Will it be business as usual after COP27?
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Will it be business as usual after COP27?

Will it be business as usual after COP27?

COP27 and COP28, being held in Egypt and the UAE respectively, place the Middle East at the centre in efforts against climate change. Here’s what the region can contribute towards building sustainable future


We are making insufficient progress in limiting this century’s global warming to 1.5 celsius above pre-industrialisation temperatures. This means more heat waves, extreme weather, like sandstorms or high wind and progressively rising sea levels in coastal areas. This has led to inevitably strong phrasing from activists and world leaders as they try to paint a picture of what we face and what we must do to overcome it.

Private sector is coming to terms this represents, for our physical assets and financial and governments are faced with a challenge to create a new regulatory framework that will shape a new, climate resilient world.

With the next two editions of COP taking place in the MENA region, it is now front and centre in the race to combat climate change. Forward thinking policies aimed at diversifying regional economies and weaning dependence off of the oil and gas sector as a primary driver of GDP demonstrate that local governments are ready to shoulder this immense responsibility. There is hope ahead and the governments in the Arab Gulf region are demonstrating that they are ready to put in the work that needs to be done to stem climate change at COP27 in Egypt.

Agendas and more than talking points
COP27 covers climate finance and its challenges pertaining to the gap between necessary national spending on sustainability initiatives and the funds available. It also discusses how those already being hit hardest by climate change, such as farmers and fishers, have adapted to new weather patterns and other emerging conditions on land and at sea.

COP27 also discusses on how to balance national ambition with sustainability goals. The Egyptian government has an opportunity as host to share many lessons on this topic. In 2012, it initiated the Egyptian Solar Plan, which will add 3.5GW of solar – some photovoltaic, and some concentrated thermal systems – to the national energy mix by 2027.

COP28 host, the UAE, can share ideas on its Net Zero 2050 initiative, which has been aligned with the Principles of the 50, the UAE’s plan to accelerate national economic development for the 50 years between its golden jubilee year and its centennial celebrations. Net Zero 2050 ties directly into the country’s Paris agreement pledges.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) will share on the efforts of stakeholders in sectors such as energy, transport, waste and agriculture to implement projects that fulfil enterprises’ business objectives while also serving national sustainability needs.

Both Egypt and UAE have examples of startups that address climate change via solar energy development, KarmSolar and Yellow Door Energy are leading innovation for others, younger startups to follow. UAE offer s a range of government schemes to encourage sustainability innovations such as Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation, Dubai Future Foundation and Hub71.

Saudi Arabia can also showcase its sustainability initiatives. Last year, its government announced plans to boost the kingdom’s renewable energy mix from 1 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030, all while planting 10 billion trees. Some 100 million of these trees will be planted as part of the NEOM smart-city initiative, itself touted as an ecologically minded megaproject. Saudi Arabia can also demonstrate the work of its universities that encouraging research addressing the hardest of climate challenges.

Building momentum
Each of the governments in the region understands the indispensable role that private enterprise plays in sustainability initiatives. Achieving the goals that have been set at the government level often falls upon the private sector, and corporate commitments to decarbonising operations are a critical component of any sustainability ventures.

For example, construction, which is a significant contributor to GDPs across the Arab Gulf, is a major source of carbon emissions, with the cement industry alone accounting for around 8 per cent of the global total – a proportion double that of the flying or shipping sectors. But progress can be made if more companies in the industry become signatories to the WorldGBC’s (World Green Building Council) Advancing Net Zero programme, which aims to decarbonise the global sector by 2050.

Building owners can also play their part. They can invest in the transition to Net Zero and lay the groundwork for better-performing, futureproof assets that deliver positive outcomes for investors and owners alike. Actions include minimising and optimising resource consumption such as energy, water, and raw materials, and being more diligent in waste disposal and recycling. Each of these approaches has the potential to lower operational costs and carbon footprint, as well as avoid future carbon fees and levies.

In the age of ESG, these green initiatives also attract financiers, customers, partners and talent who value net-zero objectives. All this ultimately results in more revenues and lower financing costs. In the UAE, the first net zero community is under construction at Masdar City Square while ICD Brookfield Place is showing a net zero transition pathway for existing buildings.

Best laid plans
City planners can join efforts by evolving the way urban environments are built and managed. We already see projects like these in the pipeline. NEOM is a prime example. It prioritises walkability and cycling in a human-centric urban design of seamlessly connected transport innovation. The “15-minute city”, which refers to the ability of a dweller to quickly reach any point from any other point, is a hot topic in the region. Other Saudi developers such as The Red Sea Development Company and Roshn are encouraging innovative solutions via sustainable design requirements for their developments.

At Dubai Expo, the city demonstrated how it could be a model of clean, green, innovation-driven, human-centric living – one that could serve as a blueprint for all future sustainable urban planning across the region and beyond.

As COP27 and COP28 come and go, the region’s public and private sectors must recognise the truth. The region is rapidly approaching an inflection point along with the global community. The harsh climate we are experiencing locally is becoming commonplace in other places. We have an opportunity, as professionals working in the Arab Gulf region to show how much these events inspire all of us to change our ways.

With recent developments and commitments towards sustainability and net zero, there is solid reason to be optimistic that the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations will play a lead role in securing our planet’s longevity.

Katarina Uherova Hasbani is the partner and global director of Strategy and Advisory at AESG

Read: COP27: “We meet at a critical time for our planet and our future generations,” says UAE President

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