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25 June 2024

Ministry of Climate Change and Environment leads national efforts with ‘Green Retreat’ ahead of COP28 UAE

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By WAM

The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, a leading force in global climate initiatives, recently hosted ministers and over 150 high-ranking officials from 50 government and private entities at the ‘Green Retreat’. This collaborative event showcased the UAE's dedication to addressing climate change and served as a strategic precursor to the nation's much-anticipated hosting of the Conference of Parties (COP28) later this year.

Held in Expo City Dubai, the Green Retreat unfolded under the inspiring theme 'United for Climate'. The event harnessed the collective power of various stakeholders, building on their accomplishments in climate change action, environmental preservation, and sustainability promotion across the nation. By fostering innovative ideas and projects, the retreat facilitated a collaborative approach to showcase the UAE's most impactful initiatives in the lead-up to hosting COP28 in Dubai, set to take place from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

The Green Retreat was attended by H.H. Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators (UICCA); Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy; Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure; Dr. Ahmad Abdulla Humaid Abdulla Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Education; and Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture and Youth.

The Green Retreat attracted a diverse and influential group of attendees, including senior officials from relevant federal and local government ministries and agencies, accelerator representatives, government media offices of the seven emirates, major private sector companies, and numerous prominent business leaders.

In line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment will take the lead in coordinating the collaborative efforts of all government and private institutions in preparation for the highly anticipated COP28 summit.

In her address, Mariam Almheiri underscored the ambitious mission of the Green Retreat, which brought together national experts and strategic partners from various sectors to advance climate action in the UAE. The goal is to present a model that reflects the country's status and climate efforts during COP28 UAE and to enhance the nation’s role in offering innovative and inspiring solutions to global climate challenges while fostering a climate-resilient world.

She said: "The UAE's hosting of COP28 this year, along with naming 2023 as the Year of Sustainability, is tangible evidence of our wise leadership's vision and commitment to playing a leading role in the fight against climate change, which impacts humanity as a whole. UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has demonstrated the UAE's commitment to uniting global efforts in line with the approach of our late founding leader, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan."

She added: "The Green Retreat serves as an invaluable opportunity for participants to learn about the UAE's outstanding climate action record and contribute their ambitious ideas to drive tangible progress in national efforts towards sustainable economic growth. We aim to develop a comprehensive climate action plan through the particpation of all government and private institutions, which will create significant opportunities for economic growth and diversification, generate employment for youth, foster inclusive and cohesive communities, harness the potential of clean energy, and safeguard natural habitats and preserve the environment."

In her speech, Almheiri highlighted the severe climate challenges the world is facing, such as escalating food waste, carbon emissions, waste management issues, biodiversity loss, and the imminent threat to living organisms. She emphasized the urgent need for the world to take swift action, and promoting sustainability across various sectors to secure a better future for upcoming generations.

Almheiri expressed her gratitude to the participants of the "Green Retreat" and reaffirmed her confidence in their collective ability to make a positive impact. She emphasized the importance of enhancing the quality and effectiveness of the UAE's climate efforts moving forward, ensuring continuity and achieving meaningful short- and long-term results.

On his part, Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri said: "Coordinating all government efforts in the country in preparation for hosting COP28 is a national priority, given the importance of this vital issue and its direct impact on the comprehensive development process at both state and global levels. This is especially true in light of the unprecedented challenges facing the world today due to climate change, which will continue to make this issue a top priority on the global dialogue agenda in the coming years."

He added, "As the world needs collective and rapid action to combat climate change, developing a new economic model that can respond to its challenges is an integral part of those efforts. Under the guidance of its wise leadership, the UAE has both the political will and the resources to invest in green transformation and sustainable development. The country has adopted this approach early on, as reflected in its strategic initiative to achieve climate neutrality by 2050."

Bin Touq explained that the Ministry of Economy is working closely with its partners in the public and private sectors to enhance efforts toward a more diverse and sustainable economy aligned with the country's priorities in addressing the global climate crisis. This is achieved through four primary focus areas: promoting green growth opportunities, adopting the circular economy concept, developing new growth opportunities based on nature investment through blue economy initiatives, and supporting the energy transformation agenda through investment in renewable energy. Over the next three decades, the country will invest over AED 600 billion in clean and renewable energy. He emphasized that the country's economic vision for the next 50 years is based on transitioning to a low-carbon and more diverse economic model capable of meeting the requirements of sustainable development.

Suhail bin Mohammed Al Mazrouei said: “With COP28 approaching fast, all stakeholders should ensure their efforts are aligned to facilitate an adequate representation of the UAE and the success of the highly anticipated event. Since the country’s establishment by the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s environmental stewardship has been nothing short of inspirational, rendering it a leader of climate action, sustainability, and environmental protection. Its holistic approach to integrate sustainability across all sectors and invest in clean energy sources is paving the way for the UAE to become climate neutral by 2050, in line with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.”

He added: “In this context, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (MoEI) has launched multiple projects and initiatives to sustain the energy, infrastructure, housing, and transport sectors. We work relentlessly with our partners to reduce the energy and water footprints and drive the shift to green economy that enables sustainable development across all sectors. To that end, we run demand side management (DSM) programs in the built environment, agriculture, industry, and transportation that can save up to 40 percent of energy consumption and 50 percent of water use by 2050. We also implement a unified building code that contributes to achieving the objectives of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, the UAE Water Security Strategy 2036, and the National Energy and Water DSM Program. To cut down the carbon footprint of the transport sector - one of the highest carbon emitters, we seek to enhance green mobility.”

Al Mazrouei pointed out that MoEI makes sure that its policies and strategies are dynamic to accommodate the changes in the energy space. It is currently updating the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 to increase the share of clean energy in the country’s energy mix.

Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, said: “The Green Retreat provides as an ideal platform to coordinate the climate efforts made by the public and private sector as the UAE is preparing to host COP28 this year. Entities gathered to preview their numerous cutting-edge initiatives and solutions to climate change and learn about the country’s achievements in this field. The retreat inspired them to propose further ideas that help in further cementing the UAE’s position as a global hub for confronting climate change, today and in the future.

“Education plays a pivotal role in spreading awareness and enhancing the ability of societies to withstand, adapt and confront climate change, thus contributing to sustaining the planet. As such, the Ministry of Education is committed to achieving the objectives of the ‘Greening Education Partnership’ that was established by the United Nations in cooperation with the UNESCO. Through this partnership, we are focusing on four main action areas, namely: greening schools, greening learning, greening communities, and greening capacity and readiness. We are also working with more than 30 local and international partners to adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses these areas and serves as an educational model that benefits the region and the world,” he added.

Salem bin Khaled Al Qassimi said, “While culture is regarded as a key resource for mitigating and adapting to climate change, it is also a resource that is threatened by its negative impacts. Climate change driven natural hazards can have a tremendous impact on our cultural and natural heritage resulting in the loss of crucial cultural elements of communities tied to the environment. Tapping into traditional cultural practices and knowledge can help build resilience in societies and guide us to make sustainable lifestyle choices.”

“Despite our future-focused approach, the UAE as a nation, has often borrowed from the past and put its traditional sustainable practices to good use. Discussions on the role of culture in mitigating the risks of climate change have secured significant gains and we shall continue to build momentum to scale up culture-based climate action at the upcoming COP28. The UAE’s youth will have a major role to play in these discussions as key changemakers and the world will witness how the next generation takes accountability for their future,'' he added.

A plan for government collaboration

The Green Retreat featured seven Thematic Councils addressing critical topics in the sustainability value chain. These included Water Resource Management and Conservation; Biodiversity and Blue Carbon Ecosystem Protection; Private Sector Engagement and Industry Transformation; Waste Management and Circular Economy; Sustainable Transportation; Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency; and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.

The Councils consisted of experts from federal and local government entities as well as the private sector, who discussed various ideas and challenges related to each topic. They proposed solutions in the form of initiatives and projects to be implemented by individual entities or through coordinated efforts.

Each Council presented 8 to 10 projects and initiative ideas supporting the respective topics. The most feasible and impactful ideas were chosen as part of the preliminary plan for national climate activities through January 2024. Representatives from the government media office also discussed ideas that could be added to the national climate action agenda.

Several media workgroups were set up to help government entities present a unified narrative for the COP28 conference and raise awareness in the UAE about the significant event hosted by the country this year. Periodic follow-up meetings were agreed upon to ensure progress in implementing this plan.