ENVIRONMENTAL ENGAGEMENTS

UAE 2018 | FEDERAL GOVERNMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, on sustainability, cooperation, and partnership with regards to climate change policy.

Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi was appointed Minister of Climate Change and Environment for the UAE in February 2016. Dr. Al Zeyoudi is also the UAE Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and was the Director of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2015, he was awarded the first GCC Prize for Excellence in recognition of his efforts in renewable energy. Dr. Al Zeyoudi holds several degrees, most notably a PhD in strategy, program, and project management from SKEMA Business School, for which he received the Sheikh Rashid Award for Scientific Excellence.

Climate change works on two platforms: devising and implementing government policy and targeting citizens and their attitudes toward sustainability. How are you using media to engage the public and gauge attitudes?

In 2016 we established the National Environment Council and insisted that the private sector be represented on the panel, along with media representatives to make sure that we are aligned with the various social media channels and technology at our disposal. We have analyzed how we can utilize those tools and maximize the value that we can bring for ourselves, and also our target audience. We cannot underestimate the role of the media. Now we are working to portray the facts, figures, and the story through the media to make sure that we present the right message to the widest possible audience. Sustainability is not something that is limited to the government, or to the private sector; sustainability is a duty for each member of society and person on the planet. If we are talking about having a sustainable society, it is imperative that we make sure that everyone is contributing to this vision.

What is the importance of cooperation with international organizations and communities to your efforts here in the UAE?

We have a number of international engagements that fit into the vision that we have outlined in the UAE. Our vision is to be the world leader in sustainability, and part of achieving that mandate will only be achieved through unfettered collaboration with overseas partners and organizations. This includes NGOs, the private sector, and other nations. We as a country cannot do it alone, and we have to engage with the systems already in place; if we do it on our own, from scratch, it is going to take a long time to reach global parity. The global targets can only be achieved through collaboration. We have to observe the international organizations to gauge where the world is, and what its targets are. We are really proud of what we have done within the field of renewables. If we compare where we started almost 10 years ago to the many others that started decades before us, we can understand how we are leading the whole sector. In the last year, we have achieved two world records when it comes to producing power from photovoltaic cells (PV). We achieved 2.99 cents per kWh and the other has not been officially announced yet, but we are looking at 2.45 cents per kWh, which positions us at the top. In terms of IRENA, it helped us to build capacity through devising policy and strategies for achieving our goals. Our vision now, moving forward, is to expand the contribution of renewables in our power sector, and we are looking at what technologies exist in the market to see how we can apply them to our own advantages to further develop the existing infrastructure.