His Excellency Eng Sharif Al Olama, Undersecretary for Energy and Petroleum Affairs at the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, participated in the ‘Youth and Energy Transition Agenda: From the UAE to the World’ session. Organized by New York University Abu Dhabi and Student Energy at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), the event focused on the critical role played by youth networks in driving positive change and catalyzing action towards a sustainable energy future.
In his speech, His Excellency Eng Al Olama noted that COP28 presented a valuable opportunity to celebrate the environmental achievements of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
He said: “Sheikh Zayed once said ‘A person that knows not their past has neither a present nor a future.’ Sheikh Zayed was among the very first to integrate sustainable development in his ruling. He had an innate understanding of nature. He hailed from a generation that learned how to be at one with their environment. Those days, our ancestors sourced medicine from nature and understood their geographical location, time of day, and what weather could be expected by reading the world around them.
“Sheikh Zayed was ahead of the curve. Four decades ago, he experimented with the application of solar energy that was in its infancy at the time. He called in a team of engineering students from the UAE University in Al Ain to build and install solar water pumps in his own garden, so that he could observe them at work. This was perhaps the first use of this emerging technology to provide water solutions to remote regions. Those were the early days of solar but, as technology advanced, he employed it in several locations locally and in other countries.”
He added: “Sheikh Zayed had a vision that the UAE could become a role model and a living example of sustainable development. That vision is today’s reality, and that belief has proven to be absolutely correct. He committed his nation to more and better. And the UAE delivered, both at home and abroad.
“The UAE is now a prominent global player in the energy transition, as one of the world’s largest investors in clean energy, a global leader in pushing down the cost of renewable energy, the permanent host of the International Renewable Energy Agency, and the home of three of the largest-in-capacity and lowest-in-cost solar plants in the world.”
His Excellency Eng Al Olama highlighted that the UAE’s climate and environmental action has been marked by many firsts. It is the first country in the region to ratify the iconic Paris Agreement, operate a commercial-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage facility, launch an industrial-scale green hydrogen project, deploy zero-emission nuclear power, and commit to net zero by 2050.
He said: “We are serious about the energy transition, and we let our actions do the talking. In 2022, our renewables capacity stood at 3.07 GW, and we plan to increase this number by 2030 to reach 14.2 GW. Moreover, we expect our energy demand to increase as a result of socioeconomic growth. In 2021, our energy demand was nearly 154 Terra Watt-Hour. And in 2030, it is expected to grow to approx. 211 Terra Watt-Hour. Shifting to clean energy sources will help us meet this demand while reducing our emissions. In 2021, our emission factor was 0.556 Kg CO2/KWh, while in 2030, despite the anticipated growth, we committed to an emission factor of 0.270 Kg/KWh, cutting down our emissions by more than 50%.”