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The UAE in 2023: The ‘Year of Sustainability’ and fighting climate change

27 January 2023

From January 14 to 19, the UAE's capital hosted the 15th Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW 2023), which included a series of globally-significant events addressing sustainability and climate change issues, including minimizing carbon emissions. During the week, several initiatives and sustainability projects were launched. The President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced that 2023 will be the "Year of Sustainability" in the UAE as the country prepares to host the 28th United Nations climate change summit, Conference of Parties (COP28), the largest international climate change event. 


A Special Event

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, held annually since 2008, is one of the most important global events to bolster sustainable development worldwide. The event brings together policymakers, industry and technology leaders and entrepreneurs from across the world to share knowledge, showcase innovations and shape relevant strategies as part of efforts to achieve sustainability, achieve climate neutrality and build a sustainable future for humanity. Additionally, the event provides an impactful platform for sheathing light on the UAE's commitment to addressing global challenges and its leading role in driving climate action and enhancing sustainable economic development. 


This year's edition of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is particularly important for two reasons: 


Firstly, it was held ahead of COP28, the most crucial climate action event to be held late this year in the UAE, which is keen on making it an exceptional international climate action event and a turning point in international efforts in the fight against global warming. That is why this year's ADSW was held with the theme "United on Climate Action Toward COP28" and contributed towards keeping the momentum of efforts being made to reach practical solutions to climate change during the transition from COP27 to COP28. 


Secondly, a wide array of international participants in the event included leaders, climate action, environmental and youth leaders. This reflects global confidence in the UAE's ability to be at the forefront of international efforts to promote sustainability and address climate change. 


Significant Outcomes

The 15th Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week hosted impactful events furthering its global reach. These include the International Renewable Energy Agency's IRENA Assembly, the organization's ultimate decision-making authority, which brought together more than 90 ministers and 1800 global figures, including leaders, government officials, representatives of other international organizations, and the private sector. Participants in the discussions reiterated the need for doubling investment in renewable energy and that success in protecting the climate hinges on the transition to clean energy. 


The seventh annual Global Energy Forum, organized by the Atlantic Council and held from January 14 to 15, with a special focus on the challenge of managing energy security priorities and decarbonization efforts in tandem, including the continuing impact of the crisis in Ukraine on the energy transition. This year's Forum was extremely vital as Dr Sultan al-Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, delivered his first public remarks as COP President-Designate. In his speech, al-Jaber shed light on the UAE's vision for leading and prompting international efforts to combat climate change based on the implementation of a comprehensive and practical approach that accelerates action on climate change and brings about a radical shift in climate action. 


ADSW 2023 took a particular interest in the importance of the transition to green hydrogen as the UAE aspires to become a global hub for relevant innovation and investments. During the event, the World Future Energy Summit launched the hydrogen innovation centre, the first-of-its-kind hub that will offer innovative solutions to speed up the transition to hydrogen and support the energy transition in the region and beyond. Additionally, UAE's renewable energy company Masdar signed agreements and partnerships with clean energy companies, while the launch of the Green Hydrogen Summit was one of the highlights of ADSW 2023. 


The UAE's interest in green energy development emanates from two facts. First, hydrogen is a promising carbon-free fuel and offers a real opportunity for accelerating the transition to clean energy. Second, the UAE possesses natural resources and technology that further promote its global clean energy leadership.


 While the World Future Energy Summit, a centrepiece of ADSW 2023, provided a significant platform for discussions about promoting sustainability, such as food and water security, decarbonization of industries, health and adaptation to climate change, ADSW 2023 had its focus on two areas supporting climate action. The first is to highlight the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in promoting sustainability and fighting climate change. 

The second is to engage women and the youth in these efforts through Masdar's Youth for Sustainability platform and the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) platform. The effort reflects the global event organizer's keen interest in involving as many people as possible in efforts aimed at achieving sustainability. 


Another highlight of ADSW 2023 was the Zayed Sustainability Awards ceremony attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and several world leaders. The prize is another feature of the UAE's efforts to promote sustainability globally and a qualitative global initiative that recognizes innovators and young entrepreneurs and accelerates positive change towards preserving the environment and improving communities. The $3 million prize recognizes SMEs, non-profit organizations and high schools that are delivering impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainable solutions in health, food, energy and water.


The events of ADSW and their significant outcome further reinforce the approach to sustainability that the UAE has been following since it was established and is keen to uphold it in the next fifty years. This also demonstrates the UAE's global pioneering role in sustainability and reinforces international confidence in its ability to lead relevant global efforts towards safeguarding humanity's very existence and future. 


Year of Sustainability

By declaring 2023 the "Year of Sustainability" at the conclusion of ADSW, President His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, affirmed that the leaders' priority is to drive sustainability both at home and globally. The initiative launched under the slogan "Today for Tomorrow" aims to shed light on the UAE's rich tradition of sustainable practices and the legacy left behind by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as well as to promote awareness of sustainability issues while also encouraging community involvement in achieving these goals. Moreover, the Year of Sustainability aims to highlight the UAE's efforts towards promoting international teamwork to face sustainability challenges and its role in searching for innovative solutions to benefit all people worldwide, especially in energy and climate change. 


Undoubtedly, the array of events to be organized as part of the Year of Sustainability will contribute towards promoting awareness both locally and internationally of the critical importance of this issue, the way of supporting relevant efforts and rallying community efforts towards achieving all relevant efforts. Moreover, the initiative is of particular significance because it coincides with the UAE's hosting of the COP-28 and further enables the global event to achieve its set goals and chart a roadmap for the world to counter climate change, which has become the biggest challenge to humanity.


The UAE has a long record of promoting sustainability and countering challenges posed by climate change, set to increase international confidence in the UAE's ability to lead the world in this arena and achieve qualitative breakthroughs in this arena. The UAE launched investments worth $16.8 billion in renewable energy projects in 70 countries. It launched its own national Energy Strategy 2050, aimed at further boosting renewable energies and increasing the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix to 50% by 2050. The country is also supporting international efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This culminates in launching the "UAE Net Zero by 2050" strategic initiative, a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This made the UAE the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to announce its carbon-neutrality goal. 


Moreover, the UAE is an active partner to the international community in the efforts being made to address climate change. The country ratified all relevant international pacts, including the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1989, the Montreal Protocol in 1989, the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Convention on Climate Change in 2005, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1995, and the became the first Middle Eastern nation to sign the Paris Agreement in 2015. Additionally, the UAE succeeded in hosting the permanent headquarters of IRENA in 2009 and took part in the Regional Dialogue for Climate Action in 2021. That is why the world trusted the UAE as a reliable partner in countering climate change's dangers and to host COP28 in 2023. The world also has confidence in the UAE's ability to make a unique global achievement in leading and unifying international efforts in promoting sustainability and combating climate change.