Ahead of COP28 in a month, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, delivered the keynote speech to a global gathering of climate-concerned officials at the tenth anniversary meeting of The Artic Circle Assembly in Iceland recently.
The Arctic Circle is the first region in the world to test and study the impact of climate change, making it a vital region for the Minister, ahead of the imminent COP28, to talk about the UAE-hosted climate talks and its role in steering climate action conversations.
This year’s Arctic Circle Assembly, the largest international gathering on the Arctic, comprises more than 2000 participants from over 60 countries, including governments, experts, civil society, scientists, students, academics, and indigenous communities.
The growing international community of the Arctic highlights the importance of global warming and its potential devastating impacts on our planet.
In her speech, Almheiri said, “The Arctic region is of critical importance to the global climate. It plays a vital role in regulating global temperatures and sea levels. Science shows us that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on earth. Sea ice is declining by more than 10 percent every 10 years. Already, 95 percent of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has melted, raising sea levels, thawing permafrost and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
In light of these stark facts, the Minister called on the gathered influential audience to take urgent action to address the climate crisis and protect the earth’s poles. “This requires international cooperation and a shared commitment to sustainable development, a model that the UAE advocates,” she said.
“We believe the best way to protect the poles is to transition to a global clean energy economy. This will require a massive investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, keeping a just energy transition in mind, while ensuring energy security for all,” the Minister added.
As part of mobilising national leadership, and in her role as COP28 Food Systems Lead, Almheiri took the opportunity to call for a global call to action, inviting all nations presented at the Summit to ratify the Emirates Declaration on Resilient Food Systems, Sustainable Agriculture, and Climate Action, and commit to aligning their national food systems and agricultural strategies with their Nationally Determined Contributions, National Adaptation Plans and National Biodiversity Strategies.
The Emirates Declaration, launched in July, will help drive the political will required to bolster international efforts in developing more sustainable, equitable food systems for the future.
“We look forward to continue working together with the Government of Iceland and the Arctic Circle Assembly Secretariat to elevate these conversations ahead of COP28,” the Minister said.
Underlining the longstanding partnership between the UAE and Iceland, H.E. Almheiri went on to hold a high level bilateral meeting with Olafur Grimsson, Former President of Iceland and Chairman of The Arctic Circle Assembly, during which time the partnership between the UAE and the region in supporting scientific work in the Arctic region was discussed. The senior officials also discussed the impact of the melting ice, and the challenges of climate change.
Accompanied by Mansour Abdullah Khalfan Belhoul, UAE Ambassador to the UK, UAE Non-Resident Ambassador to Iceland, the Minister took the opportunity while in Iceland to tour Carbfix and Climeworks, two companies taking a lead in Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).
At Carbfix, the UAE delegation discovered more about an emerging technology, mineralisation, which provides a natural, permanent storage solution to emissions, through turning CO2 into stone in less than two years.
The delegation also visited a groundbreaking emissions mitigation site, Orca, a joint venture between Iceland’s Carbfix and Swiss group Climeworks, a Swiss clean-tech company specialising in direct air capture (DAC) which can capture some 4,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The Orca project is the world’s first and largest direct air capture storage facility.
“Witnessing the huge potential and possibility for carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere is an inspiring act of climate emissions mitigation. Seeing this plant inspires us that we can be pro-climate and pro-growth – there are some fantastic opportunities for us, through COP28, to work together in solving the world’s most pressing climate issues with technology and innovation,” the UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment concluded.
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