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UAE plans to have it each methods as Cop28 local weather summit host



The Gulf oil and fuel exporter goes huge on renewable vitality funding and meals safety, whereas increasing hydrocarbon manufacturing

If there was an indication the United Arab Emirates is taking its position as host of the following UN local weather talks critically, the 1,073 delegates it registered to attend the Cop27 summit in Egypt can be it.

The Persian Gulf petrostate got here out in power in Sharm el-Sheikh with the second largest delegation within the historical past of local weather summits, together with 70 oil and fuel lobbyists  – a flavour of what’s to come back.

The UAE takes on the UN local weather talks presidency from the Egyptians on the finish of November subsequent yr, when it hosts Cop28 on the positioning of the Dubai Expo.

The Emirates are in search of worldwide clout because the Gulf’s most proactive nation on local weather motion. It was first within the area to set a 2050 web zero purpose. And at Cop27, it grew to become the primary to announce absolute emission cuts, as an alternative of from a hypothetical business-as-usual baseline.

However its plan contains increasing oil and fuel manufacturing, which is incompatible with limiting international warming to 1.5C. The UAE has pitched its position as offering the world with dependable and low-carbon depth oil and fuel for many years to come back.

“The UAE is known as a responsible supplier of energy and will continue to play this role as long as the world needs oil and gas,” president Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan informed the leaders’ summit at Cop27.

Two-pronged strategy

In its local weather diplomacy, the UAE is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: an aggressive marketing campaign to fund 1000’s of megawatts of unpolluted vitality at house and abroad and even better efforts to spice up its oil and fuel manufacturing.

It’s on the defensive, because the case for leaving fossil fuels within the floor will get extra vocal. In Sharm el-Sheikh, greater than 80 nations pushed to increase language on phasing down unabated coal energy to grease and fuel, however petrostates blocked it from formal negotiation. The difficulty will not be going away.

“The Emiratis will find it difficult to deal with a fast-moving debate on fossil fuels, given their economy is structured around oil and gas,” Glada Lahn, a senior analysis fellow at London-based assume tank Chatham Home. “Sharm showed that the tide is turning. What’s missing are the great examples of diversification – the UAE could definitely elevate its work on that.”

A federation of seven emirates and residential to almost 10 million folks, the UAE is the world’s eighth largest oil producer in absolute phrases and the second largest per capita.

The invention of business oil within the late Nineteen Fifties purchased monumental riches to Abu Dhabi, the most important of the emirates, the place nearly all the nation’s oil is pumped.

Immediately, the UAE says it has the world’s sixth largest crude oil reserves and seventh largest fuel reserves.

It has made efforts to diversify the financial system away from oil – greedy the necessity to take action sooner than most of its neighbours. Tourism is a key development sector. Dubai is turning into a enterprise and monetary providers hub. But, greater than half of presidency revenues nonetheless rely on the oil and fuel business, in keeping with Carbon Tracker.

Put together to be dazzled

The UAE has been assiduously getting ready for Cop28 because it acquired the inexperienced gentle to host the summit at Cop26 in Glasgow, UK final yr.

Local weather envoy Sultan bin Ahmed al-Jaber began consultations with the UK and Egypt as early as January.

In Sharm el-Sheikh, the Emirates boasted one of many largest nation pavilions. The metal construction of the media centre was sprayed with “made in UAE”.

“They will hold a very slick event – they are excellent hosts. That is what they like to do,” stated Lahn.

“They try to dazzle visitors. They like to say they are the biggest and the best at everything they do,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Center East at Rice College’s Baker Institute, informed Local weather House.

And Cop28 may grow to be the largest UN local weather summit but.

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Al-Jaber informed the federal government the occasion, which can coincide with the UAE’s nationwide day on 2 December, is anticipated to welcome greater than 140 heads of states and over 80,000 delegates on the Dubai expo website – greater than double the scale of Cop26.

“The expo was supposed to get the UAE back on the global map,” stated Ulrichsen. Initially scheduled for October 2020 and tormented by pandemic delays, the occasion acquired fewer worldwide guests than anticipated. Cop28 is the UAE’s largest alternative but to wield its gentle energy.

Political prisoners and pragmatism

Within the UAE, like in Egypt, the place human rights issues got here to the fore, it is going to be “a very controlled experience,” stated Ulrichsen.

“The UAE have been able to brand themselves as a version of southern Spain or Ibiza although below the surface they have similar issues as their neighbours: exploited labour force, political prisoners and a police state,” he added.

In an instance of authoritarian solidarity, the UAE final month arrested an Egyptian-American nationwide over criticism of Egypt’s president. Sherif Osman could also be extradited to Egypt, his fiancee informed Reuters, the place she feared he wouldn’t get a good trial.

Downtown Dubai (Photograph: Thomas Hackl/Flickr)

The UAE has pitched Cop28 as a second to search out “realistic, practical, and pragmatic solutions to accelerate the global energy transition”.

The summit will maintain the primary formal evaluation of progress because the Paris Settlement got here into power – generally known as the worldwide stocktake. The result may very well be vital in spurring a lot -needed emission cuts this decade.

Adaptation and agriculture are poised to be key priorities for the host, which imports 85% of the meals it consumes. Beneath a partnership with the US, the UAE pledged to speculate $1bn in high-tech “climate-smart” agriculture. The alliance is controversial for favouring intensive agriculture over nature-friendly farming and dealing with climate-denying meat foyer teams.

Breaking cowl

Within the local weather talks, the UAE negotiates below the Arab Group, chaired by Saudi Arabia, which takes a lot of the flak for the group’s place.

Cop28 “might force them to break cover,” stated Ulrichsen.

For the UAE, like different producers, that dialog can’t occur with out the oil and fuel business, who’ve acquired an early invitation to Cop28.

“The hydrocarbon industry will have to be included as part of the mix,” local weather envoy Al-Jaber stated of the summit earlier this yr. Their experience is important to develop “meaningful, practical climate solutions,” he added.

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Al-Jaber has a stake within the oil enterprise. Minister of business and superior expertise, he’s additionally CEO of the Abu Dhabi Nationwide Oil Firm (Adnoc), the state-owned oil firm. As well as, he’s chairman of Masdar, a government-owned renewable vitality firm he helped set up.

“Wearing these different hats at the same time shows the UAE’s commitment to further climate action is balanced with the fact that its political wellbeing depends on oil and gas,” stated Rice College’s Ulrichsen.

“It is not hydrocarbons or solar, not wind or nuclear or hydrogen. It is all the above,” Al-Jaber informed The Nationwide, an Abu Dhabi newspaper owned by the royal household.

Whereas Adnoc is planning to make investments $127 billion in increasing manufacturing and downstream actions within the subsequent 5 years, it’s also participating in a authorities partnership to scale up renewable capability.

UAE climate envoy Al Jaber

UAE particular envoy Sultan Al Jaber at Cop26 in Glsgow (Photograph: IISD/ENB)

The UAE was early within the area in establishing a local weather ministry, now headed by Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, a lady representing the “young, progressive nation” the federal government needs to world to see.

Renewable management

In 2012, Abu Dhabi was chosen to deal with the Worldwide Renewable Vitality Company headquarters.

The Emirates had been early adopters of renewable vitality within the Gulf – and their renewable put in capability far outstrips that of neighbouring nations.

With abundance of sunshine, the UAE boasts a few of the world’s least expensive solar energy. The federal government expects to have put in greater than 9GW of photo voltaic capability by 2030, tripling present ranges.

It’s establishing itself as a renewable vitality financier abroad. The federal government says it has invested greater than $50bn in clear vitality tasks in 70 nations. It guarantees to provide clear electrical energy to 100 million folks in Africa by 2035.

At Cop27, it signed a deal to develop a 10GW onshore wind farm in Egypt – one of many largest on this planet.

And it struck a partnership with the US to mobilise $100bn in financing and technical assist to deploy 100GW of unpolluted vitality globally by 2035. That features nuclear and applied sciences to chop emissions from oil and fuel manufacturing reminiscent of carbon seize and storage.

“If you look at their size, they do punch above their weight,” stated Mia Moisio, who leads the Local weather Motion Tracker mission at NewClimate Institute.

As one of many world’s richest and most polluting nations per capita, the UAE is a prime candidate to broaden the donor base for local weather finance.

Fuzzy web zero aspirations

In October 2021, the UAE grew to become the first Gulf state to set a 2050 web zero purpose. Nevertheless it has but to set out credible plans to get there.

Beneath its newest 2050 vitality technique, dated 2017, the nation aimed for renewable and nuclear vitality to make up 50% of its put in energy capability by mid-century.

The remainder can be met with fuel and “clean coal” – a deceptive time period that often refers to coal-fired energy vegetation fitted with carbon seize and storage expertise.

This yr, the UAE was amongst a handful of nations that heeded a name to step up their 2030 local weather plans. It pledged to chop emissions 31% in comparison with business-as-usual, up from 23.5% beforehand.

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At Cop27, the UAE set out absolute emission discount milestones on the highway to web zero. It goals to chop emissions 18% in comparison with 2019 ranges by 2030 and 60% by 2040. However the announcement didn’t quantify the 2019 baseline – making it tough to evaluate.

The UAE’s final printed nationwide greenhouse fuel stock is for 2014. “There are vastly different estimates for [carbon] emissions when you compare different sources,” Moisio stated. “Without their own baseline, it’s a bit of a wild guess.”

Local weather Motion Tracker scores the UAE’s local weather plan as “highly insufficient” to fulfill international local weather targets. The plan, it says, is aligned with greater than 3C of warming.

Whereas the UAE is planning to make use of much less fossil gas in its personal vitality combine, it plans to export extra and shield carbon-intensive industries reminiscent of aluminium, metal and cement.

Adnoc goals to extend oil manufacturing to 5 million barrels per day by 2027, up from round 3.5 million right now. It is increasing offshore fuel drilling to cut back reliance on imports from neighbouring Qatar and export to Germany.

Playing on failure

Carbon dioxide emissions from burning oil and fuel are counted within the shopper nation. The UAE may obtain CO2 cuts with out halting fossil gas manufacturing for exports. However fugitive emissions of methane, a stronger greenhouse fuel, depend on the wellhead, the place they’re coming below elevated scrutiny. And critically, the technique depends on others persevering with to purchase oil and fuel.

With no rollout at scale of carbon seize applied sciences, the UAE’s web zero plan “is predicated on the rest of the world failing to achieve net zero,” Jim Krane, one other fellow at Rice College’s Baker Institute, informed Local weather House. “There may be no one that issues that doubts local weather change anymore. So oil producers try to play catch-up.”

‘Oil and gas trade show’ promotes carbon seize at Cop27

To fulfill its web zero purpose, the UAE is contemplating carbon seize and storage, direct air seize and “ocean-based solutions” to retailer carbon again into the Earth.

With depleted oil and fuel reservoirs and appropriate geology, Gulf nations have a few of the highest potential for storing carbon dioxide underground. A bunch of specialists is campaigning to get the idea of “geological net zero” recognised within the UN local weather house and endorsed by Gulf’s oil producers – beginning with Cop28 host UAE.

At Cop27, proponents of the idea met with the UAE presidency. It may very well be simply what they should sq. the circle.

But emissions seize expertise stays costly and by no means 100% efficient, after many years of growth. Campaigners extensively view it as a “false solution”.

“[UAE] want to be seen as being part of the public debate while protecting their interest. They are walking a tight rope,” stated Ulrichsen.

Regardless of repeated requests, the UAE’s Cop28 staff didn’t make anybody obtainable to Local weather House for interview.

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