17 JAN 2023
Why decarbonising the aluminium industry is key to achieving the UAE's net-zero goal
By Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Global Aluminium
Aluminium is one of the world’s most used metals and plays a vital part in modern life. From aircraft components to soda cans, we all use it. This is one reason demand for aluminium is expected to increase by as much as 80 per cent by 2050.
The UAE is playing a growing part in helping to meet that demand. While the Emirates is well known as an exporter of oil and gas, it is also the fifth-largest aluminium-producing country in the world, with one tonne in every 25 made here.
The export of our aluminium brings in billions of dollars of revenue, contributing to the diversification of our economy, and I am proud of the important role that we are playing. Emirates Global Aluminium is now also playing an equally important role in helping the UAE to meet its net-zero targets.
The other reason demand is expected to grow is its role in the development of a more sustainable society. The use of aluminium contributes to decarbonisation economy-wide — think lighter weight electric vehicles or the aluminium used to build wind farms.
Once used, aluminium is infinitely recyclable — without any loss in purity or quality — and few materials are recycled so easily. Three quarters of all aluminium ever produced is still in use today. Baking foil from the 1970s becomes a window frame in the 1980s and was then turned into a soda can in the 1990s, and the virtuous cycle continues.
Given that you can make 20 new cans from recycled material using the same amount of energy that it takes to make one brand new can, it is clear how impactful reusing aluminium can be. That is why we are planning to build a recycling plant with an annual capacity of 150,000 tonnes, which is set to be the largest in the UAE.
The factory will create a low-carbon, high-quality recycled aluminium billet, with most of the scrap aluminium sourced from the UAE and the Mena region.
Currently, more than half the aluminium scrap generated in the GCC is disposed of or exported, so recycled aluminium will have an immediate positive impact. We are also changing how our new aluminium is made.
The aluminium industry is considered a “harder to abate” sector, alongside others such as shipping, aviation, and cement. Furthermore, the production of aluminium is energy intensive. Electricity generation accounts for about 60 per cent of the global aluminium industry’s 1.1 billion tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions.
That is why for about 30 years, EGA has committed to researching and funding new technology to improve the efficiency of our aluminium smelting process.
We have used our own technology in every smelter expansion since the 1990s and retrofitted all older production lines to ensure the efficiency of our electricity generation.
And, as a result of our efforts, EGA’s carbon dioxide emissions were 35 per cent lower than the industry’s 2021 average.
This is a continuing process and we are continually exploring new and innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Last year, we became the first company in the world to make aluminium commercially by using solar energy, which significantly reduces the emissions associated with aluminium smelting.
We are marketing this metal under the product name CelestiAL. EGA produced about 50,000 tonnes of CelestiAL for customers last year, including BMW Group and tier-1 suppliers of Mercedes-Benz and Nissan.
CelestiAL, recycled aluminium and other low-carbon metal is key to a sustainable future for the planet.
EGA is now one of the 67 global corporations that make up the First Movers Coalition, a group that helps to create early markets for innovative clean technology across hard-to-abate sectors.
Along with the likes of Apple, GM, Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing, we have made ambitious production commitments that will help to accelerate the global aluminium industry’s transition to more sustainable operation.
The growth of EGA in the UAE has been rapid and we will continue to expand as one of the most important companies for both the country and the world’s aluminium supply.
Now, we are increasingly doing so sustainably and responsibly as we make enormous contributions towards achieving the goals of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative and lead change in one of the harder-to-abate global sectors.
That is something we can all be proud of here at home.
02 JAN 2023
Bridging the gap between ambition and action ahead of COP28
By Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
As the first of two consecutive UN Climate Change Conferences to be held in the Arab world, Cop27 arrived in Sharm El Sheikh at a time of escalating global social and economic challenges.
With world leaders’ attention diverted to the multiple crises that have engulfed nations from East to West, North to South, the climate agenda has frustratingly taken a back seat.
This despite the warning bells of climate change ringing out loud. This despite the planet continuing to warm up. This despite extreme weather events increasing in frequency and intensity, with about 33 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan alone this year – 8 million more people than the entire population of Australia.
With geopolitical volatility more erratic, energy security in the balance and inflationary pressures tightening fiscal and monetary policy across the world, building on the Glasgow Climate Pact amid these turbulent times was always going to be challenging.
In this context, the creation of a specific “loss and damage” fund is nothing short of a historic leap forward for climate action. This outcome is all the more laudable considering the prevailing sentiment that developed economies have consistently fallen short on climate finance pledges for mitigation and adaption financing for developing economies.
The “loss and damage” fund aside, it was crystal clear from this year’s UN conference, that there remains a persistent and glaring gap between ambition and implementation. The international community must cooperate to bridge that gap on the road to Cop28 and beyond.
Three key elements that we need to build this bridge are mobilizing climate finance, education for the energy transition, and accelerating the decarbonization of industry. Three topics that sat at the top of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s agenda in Egypt.
Firstly, we must mobilize climate finance to help climate-vulnerable communities transition to the energy systems of tomorrow. Because while the total investment in developing countries for clean and renewable energy reached $139 billion between 2000 and 2017, developing and emerging markets still account for only one fifth of clean energy investment.
It was for this reason that Irena launched the Energy Transition Accelerator Fund platform at Cop26 in Glasgow, with the UAE pledging $400 million in anchor funding from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. At Cop27, three new partners joined the Fund’s platform, helping the fund move towards $1 billion in total funding to help close the financing gap and scale renewable energy projects in developing nations.
The next part of the puzzle is education. Empowering teachers with the tools and knowledge to engage young people in the energy transition at an early phase of their learning is a crucial next step on the journey to a climate resilient, net-zero future.
With more than 38 million jobs predicted for the renewable sector by 2030, developing a robust pipeline of talent ready and prepared to take these jobs is vital. Preparing them for these roles starts with the lessons they learn from their teachers in the classroom.
At Cop27, I was extremely proud to be part of the launch of the Energy Transition Education Network, which will engage teachers around the world in this process by developing innovative pedagogical resources to help them do just that. The Network will also build on the “Educating the Educators” on renewable energy program, launched by the UAE’s Ministry of Education and Irena.
Under this initiative, a new sustainability curriculum framework has already been developed, which focuses on renewable energy and climate change, with the aim of capturing the multiplier effect of training educators to help build the renewable energy capabilities of teachers, lecturers, mentors and trainers.
Another keystone in climate action is decarbonizing the main economic engines that power societies. Today, up to 25 per cent of global GDP is produced by the industrial sector. But it also emits about 28 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
It is critical that we work with industry to reduce emissions. And that is exactly what was highlighted at the first CEO roundtable of the Alliance for Industry Decarbonization, hosted by Irena in Sharm El Sheikh. Executives from the Alliance’s 28-member companies and knowledge partners set out a clear pathway to decarbonize industrial value chains across six pillars, from renewables and green hydrogen to finance.
Launched with the adoption of the Bali Declaration at the G20 Energy Transitions Ministerial in Indonesia, the Alliance will seek to identify business opportunities for green industrialization to cut industry emissions.
Climate finance, education and industry are just three aspects of a multilayered energy transition. But because of the vast network of touchpoints they cover, they can be trailblazing – both for their sectors and for the wider climate community. This finance-education-industry trifactor can spearhead a new trajectory for climate action.
With the 13th Irena General Assembly and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on the horizon at the start of 2023, the next few months are crucial to ramping up and driving the momentum towards Cop28.
From Sharm El Sheikh, we must now continue to move in the right direction with countries and global organizations working together to build bridges to close the gaps between ambition and action. Only then can the international community safeguard the futures of both developing and developed countries and their people.This piece was originally published in The National (Paving the road to Cop28 (thenationalnews.com)