UAE puts energy-water-food-climate nexus on UN agenda at ongoing climate negotiations


Dr. Thani Al Zayoudi, Director of Energy and Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivering the opening remarks

​The United Arab Emirates today hosts COP18’s central discussion of the energy-water-food-climate nexus, in cooperation with New York University.  The panel, “It Never Rains in the GCC,” had identified priority government interventions in the market to manage the nexus as its global significance intensities.  Held as part of the UNFCCC climate change negotiations in Doha and moderated by Chatham House, the panel brings together experts from the OECD, World Economic Forum, Global Water Partnership, Qatar Foundation, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, New York University, and UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The energy-water-food-climate nexus has emerged as one of the most challenging and potentially rewarding aspects of sustainable development, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, where extreme water scarcity has driven desalination and food import dependency. In unprecedented response, GCC governments have announced over $100 billion of investments in desalination and water recycling by 2016, as well as over $200 billion of investments in energy efficiency and renewable and nuclear energy, following the development model launched the UAE.  

“COP18 spotlights the incredible speed of resource efficiency and renewable energy initiatives in the GCC,” Dr. Thani Al Zayoudi, Director of Energy and Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.  “The UAE has become a hub of innovation and cooperation in addressing the food-water-energy-climate challenge, and further progress in nexus management will depend on new international partnerships, and especially smart domestic policy choices.”  

Starting with the multi-billion dollar Masdar project, which invests globally and domestically in renewable energy infrastructure, sustainable urban developments, cleantech start-ups, and education, the UAE set the region’s first renewable energy targets, which mandate over 2500 MW of solar, waste-to-energy, and wind projects in coming years.  

The UAE has also implemented the region’s first mandatory sustainability building codes, which reduce average water and energy consumption by a third; first public lighting code, which cuts energy consumption by 67%; first air-conditioning performance standards, which eliminated the lowest-performing 20% of units from the national market; and first agricultural and landscaping water efficiency standards.

The UAE’s panel at COP18 geared toward elaboration of concrete policy recommendations for governments to further cut water and energy consumption, while driving market growth and corporate competitiveness.

“The market potential in the UAE and GCC is huge.  Hundreds of billions of public dollars are already allocated for clean energy and resource efficiency investments.  The right policies will leverage further money, especially from the private sector,” Dr. Al Zayoudi said.

The event is part of the lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (13-17 January), which will be 2013’s largest sustainability gathering.  The Week includes the sixth annual World Future Energy Summit, the premier cleantech industry event; the inaugural International Water Summit; the fifth International Renewable Energy Conference (IREC); the General Assembly of the 158-country International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), headquartered in Abu Dhabi; and the first energy ministerial of Arab and South American countries.