ADSW: the UAE's voluntary approach to sustainability

26 DEC 2019

By His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment

In a world dominated by self-interest and an endless chase of quick wins, where quid pro quo is the rule rather than the exception, voluntary acts that are exclusively intended to serve the greater good tend to raise more than a few eyebrows.

In this context, the UAE’s proactive approach to shaping a better future for all has made the world sit up and take notice. After all, why would a country that can comfortably rely on its oil revenues endeavor to deploy clean energy solutions and innovation and become an active sustainability advocate at home and abroad? 

The answer is simple. This approach stems from the values that the founding fathers of the UAE, led by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, instilled in their people from the early days of the federation. They taught us that working for the benefit of the human race is the ultimate achievement to which anyone can aspire.

Our leadership today continues to uphold this legacy and voluntarily shoulders the responsibility of advancing an inclusive sustainable development paradigm that leaves no one behind.   

One way of doing so is to create platforms that promote sustainability across the board, such as the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW).

Over the course of 11 years, ADSW has carved a niche for itself as a dynamic sustainability solution-focused global platform that serves as a springboard for green innovations and mega projects.

ADSW 2019 drew the participation of a record 38,000 people representing 170 countries, including heads of state, ministers, investors and experts. Commercial projects valued at US$11 billion were announced during the week, clearly indicating that ADSW has today become one of the world’s largest and most influential sustainability gatherings.

As part of a meticulously planned agenda, events such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum, the Future Sustainability Summit, and the World Future Energy Summit accelerate the global uptake of renewable energy solutions. And through the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum, ADSW promotes investments in sustainability ventures and raises awareness about responsible and sustainable production and consumption patterns. 

The highlight of the week is the Zayed Sustainability Prize, which invites the world’s most sustainable innovators to compete for a cash prize and honors to translate their environment-friendly concepts into reality. The Prize has a solid record of supporting innovative solutions that have benefitted millions of lives over the past decade. 

For its part, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment hosts the Climate Innovations Exchange (CLIX) every year during ADSW. CLIX offers young start-ups and innovators from across the globe a platform to present their solutions to environmental challenges, and facilitates partnerships between start-ups and investors. Its inaugural edition in 2018 featured 27 innovations, and investors expressed their intent to fund projects to the tune of US$17.5 million in the first year. In 2019, the number of innovations surged to 41, and investment intent saw a corresponding increase to US$53.9 million. 

ADSW presents to the world a shining example of the UAE’s active involvement in tackling the challenges faced by the international community – an approach that reflects the visionary mindset of our leaders.

Recognizing that global concerns can only be addressed through concerted action, the UAE has committed to generating the momentum needed to build a sustainable future for all. We invite the world to participate in ADSW 2020 and join us in empowering humanity to leapfrog into a new era of sustainability.  


15 JAN 2020

Rethinking energy mix is the need of the hour

By His Excellency Engineer Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy 

With an investment of US$163 billion in energy mix the UAE aims to achieve 50 per cent clean energy capacity by 2050

As the world grapples with climate change and growing environmental concerns, we see an unprecedented need to shift from conventional energy sources to renewables. The time is ripe to make the energy transition and as a nation committed to the Paris Agreement, we are moving towards a sustainable future by optimising conventional energy sources and investing in low carbon energy sources such as solar and nuclear power. 

Clean energy is the cornerstone of sustainability and drives the UAE’s narrative to achieve a carbon-free future. The UAE has set out national targets to achieve 50 per cent clean energy capacity and to decarbonise the power and water sectors by 70 per cent in the next three decades as part of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050. For total power generation capacity by 2050, the strategy outlines targets of 44 per cent renewable energy; 38 per cent natural gas; 12 per cent ‘clean coal’; and 6 per cent nuclear energy, thereby improving energy efficiency by 40 per cent in all sectors. 

While driving the development of a cleaner energy mix, we need to ensure a reliable and secure supply of power to meet the ever-growing energy needs and also create an energy value chain that is economically viable. We believe that leveraging and optimising our natural resources such as solar irradiation, will go a long way in supporting non-petroleum dependent industries.

To this end, Abu Dhabi’s latest solar PV plant made a significant power contribution in 2019 to capacity mix bringing the Emirate closer to its 7% renewables target for 2020. Not only did the solar plant position the emirate on the global map as a leader in photovoltaic energy in terms of renewable capacity, but it also generated power at a record low cost of just 2.94 US cents per kilowatt/hour.

Thereby, furthering our goal of creating economically viable solutions. 
Another milestone in the clean energy segment is the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi, which is nearing completion. Once operational it will offer nuclear power for electricity generation, in line with the UAE’s strategy for peaceful uses of nuclear power.  

Yet another revolutionary step in moving away from fossil fuels will be a rollout of electric vehicles (EVs). The move will also involve creating a reliable infrastructure around the same, complete with EV charging stations and regulatory aligned business model. We are currently finalizing a specific policy around EV’s to ensure a large-scale deployment of electric cars takes place without any glitches. 

More recently, hydrogen is gaining traction globally as a clean alternative and substitute for natural gas. We see huge potential in ‘green’ hydrogen from surplus solar PV generation, and ‘blue’ hydrogen from natural gas as a sustainable fuel of the future.

While formulating policies and goals, we are mindful of the importance of mobilising community in achieving sustainability and promoting social well-being by creating a cleaner, healthier living environment. Raising awareness about judicious use of energy is also a key element in furthering the cause of reducing carbon footprint. Focusing on small, incremental shifts towards demand side efficiency and developing skills of young professionals who will lead the charge of a greener energy system in the future are top on our agenda. 

Underlying these policies and goals is our drive towards a digital economy. Across every touch point in Abu Dhabi’s energy value chain there is deep focus on integrated digitisation, which serves in boosting sector efficiencies and reducing environmental footprint. Digitisation serves as a key to addressing sectoral challenges as well as creating new benchmarks for a sustainable energy future. I see digitisation as a vehicle to achieve the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 targets as well as playing pivotal role in establishing a more diversified economy. 

Thanks to a visionary strategy, the UAE is well on its way to becoming a significant global partner in mitigating climate change and harnessing social, economical and health benefits of a more  sustainable environment.


29 DEC 2019

Need to know: top 10 facts about Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

  • Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) has been held since 2008 and has grown into a global catalyst for accelerating the world’s sustainable development;
  • ADSW pillars include: Energy and Climate Change; Water and Food; Future of Mobility; Space; Biotechnology in Health; and Tech for Good;
  • Under the umbrella of the pillars, there are three “cross-cutting” themes: Artificial Intelligence; Community and Youth; 
  • Previous speakers include HRH King Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands; HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister for Tolerance; and HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Kahlifa Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board, Alliances for Global Sustainability; 
  • ADSW 2019 hosted 38,000 attendees from 70 countries, while there were 850 exhibiting companies and 5,000 conference delegates;
  • During ADSW 2019, a total of US$11 billion worth of deals were announced;
  • The opening ceremony of ADSW 2019 was witnessed by 4,000 delegates;
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly and the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum are held under the ADSW umbrella;
  • Key events at ADSW include: the Zayed Sustainability Prize Awards Ceremony; World Future Energy Summit; Youth 4 Sustainability Hub; Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX); Future Skills 2030; Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) Forum; The Future Sustainability Summit; the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum; and The Festival at Masdar City;
  • Through its initiatives and events, ADSW is committed to the sharing of knowledge, implementation of strategies and the delivery of real-world solutions that drive human progress.



15 JAN 2020

The decade of energy transformation lies ahead of us

As we enter a new decade, IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera suggests the 2020s will be the golden age of renewables 

The 2010s will be remembered as the decade when renewable energy went from the marginal to the mainstream. Cost reductions and the growing climate crisis have propelled renewable energy sources into the social and political discourse in almost every country on earth. Of all the major power generation technologies – traditional or renewable – solar accounts for the largest share of additional capacity over the last 10 years. 

Encouraging as this progress might be, the hard work is ahead of us. Our actions in the 2020s will define the long-term future of our economies, our people and our planet. Any chance we have of mitigating the climate crisis and achieiving sustainable development by mid-century, lies in the policies, investments and emission reductions made this decade. And this critical period of action begins in Abu Dhabi at the 10th IRENA Assembly during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. 

The 2020s are set to be the decade that redefines our socioeconomic system. If successful, we will have unleashed 10 breathtaking years of energy system transformation putting us well on the way to generating nearly nine tenths of electricity from renewables by 2050. The hard work starts now to ensure that by the end of this decade renewables contribute half of all power generation globally. 

It could also be the decade in which demand for both coal and oil peaks, where we see 157 million electric vehicles on our roads, and when the last person on earth without reliable and affordable access to electricity is enjoying the benefits of its productive uses. It’s possible. To ensure this happens, however, we must urgently address two key things. Investment and policy. 

Planned energy investments are currently misdirected and should pivot to low-carbon technologies. By our calculations more than USD 18 trillion of energy investments by 2050 are fossil fuel related, including exploration and production of gas, oil and coal. At best, these investments risk stranding trillions of dollars of assets in uneconomical fuels in just a few years. At worst, they threaten to blow the world’s carbon budget this decade, and with it any hope of a climate safe future. 

To hold rising temperatures in the 10 years ahead of us, annual investments in renewable energy must rise from today’s USD 330 billion to nearly USD 750 billion per year. Redirecting capital into more socially and economically beneficial low-carbon technologies, is imperative and must start now. It is also the most economic climate action pathway. Inaction will cost up to 7 times more than the capital needed to transform the energy system.

The Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries are taking up the renewable energy race and have everything to gain from moving quickly into a leadership position on future energy. Conservative estimates suggest that by 2030 the region could save more than 350 million barrels of oil equivalent and create close to a quarter of a million new jobs by executing current plans. Solar and wind resources are rich and attractive, and policies have made it cheaper to generate power from renewables than from any other source. Moving from oil, gas pipelines and coal shipments to solar panels and wind turbines strengthens energy security, supports energy independence and builds prosperity for all, not just for the few. 

There is no question we are moving in the right direction. In the last decade renewable power generation capacity has doubled and its growth has consistently outpaced fossil fuels since 2012. A third of global power generation capacity today is renewable. This is the result of investments of around USD 3 trillion over the last 10 years including large hydro. In the decade of transformation ahead of us however, the next three trillion dollars of renewable investments should take around four years. 

Policies must align with the opportunity and reflect the necessity. Under current policies, the peak production of fossil fuels happens somewhere between 2030 and 2035, dramatically out of step with the Paris Agreement which requires a peak in 2020 and a steady, continuous decline from that point. Furthermore, renewable energy targets in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) lag market progress. By 2030 NDCs should target double the amount of renewable capacity, they do today.  

It is no longer a question of direction, but of speed. With policy support, smart investment decision-making and clear recognition of the benefits associated with a renewables-based energy system, the speed of transformation ahead of us could rival the that of any in the post-industrial age. Anything short of this, risks everything.