TOOLKIT FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Abu Dhabi 2019 | ENVIRONMENT & GREEN ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, on the UAE's commitment to reducing its ecological footprint, transitioning to a climate-resilient green economy, and the importance of sustainable green finance.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi was appointed Minister of Climate Change and Environment for the UAE in February 2016. In addition to his ministerial responsibilities, he also manages the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) portfolio. He previously served as Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA and Director of the Department of Energy and Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2015, he was awarded the first GCC Prize for Excellence in recognition of his efforts in renewable energy. HE Dr. Al Zeyoudi holds several degrees, most notably a PhD in strategy, program, and project management from SKEMA Business School.

How do you see the UAE's regional and global leadership in promoting clean energy?

The UAE is a regional leader in developing and deploying clean energy solutions and technology. An excellent example of such leadership is Masdar, which sends a strong message to the whole world that the country is making waves in the renewable energy sector. Furthermore, the UAE's commitment to promoting renewable energy received global acknowledgement when the country was chosen to host the permanent headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its capital, Abu Dhabi, in 2009. The fact that one of the world's leading hydrocarbon producers can compete with established players in the field of renewable energy reaffirms the UAE's commitment to reducing its ecological footprint and transitioning to a climate-resilient green economy. Locally, we have mega projects such as Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, the largest single-site solar park in the world with a planned capacity of 1GW by 2020 and 5GW by 2030. Several other projects of around 400MW have already been connected to the grid, and we have positive expectations for further additions in 2019. Furthermore, Masdar is bidding for renewable energy projects in Saudi Arabia and Oman, transferring our experience abroad, and supporting development ventures around the world, especially on remote islands, where communities are in dire need of power supply. We are also extremely active in improving efficiency in energy supply and promoting demand-side management. We are working on high-tech solutions to produce desalinated water and have had great success in popularizing energy-efficient green buildings. The UAE is one of the top 10 countries globally in terms of cumulative LEED-certified gross sqm outside the US, according to a list revealed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2017.

How do you see the role of the private sector in addressing sustainability challenges and advancing the UAE's economic diversification agenda?

The private sector has a vital role to play across industries to advance the sustainability agenda. There are some excellent examples of the growing commitment of the private sector to sustainability. For example, the Majid Al Futtaim Group launched an initiative to be net positive by 2040, starting to embed sustainability in most of its practices and policies. Meanwhile, DP World has embarked on the construction of the largest distributed solar rooftop project in the Middle East, with the installation of 88,000 rooftop solar panels on its Dubai facilities. In a bid to bring the private sector on board to help us achieve our leaders' vision, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in 2016 established the “Environment and Business Majlis" with the aim of boosting the contribution of the private sector and aligning it with the government's environmental strategies. Furthermore, the Ministry recently launched the “UAE Green Business Toolkit" to inspire companies across the country to become eco-friendlier and socially responsible and enhance awareness about ways to operate in a greener fashion.

What role can green finance models and fiscal policy play in the transition to a green economy?

Green finance is something we take seriously. We work in close cooperation with financial institutions and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative to ensure readiness to support and finance promising projects. Locally, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced a USD27 billion green fund in 2016 that offers loans to investors in the clean energy sector at reduced interest rates, and First Abu Dhabi Bank has committed USD10 billion in financing over the next 10 years toward the clean energy sector. In 2016, we announced the Dubai Declaration on Sustainable Finance, signed by 32 UAE financial institutions that committed to supporting the UAE's transition to a green economy. Garnering the backing of financial institutions and understanding green technology requirements is crucial.