hottest ever recorded and the year when the strongest ever hurricane being recorded.
Last year, the Paris Agreement sent the clear long-term signal that it is in the interest of every single human being on this planet to work tirelessly in hopes of averting the catastrophic reality of dangerous levels of climate change. However, the pledges submitted by all parties were only sufficient to limit temperature rise to some 3oC this century, double the limit that all parties agreed to, presenting something of a paradox.
What is clear is that the benefits of urgent global action on climate change will outweigh costs for the UAE and wider region. The two biggest economies in the region, UAE and Saudi Arabia, have already ratified the Paris Agreement, signaling a steadfast commitment to action on climate change. This comes at a time when our economies desperately need to find alternative, non-oil based income streams. One of the answers is on our door step and lies in creating a renewable energy powered economy. Just this year Dubai received bids for 800MW of solar PV at a world record low price of US$2.99 cents/kWh, something that will create thousands of jobs and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. As a solutions based organization, we at EWS-WWF just launched a new project to understand if and how the UAE can generate 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2050. We plan to work with private sector and government bodies to find innovative solutions that can increase momentum and action towards implementing more renewable energy projects in the UAE.
The world desperately needs leadership on climate change and there is now an incredible opportunity for countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia to fill the gap. The UAE in particular is already a leader in the region on climate change and has the ability to place diplomatic pressure on regional partners and the USA to follow through on their climate change commitments.
Last week, the UN climate change negotiations in Marrakech were trying to agree on the ‘rulebook’ to implement last year’s Paris agreement, as well as trying to identify innovative measures to close the ‘emissions gap’ and ensure we have a fighting chance to limit temperatures to 1.5°c. In Marrakech, there has been a lot of optimism, collaboration and recognition that the momentum towards renewable energy in particular is unstoppable. State and non-state actors are coming together to agree innovative solutions to scale up action.
The creation and early ratification of the Paris Agreement should be heralded as one of the greatest diplomatic achievements in the world. It shows that countries around the world are united in tackling climate change and that this issue is bigger than just one country, organization or person. Taking action will require unprecedented levels of collaboration between governments, private sector and civil society organisations. We have no option but to do so as there is no planet B.
THIS OP-ED WAS PUBLISHED IN AL ITTIHAD NEWSPAPER IN ARABIC ON SUNDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 2016.