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COP28: Sustainable Communities at the Heart of Climate Action

Opinion December 6, 2023

Over 70,000 delegates are convening at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), making this annual climate summit one of the largest since the first COP was held in Berlin in 1995. The first Global Stocktake (GST) at the event will provide a comprehensive assessment of progress since the Paris Agreement, which was adopted in 2015 at COP21, where more than 190 countries agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, but preferably to 1.5 degrees.

There has been a growing emphasis on climate action, with extreme climate events becoming more common, and global temperatures setting new records. The United Nations Emissions Gap Report 2023, published this month, also warns that as greenhouse gases (GHGs) that trap heat in the atmosphere continue to rise, our world is heading for a 2.5-2.9°C temperature increase above pre-industrial levels unless countries step up action and deliver more than promised in their 2030 pledges under the Paris Agreement.

The report also shows that until the beginning of October, 86 days were recorded with temperatures over 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, while September was the hottest recorded month this year, with global average temperatures 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels. What’s more, global GHG emissions increased by 1.2 percent from 2021 to 2022, reaching a new record of 57.4 Gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (GtCO2e).

Climate action at every level
As the global population, which already surpassed 8 billion in November last year, continues to rise, with over half of it residing in urban areas and projected to reach 70 percent by 2050, more efforts and tangible actions are required to keep the impact on the natural environment as low as possible. These actions are necessary at all levels—government, private sector, as well as individual levels. That’s the reason it’s crucial to step up our efforts and also create more awareness of how we can effectively contribute to global climate action and cultivate a sense of responsibility among everyone to do their bit for the survival of our only Earth and reduce the severity of climate change on our communities and societies, both present and future.

UAE takes the lead
Thanks to the efforts by countries like UAE, there’s a remarkable progress being made toward keeping the net zero ambitions alive. Since its inception in 1971, the UAE has actively supported the global climate agenda and has long viewed climate change as a challenge to be overcome. Besides being the first country in the MENA region to announce a target of net zero by 2050, and one of the first countries in the region that ratified the Paris Agreement, the country has made remarkable progress toward climate action not just at home but also in other parts of the world. For example, the country supports green infrastructure and clean energy projects worldwide, and has invested in renewable energy ventures worth around 16.8 billion USD in 70 countries with a focus on developing nations. It has also provided more than 400 million USD in aid and soft loans for clean energy projects.

Building sustainable communities
Developing sustainable cities and fostering communities that are not only aware of climate challenges but also actively participate in efforts toward climate action is one of the best ways to realize a sustainable world, especially in urban settings. This is particularly relevant to countries in the MENA region, home to some of the hottest and most water-scarce countries globally, making their flora, fauna, and human biota more vulnerable to climate change-induced issues. Given the pivotal importance of this subject, it was also among the focus areas at COP28, where top-tier experts engaged in discussions about decarbonization and the path to creating net-zero cities.

In line with these efforts, “Green and Sustainable Communities” was also the topic for the recently held COP28 Changemakers Majlis by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. It focused on innovations and challenges linked to designing, building, and championing greener, more sustainable communities in the UAE.

As part of its efforts toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, the UAE has been creating an enabling environment for innovation in different sectors, including the construction sector, where various measures have been taken to reduce emissions associated with it. They include developing sustainable communities and providing eco-friendly housing solutions.

As a result, many sustainable communities have been developed over the past years in different emirates, including the Sharjah Sustainable City, which is the first sustainable master-planned community in the emirate of Sharjah, developed in partnership with the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Diamond Developers. The city has transformed from a real-estate project to a sustainable community and is now home to over 230 families from different countries who, including its young residents, have become ambassadors of eco-friendly living. The city meets the highest social, environmental, and economic sustainability standards and integrates these three pillars of sustainability to achieve a working model for future cities. Besides promoting sustainable practices among residents, the city is also supporting start-ups like Green Future Project (GFP) and working with them to achieve our net zero ambitions. Selected as part of the Access Sharjah Challenge (ASC) 2023, GFP was chosen by our city to deliver a comprehensive Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution for ESG reporting and sustainable practices, enabling businesses to monitor, reduce, and offset their carbon footprint in real-time. To further amplify how this solution works, GFP has also been given the opportunity to present this platform at COP28.

COP28 heralds a promising perspective
While commendable strides have been taken across various fronts in the realm of climate action, propelled by innovative solutions at our disposal, we have a clear understanding of the strategies needed to uphold our net zero ambitions. The time for action is long overdue, and COP28 certainly serves as the biggest platform and opportunity for all stakeholders to showcase what has been achieved so far and identify actions that lie ahead. It’s not just a forum for reflection but a call to action, urging all players to present evidence of their contributions, share best practices, and join global efforts to address persistent challenges. It is a collective commitment to meaningful change and progress in our shared journey toward a sustainable world.