Interview with H.E. Sultan Mohamed Majed AL ALI
Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Romania
Vasile SIMILEANU: Your Excellency, in the past, climate change was considered a silent and even unprobable global enemy. However, in the recent years, not only studies, but also evident, tangible changes are perceived. From wildfires in Argentina and Canada, flooding in India, Cameroon, and Libya, to extreme heat across the US, Europe, and Asia and many other unfortunate events, it seems that the climate crisis reached a high momentum in 2023. How is the UAE tackling these climate challenges?
H.E. Sultan Mohamed Majed AL ALI: The United Arab Emirates lies in a region known for water scarcity and intense heat. While the country’s population has been able to thrive in this environment, climate change is a worldwide reality that will very likely exacerbate extreme conditions, which will challenge energy, food and water security and lead to biodiversity loss.
In the UAE, we tackle these challenges through increasing the resources of renewable energy onshore and offshore, while using innovation and research to limit emissions from oil production. We consider this to be a realistic and pragmatic approach, as transitions are processes that require a common, long term vision and nevertheless, time. The transition to renewable energy in the UAE was marked by the establishment in 2006 of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, a lead global intergovernmental agency for energy transformation that serves as the principal platform for international cooperation.
Currently, the UAE is home to three of the world’s largest and most cost-effective solar projects and has ambitious plans to invest a minimum of USD 50 billion in renewable energy projects worldwide over the next decade.
As the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement, the first to commit to economy-wide emission reductions, and the first to announce a Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, the UAE stands unwavering in its determination to elevate climate action in this crucial decade.
V.S.: Your Excellency, your country is preparing to host one of the most important summits dedicated to the future of the global climate. How would you describe COP28?
H.E. Sultan Mohamed Majed AL ALI: The 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP28 UAE is the most significant multilateral event ever hosted in the UAE. The event will convene from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in Dubai, and will welcome more than 140 heads of state and government and 70,000 participants. It is an honor for the UAE to have been chosen as host of this important summit, which endorses UAE’s regional leadership on climate action and its role as a global advocate for clean energy.
COP28 aims to transform and urgently accelerate climate action to meet the commitment the world has made to bring global warming below 1.5C, also leading the world’s response to the Global Stocktake – the mechanism set out in the Paris Agreement, which will assess collective progress towards achieving the agreement’s long-term goals. In the same time, COP28 can be considered an event with a strong diplomatic focus, as international cooperation and consensus on climate action is essential for the future of the planet; otherwise said, COP28 can be considered a climate action diplomacy summit.
V.S.: Why is the 28th edition of COP so important and what are the new elements that the UAE brings to the format?
H.E. Sultan Mohamed Majed AL ALI: COP28 represents significant milestone in the context of the global action for climate: through the Global Stocktake it will be the first assessment of how countries are faring against emissions-cutting commit-ments made at Paris in 2015 (the Paris agreement). Also, for the first time COP 28 will feature a ‘Relief, Recovery and Peace Day’ – the first explicit discussion of peace and conflict at any COP and a pivotal moment in the global climate discourse.
V.S.: Romania and the UAE have a strategic partnership. How is this partnership reflected when it comes to climate change and environment?
H.E. Sultan Mohamed Majed AL ALI: Through our strategic partnership with Romania, we count on our Romanian partners, both in government and civil society, to join the call for climate action within the COP28 framework. Tangible progress has already been made, with the visit of Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, to Romania in October 2022, which culminated in the signing of an MoU on Climate Change between the UAE and Romania. Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri is also overseeing the UAE – Romania joint projects that include cooperation in the field of renewable energy and grid infrastructure, with Masdar and Taqa steadily advancing the discussions with the Romanian counter-parts, as to implement significant sustainable investments for the benefit of both countries.
V.S.: It is of common understanding that youth and education shape the future of a nation. How is youth in the UAE involved in the debate on environment and climate change?
H.E. Sultan Mohamed Majed AL ALI: As part of our commitment to fostering a more sustainable future, the UAE has placed youth at the forefront of its climate action efforts. Her Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui, recently appointed the UAE’s Minister of Community Development, will serve as the COP28 Youth Climate Champion, working to amplify the voices of young people worldwide to ensure their concerns and aspirations take central stage.
Vasile Simileanu: Thank you, Excellency!