Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Senior officials take stock of MENA progress in fight against climate change

The opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the global platform for accelerating sustainability hosted by Masdar – Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. (WAM)
The opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the global platform for accelerating sustainability hosted by Masdar – Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. (WAM)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Senior officials take stock of MENA progress in fight against climate change

The opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the global platform for accelerating sustainability hosted by Masdar – Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. (WAM)
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE praised for pioneering green energy initiatives as part of accelerated climate actions
  • US climate envoy John Kerry sees the Middle East playing a big role in shift to clean, renewable power 

DUBAI: Efforts by governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to accelerate climate action were praised at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in the UAE capital.

Since its inauguration in 2008, ADSW has been bringing members of the global community together to accelerate sustainable development.

In keeping with this practice, this year’s events provided heads of state, policy makers, business leaders and technology pioneers with a platform to share knowledge, showcase innovation and outline strategies for delivering climate action.

Amid growing concerns over the impact of global warming, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in particular, were cited by ADSW participants as examples for the rest of the world on the strength of their pioneering “green energy” initiatives.

John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, detailed the significant progress made by countries throughout the MENA region.

The UAE is preparing to host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in 2023, making it only the third Arab country to be given the honor. Egypt will be the host of COP27, to be held later this year, exactly 10 years after Qatar became the first Arab country to welcome COP delegates.

Held once a year, the conference brings together representatives of governments that signed the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change to discuss how to jointly address climate change.

The Paris Agreement, signed by almost all countries in the world at COP21 in 2015, aims, among other things, to keep the rise in the global average temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but ideally keep it to 1.5 degrees.




The UAE is preparing to host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in 2023, making it only the third Arab country to be given the honor. (AFP)

“The region is stepping up and it’s an extremely important message to the rest of the world, that (those) who are producers of the current source of our power, energy and heating, recognize that there will be a transition,” Kerry said.

“Clearly, we are moving toward clean, renewable power and sustainable structures, and the Middle East, together with the Horn of Africa, is going to play a huge role in that over the course of the next two years.”

Indeed, MENA oil and gas producers are increasingly being viewed as part of the solution, with the region boasting some of the lowest methane emissions in their production.

While carbon dioxide is widely identified as the chief culprit behind global warming, methane is second on the list of the worst greenhouse gas contributors to climate change.

Total indirect greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations today are around 5,200 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent. Methane is the largest single component of these indirect emissions.

Unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years, methane is gone in about 10 to 15 years. But while it is in the atmosphere, methane has a detrimental effect up to 85 times worse than CO2 (over a 20-year period).

“That is a serious problem when we look at the fact that over the next 10 years. We have our greatest challenge of trying to reduce our emissions by at least 45 percent,” Kerry said. “So, to achieve that, methane has to be part of the solution and, for whatever reason, it has been the stepchild of the process and nobody has really focused in on it.”

This year, Biden and the EU announced an initiative to get 109 nations to sign the methane pledge and start working together to “plug the leaks.”




John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, detailed the significant progress made by countries throughout the MENA region. (Supplied)

The collective hope is that global methane emissions will be reduced by 30 percent by 2030 — the equivalent of every automobile, truck, aircraft and ship going to zero emissions in that time. “That’s a gigantic gain for all of us,” Kerry said. “It saves about 0.2 degrees on the rise of temperature during those 10 years and that would be a remarkable gain right now.”

The path to sustainable economies and societies will have to overcome the existential threat that climate change poses, with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicting that every region in the world will experience concurrent and multiples changes in climate impact drivers, such as more frequent rainfall, droughts and wildfires.

“These pale in comparison to the upheaval projected in coming decades,” Halimah Yacob, the Singaporean president, told ADSW attendees.

“However, tackling climate change is an immensely complex challenge and must go far beyond annual conferences. It requires a global response through ambitious plans, concrete action and resolute commitment from all countries, big and small — this is the only way we can close the emissions gap and reach our collective goal of a net-zero planet.”

Today, renewable and clean sources of energy supply only 20 percent of global power, with current projections estimating that renewable energy sources will form only 40 percent of total global generation by 2040.

What this signifies, according to Awaidha Murshed Ali Al-Marar, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, is that the world will still need to use fossil fuels for decades to come.

“Like with any serious disease, the treatment plan won’t be effective and long-lasting unless it incorporates essential lifestyle adjustments,” Al-Marar said in his remarks at ADSW. “It is critical that we form new regional and international partnerships.”

Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini king’s representative for humanitarian works and youth affairs and president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, said that with the deadline for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals just eight years away, young people should have a seat at the climate table to ensure a greener future.




Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini king’s representative for Humanitarian Works and Youth Affairs and President of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, said young people must have a seat at the climate table. (Supplied)

The world’s 1.8 billion young citizens will be worst affected by the climate crisis, and they are considered the most committed to change, armed with innovative ideas for effecting positive change for tomorrow, Al-Khalifa told ADSW.

“Youth are passionate, energetic, curious, committed, connected, knowledgeable and technologically equipped,” Al-Khalifa said.

“Without support, they cannot leverage these unique attributes to be the real game changers in creating a net-zero future. We must trust youth in the power to lead meaningful change.”

Bahrain has set up several initiatives to involve its youth in the process, in line with its Economic Vision 2030, Al-Khalifa said.

He expressed great hope in young people, describing them as malleable, resilient and tech-savvy. He said that they are early adopters, innovators and trendsetters. “All this makes them primed and prepped for innovation, disruption and catalysts of new thought and creative solutions,” the sheikh added.

“We see this positive ethos and youth culture spread across different sectors and spheres. As we chart our pathways for a greener future, youth will remain the driving force for socio-economic and cultural transformation across our communities.”

Despite the enormous commitment made in Glasgow at last year’s COP26, Kerry said the challenge today is to work with the remaining 35 percent and bring them on board as rapidly as possible to meet that goal.

“We know that the warming is going on at accelerated rates, particularly in the Arctic, where ice is melting much more rapidly and several times faster than anywhere else on the planet,” he said.




Awaidha Murshed Ali Al-Marar, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, addresses Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. (Supplied)

“And as the ice melts, it opens up dark brackish ocean waters, which contain more heat and that accelerates warming. So, you have a negative feedback loop.”

With mudslides, storms and floods intensifying around the world, Kerry pointed out that when countries gather next year to assess their progress, thanks to the advantage of visibility through satellites, every country will be held accountable without the need to report.

“People are going to be able to measure what’s happening with deforestation and the carbon footprint of big corporations and countries,” he said. “We’ve made a big leap forward, but no one is moving fast enough. We are way behind in our retirement of coal power plants and in our efforts to stop leakage of methane and deploy renewable energy.”

In this race against time, however, the private sector will play a crucial role as Kerry believes no government can afford to accelerate such a transition on its own. Global efforts have identified over $100 trillion ready to be invested in new technologies related to clean energy, from battery storage, carbon capture, utilization and storage, smart grids and hydrogen.




Among the ADSW participants was Alok Sharma (L), the British minister and president of COP26, and Halimah Yacob (R), the Singaporean president. (Screenshots/ADSW)

“The reality is that it’s going to need a very significant amount of investment to effect this transition,” Kerry said. “Energy produces revenue, so we have to be creative about how we deploy that money.

“It is better to be investing in a big solar field or a new energy product that will produce revenue, rather than to leave your money sitting in a bank somewhere with net negative interests.”

Among the ADSW participants was Alok Sharma, the British minister and president of COP26, who arrived in the UAE from Egypt, where he met a wide range of government ministers, including Egypt’s COP president-designate, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Together they issued a UK-Egypt statement which affirmed their joint commitment to accelerating the fight against climate change during this decade.

Sharma’s first visits following COP26 will culminate in a meeting between Egypt, the UAE and Britain in Abu Dhabi, the first of a series of engagements between the countries in the lead-up to COP27 and COP28. 


Two killed, 120 injured in Abu Dhabi gas explosion

Two killed, 120 injured in Abu Dhabi gas explosion
The blast on Monday set off a fire that damaged the facades of six buildings and a number of stores. (AP)
Updated 41 min ago

Two killed, 120 injured in Abu Dhabi gas explosion

Two killed, 120 injured in Abu Dhabi gas explosion
  • Two people were killed and 120 injured in a gas cylinder explosion in a restaurant in Abu Dhabi
  • The blast on Monday set off a fire that damaged the facades of six buildings and a number of stores

ABU DHABI: Two people were killed and 120 injured in a gas cylinder explosion in a restaurant in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, police said.
Initial reports “showed that 64 people sustained minor injuries, 56 others were moderately wounded, and two people died,” police tweeted.
The blast on Monday set off a fire that damaged the facades of six buildings and a number of stores before being brought under control, they added.
Four of the damaged buildings were “safely” evacuated, with efforts underway to find their residents temporary housing “until the buildings are completely secured,” the police said.
Pictures released by Abu Dhabi police showed first responders tending to a person on a gurney, and debris and broken glass strewn across the pavement.
A witness told The National newspaper that he heard two explosions around lunchtime.
“The first sound was small and people started calling the fire and police,” said the man, who was not identified.
“Then soon, there was a big blast. It was a really big sound. The windows shook and in some offices, the windows shattered.”
The authorities gave no indication of foul play.
However, the UAE has been on heightened alert since a Houthi drone and missile attack killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi on January 17.


Two Iranian pilots killed after F7 jet crashes - IRNA

Two Iranian pilots killed after F7 jet crashes - IRNA
Updated 43 min 41 sec ago

Two Iranian pilots killed after F7 jet crashes - IRNA

Two Iranian pilots killed after F7 jet crashes - IRNA

Two Iranian pilots died after their F7 fighter jet crashed near Anarak, 200 km (124 miles) east of the city of Isfahan, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday.


Death toll rises to 10 after building collapses in Iran’s Abadan city

Death toll rises to 10 after building collapses in Iran’s Abadan city
Updated 58 min 37 sec ago

Death toll rises to 10 after building collapses in Iran’s Abadan city

Death toll rises to 10 after building collapses in Iran’s Abadan city
  • The 10-story residential and commercial building partly collapsed on Monday

DUBAI: The death toll from a building collapse in the southern Iranian city of Abadan has reached 10, with some people still missing, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday.
The 10-story residential and commercial building partly collapsed on Monday, leaving at least 80 people under the rubble, according to state TV.
“After hours of emergency efforts, 30 people trapped under the rubble were extracted alive and taken to hospital to treat their injuries,” a deputy governor of the Khuzestan province told IRNA.
The number of people still trapped under the rubble remains unclear.


Yemeni army reports 4,276 Houthi truce violations

Yemeni army reinforcements arrive to join fighters loyal to Yemen's government in Marib on November 16, 2021. (AFP)
Yemeni army reinforcements arrive to join fighters loyal to Yemen's government in Marib on November 16, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2022

Yemeni army reports 4,276 Houthi truce violations

Yemeni army reinforcements arrive to join fighters loyal to Yemen's government in Marib on November 16, 2021. (AFP)
  • Militia attacks continue on government troops in Marib, Taiz, Saada and Hajjah

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s army has said that the Iran-backed Houthis have violated a UN-brokered truce more than 4,276 times since day one by mobilizing fighters and launching drone and missile attacks on government troops, even as the militia indicated its acceptance of its renewal.

The truce, which is the longest since the war began, came into effect on April 2 and has led to reduced violence and deaths across the country, the UN said.

But the Yemeni army said the Houthis continued to gather heavy artillery, military vehicles, and fighters outside the strategic city of Marib, had attacked government troops in Marib, Taiz, Saada, and Hajjah, and created new military outposts.

Members of Yemen’s government forces search for explosive devices in a house in the village of Hays in the western province of Hodeida on Monday. (AFP)

“The Houthis are challenging the truce and international resolutions. They have not adhered to the truce,” Maj. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, an army spokesperson, told Arab News on Monday.  

FASTFACT

The UN’s Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg is pushing the government and militia to extend the truce and put into place its unfulfilled components, including opening roads in Taiz and other provinces.

The Houthi violations come as the UN’s Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg pushes the government and militia to extend the truce and put into place its unfulfilled components, including opening roads in Taiz and other provinces.

On Sunday, the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi Al-Mashat, said the movement would accept an extension of the truce with its opponents, boosting hopes of stopping hostilities across the country for another two or three months.

“We affirm that we are not against extending the truce, but what is not possible is the acceptance of any truce in which the suffering of our people continues,” the Houthi leader said.

In Aden, the head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, also expressed his support on Saturday for current efforts by international mediators to extend the truce.

At the same time, activists and rights groups intensified their campaigns on the ground and on social media to highlight the grave consequences of the Houthi siege on thousands of Taiz residents.

The Abductees Mothers’ Association, an umbrella group for relatives of those abducted in Yemen, said Sunday that checkpoints manned by the Houthis outside Taiz had seized 417 people seeking to enter or leave the city since the beginning of the war.

The Houthis have laid a siege on Yemen’s third-largest city since early 2015 after failing to seize control of it due to strong resistance from troops and local fighters.

The Houthis barred people from driving through the main roads, deployed snipers, and planted landmines, forcing people into using dangerous and unpaved roads.  

“Civilians in #Taiz are forced to use alternative long, narrow, winding, and unsafe routes, which caused a lot of accidents that killed and injured hundreds of victims,” tweeted the American Center for Justice, a rights group established by Yemeni activists. It added that Houthi snipers indiscriminately gunned down civilians while they carried out their everyday activities.

“Most of the children sniped by Houthi snipers were targeted while fetching water, grazing the sheep, playing near their homes, or returning from schools,” the organization said.


Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘was forced to sign false confession at airport’

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. (AFP)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2022

Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘was forced to sign false confession at airport’

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. (AFP)
  • It’s a tool. So I am sure they will show that some day

LONDON: A British-Iranian charity worker who was detained in Tehran for almost six years says she was forced by Iranian officials to sign a false confession to spying before she was freed two months ago.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said British government officials were present at Tehran airport when “under duress” she signed the false admission to spying.
She said she was told by Iranian officials that “you won’t be able to get on the plane” unless she signed.
“The whole thing of me signing the forced confession was filmed,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Monday.
“It’s a tool. So I’m sure they will show that some day.”
Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Tulip Siddiq, who represents Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s home district in London, said the revelation raised “serious questions” for the British government.
She said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss “must set out in Parliament what she knew about this shocking revelation and what consequences it could have for my constituent.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family in Iran. She was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, but she was on vacation at the time of her arrest.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison after she was convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups denied.
She had been under house arrest at her parents’ home in Tehran for the last two years.
She and another dual citizen, Anoosheh Ashoori, were released and flown back to the UK in March.
Their release came after Britain paid a £400 million ($503 million) debt to Iran stemming from a dispute over tanks that were ordered in the 1970s but were never delivered.