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UAE Speech at the Third Int'l Conference on SIDS

Tuesday, 02 September 2014
Presenter: 
Majid AlSuwaidi
Location: 
Samoa

 

Your Excellences,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

 

It is a pleasure to be here in Samoa, and I would like to thank our generous hosts and our tireless UN organizers. 

 

It will come as no surprise that the UAE is not a small island developing state.  In our view, however, the issues under discussion at this Summit are not niche.  SIDS represent over 25% of the UN membership, and they are often the frontline and the harbinger, where the implications of good and bad global decisionmaking are acutely felt. 

 

It is in this context that I would like to share with you two short perspectives on the Summit's discussions – and most importantly what I think the United Arab Emirates can bring to the table.

 

First, we need to raise the level of ambition on climate change.  SIDS are the poster-child for the reality – and the unfairness – of the threat.  They produce few greenhouse gases, but are among the most vulnerable in the world. 

 

There is no question about the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and who must do the heavy lifting. 

 

But the UAE recognizes – and this is the message I would like to send here at the SIDS Summit – that voluntary action is a critical part of the solution.  The UAE does not want to sit on the sidelines.  We very much remember the image of the Maldives' underwater cabinet meeting.

 

We are therefore taking unprecedented voluntary action both domestically and internationally.  For the domestic part of the story, I would flag an intended 25% cut in our power emissions footprint by 2020, and an intended 20-30% cut in our business-as-usual scenario in emissions growth of the building sector.  We represent less than 1% of global emissions, but we are committed to mitigation.

 

For the international part of the story, this leads me to the second perspective, one very dear to the UAE's heart: renewable energy. 

 

We are an energy nation, and the message we would like to convey is that the industry has reached a tipping point.  Renewable energy is no longer a far-away concept; it is now the cheapest source of energy supply for a rapidly growing number of countries – and almost every single SIDS.

 

This presents us with a historic opportunity, and we applaud Samoa and IRENA for the wise focus on renewables at this Summit – and for IRENA's leadership at the Climate Summit in New York, where it will introduce the SIDS Lighthouses initiative.  Renewables are a solution that everyone can get behind.  They reduce energy costs, mitigate climate change, and drive energy access.  They must be a primary focus of the international community.  Few development solutions are so attractive.

 

That said, translating even a strong business case into projects on the ground is easier said than done.  We appreciate this challenge from our own experience, having built the first market in our region from scratch.  A funding kickstart makes a difference.

 

The UAE is therefore dedicated to providing concessional finance for renewable energy projects in SIDS.  We have allocated nearly $100 million for island countries, with projects in the Seychelles, 10 Pacific countries, and the Maldives, and we are actively looking for new projects.

 

I am especially pleased to announce that just 5 days ago, the UAE and Samoa launched its first wind farm with the Prime Minister.  It will avoid 375,000 litres of expensive diesel — representing $468,000 in savings annually — as well as avoid over 1000 tonnes of carbon annually.  It also promotes climate resilience, as the turbines can be taken down during storms.  The project originates under the UAE-Pacific Partnership, a $50 million grant facility specifically for Pacific SIDS to expand experience with renewable energy – and address the sustainability objective of this Summit.

 

I would like to conclude by coming back to the United Nations and its Member States.  There is real momentum from our gathering, and we must ensure it is reflected at the Climate Summit, as well as in the post-2015 development agenda.  The SIDS experience on climate change and renewable energy in particular should be a guiding force for the international community's work.  The UAE is proud to declare its support for this agenda, and we look forward to working collectively and bilaterally with SIDS to realize it.

 

Thank you.