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Thousands gather in Abu Dhabi for sustainability conference

ABU DHABI // The UAE is positioning itself as a “centre of gravity” for energy, officials said at the opening of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people from more than 170 countries were welcomed at the event, which is the first major international gathering in 2017 aimed at mitigating climate change.

Issues such as growing energy and water needs, challenges of urbanisation and priorities for dealing with climate change are expected to be discussed at the conference, attended by six heads of state, from Paraguay, Costa Rica, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, the Seychelles and Nepal.

“In this new era, renewables and hydrocarbons enjoy a truly symbiotic relationship that is reshaping the economics of energy,” Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State, said during the conference.

“And nowhere is this paradigm shift more true than here, in this part of the world.”

The region wants to use its 75 years of experience as the centre of hydrocarbon energy and transfer those skills to investment in renewable energy, said Dr Al Jaber.

He said that while oil and gas will remain critical drivers of the global economy, the UAE recognises the immediate and long-term advantages of a fully diversified energy mix, which are embodied in the 2050 energy strategy announced last week.

The UAE Energy Plan 2050 aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 70 per cent, increase clean energy use by 50 per cent and improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent.

“We value our hydrocarbon resources, yet see an even greater opportunity in leveraging the benefits of both new and traditional forms of energy, by integrating them into a more creative and productive commercial proposition,” said Dr Al Jaber.

Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev said it is a chance to hold dialogue among politicians, scientists and experts.

“The 21st century needs to be the epoch where the fate of the planet is decided for thousands of years to come,” said Mr Nazarbayev.

“However, energy policy is still multidirectional. In many policies we don’t find the necessary commitment.”

Mr Nazarbayev was referring to countries’ policies that do not reflect their commitment to the Paris Agreement, in which 197 entities agree to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees by 2050.

“No country can develop the energy formula, ‘develop now and take care of the environment later’,” he said. “We need the scenario of securing safe and energy efficient plans, to reduce global warming to 1 or 2 degrees.”

However, global investments are beginning to change, he said, with work being done to decrease the growth of hydrocarbons. In 2015, renewable energy investment equalled investment in fossil fuel energy.

This week’s agenda includes annual meetings of the International Renewable Energy Agency, and the conference of the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy.

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The National