Home » UAE’s commitment to conservation and collective action embodies a legacy of sustainability

UAE’s commitment to conservation and collective action embodies a legacy of sustainability

by Madaline Dunn

The concept of sustainability as we understand it today emerged less than 30 years ago, making its debut in 1987 within the renowned Brundtland Report, also known as “Our Common Future” crafted by multiple countries for the United Nations. Yet, when Sheikh Zayed founded our nation more than half a century ago, he had in mind the fundamental principles of sustainability.

It is a legacy we have inherited, sparing us from the compulsion to limit ourselves to a mere textbook definition of the term. Contrary to being a distant concept, sustainability is woven into our emotions, becoming an integral part of even our most casual actions. This is why we find common ground on this issue relatively easily at individual and broader levels – locally and globally.

The UAE’s ability to preserve its nature, environment, culture, and heritage amidst rapid advancement is noteworthy. Emiratis’ respect for their environment and heritage provides them with a unique advantage in navigating the fast-paced changes around them.

While our culture of conservation may seem spontaneous, we recognize the necessity to strategically tailor our sustainability efforts and awareness to align with the evolving needs of changing times.

Thus, despite facing challenges such as limited natural resources and being situated in an arid region, our country has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. We also hosted COP28 driven by our sincere commitment to the environment, climate, and sustainability. The event culminated in a groundbreaking moment as the world unanimously embraced the UAE Climate Action Agreement, instilling hope for a brighter future for both humanity and the planet through collective action.

Behind our accomplishments and aspirations lies the foresight of our leaders. Their strategic focus on investing in sustainable energy, diversifying income sources, and harmonizing development with environmental preservation has been instrumental in shaping our trajectory.

Today, climate action stands as a central pillar in the UAE’s development strategy, underscored by the designation of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability. This initiative showcased the nation’s commitment to environmental sustainability and highlighted its dedication to advancing comprehensive sustainability on the global stage.

Having invested more than US$50 billion in clean energy projects across 70 countries, and pledged to invest an additional US$50 billion in the coming decades, our country is actively engaging the energy sector in a technological revolution as it paves the way toward a more prosperous climate future.

As a national institution entrusted to give shape to the UAE’s vision, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has been playing a vital role in promoting sustainability principles on both local and global scales. It has prioritized the economic, social, and environmental needs of beneficiary countries and launched targeted initiatives to finance sustainable projects that would accelerate development.

Over five decades, the Fund has financed numerous strategic projects spanning infrastructure, roads and transport, renewable energy, water, health, education, and food security. It has contributed more than US$49 billion towards sustainable development, benefiting about 104 countries across different continents.

In 2013, the Abu Dhabi Fund launched a strategic initiative, collaborating with IRENA, to finance renewable energy projects, amounting to US$350 million. Twenty-six projects were financed under the initiative, which accelerated the energy transition in 21 developing countries through the generation of 265 megawatts of power, illuminated the lives of more than 4.5 million individuals and creating an estimated 88,000 jobs in local communities.

Building on its success, ADFD continued to support energy projects, with its latest major contribution in 2022 to the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing Platform (ETAF) which is managed by IRENA. As a founding partner, ADFD invested US$400 million to expand the financing scope for renewable energy projects in developing countries by 2030.

At home, the flagship waste-to-energy plant in Sharjah, a first-of-its-kind project in the Middle East financed by a consortium including ADFD, has achieved multiple milestones since its inauguration two years ago. Tied to the Sharjah electrical grid, the plant has generated enough energy to power over 28,000 homes per year while offsetting 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Sustainability goes beyond mere terminology; it requires an emotional realization that prompts meaningful actions, connecting individuals to the profound impact of their choices on the world around them. We derive a lot of satisfaction that such efforts in the UAE are not limited to organizational or government actions.

Our youths are harbingers of change. Yet their myriad contributions to our overarching sustainability initiatives are often overlooked. Whether through small acts like conserving water and electricity, helping preserve our oceans, or engaging in and promoting sustainable business practices and participating in national policymaking, their collective efforts form a crucial part of our journey toward a sustainable future.

It is equally inspiring to see nations worldwide adopting effective sustainability measures, driven by the urgent need to safeguard resources, ensure the rights of future generations, and minimize energy, water, and food waste. They are taking a proactive approach, recognizing the key role of sustainability in creating opportunities that propel economic growth. Through collaborations between governments and community institutions, finding a fine balance between development and environmental protection, and inculcating a keen sense of conservation in youth, we can ensure a more secure future for coming generations.

By H.E Mohamed Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

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