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UAE places technology at top of COP28 agenda in Dubai

The UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, UAE Space Agency and COP28 signed an agreement in July to coordinate on technology-focused sustainable solutions ahead of the major climate change conference in Dubai later this year.
Solar panels used to generate renewable energy at the Sustainability Pavilion during a media tour at the Dubai Expo 2020, a week ahead of its public opening, in the United Arab Emirates.

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates' (UAE) ability to meet its renewable energy targets for COP28 depends on the widespread adoption of advanced technologies, a government official told Al-Monitor in an interview. 

Omar Al Suwaidi, the undersecretary of the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), said the process begins with engaging the space sector, a source of peak technological innovation, along with the MoIAT. In July, the UAE announced it will work to triple renewable energy output to 11,000 gigawatts by 2030 and invest in agri-tech development to use water and produce food efficiently. 

“Both these vital sectors have a huge role to play in climate action and must work closely together in the lead-up to COP28 to ensure strategic alignment,” he said.

Hard truths

The independent research and government monitoring group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) gave the UAE an “insufficient” rating in July for the overall feasibility of reaching its climate ambitions, including net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

The rating improved from a previous score of “highly insufficient” given its new targets, reported CAT, including planning to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, compared to an earlier goal of 31%. 

However, “there is still too little action in the real economy,” reported CAT, given ongoing plans to increase fossil fuel production and consumption. 

Undersecretary of the Ministry and Advanced Technology Omar Al Suwaidi (center), Director General of the UAE Space Agency Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi (left), and Director-General and Special Representative of the COP28 Majid Al Suwaidi (right) at the signing of an MoU between the three agencies.

Undersecretary of the Ministry and Advanced Technology Omar Al Suwaidi (center), Director General of the UAE Space Agency Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi (left), and Director-General and Special Representative of the COP28 Majid Al Suwaidi (right) at the signing of an MoU between the three agencies.

Andrea Zanon, founder of Washington-based Empower Capital and Confidente, said these types of assessments from climate organizations are “not surprising” and too theoretical. 

“I would even say that GCC countries like the UAE have progressed more than many others, because they have massive financial resources,” Zanon told Al-Monitor, and that allows them to invest in solutions for the future.  

“To promote clean tech, you need a lot of money,” he added, explaining that taking carbon out of the atmosphere and other similar procedures needs advanced technological tools that are very expensive to research, develop, and implement.  

The UAE has invested $40 billion in renewables over the past 15 years and plans to invest $160 billion in the next 30 years, according to the Emirates News Agency. 


“Partnerships are at the heart of our efforts to promote and enable the adoption of advanced technologies,” MoIAT's Suwaidi said. 

During COP28, he said, "MoIAT will work with UAE Space Agency and COP28 to engage organizations in the advanced technology and space sectors to share their contributions towards climate solutions with other industries.” The three entities signed a memorandum of understanding in late July to initiate this process. 

The MoIAT had already begun this type of cooperation with what it calls its most ambitious strategy, Operation 300bn. The 2021 initiative set the goal of raising the industrial sector’s contribution to gross domestic product from AED 133 billion ($36.21 billion) to AED 300 billion ($81.68 billion) by 2031. 

The initiative involves a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s defense conglomerate EDGE Group to use fourth industrial revolution solutions, such as AI, robotics and blockchain technology, among others, to promote growth in GDP and clean energy practices hand in hand. 

Suwaidi said that as well as major industrial companies, MoIAT seeks to invest in startups with innovative sustainable contributions ahead of COP28 to “build a rich industry and technological ecosystem” from the ground up. 

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