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Earth Day: Is humanity finally waking up to the serious issue of climate change?

UAE and Saudi Initiatives are geared towards fighting climate change, and major tech companies are joining the charge, but is it enough?

A ground-breaking Ghaf Tree Seed Project will plant 1 million Ghaf seeds in the UAE desert Saudi Arabia announced a major development plan for solar energy A May 2020 study found significant drops in daily global carbon dioxide emissions

The UAE Regional Dialogue for Climate Action concluded on April 4, convening climate leaders from across the MENA region to accelerate progress on climate action.  

The Dialogue sought to enable the MENA region to discuss ways of initiating a new low carbon development path and enhancing cooperation with the international community to transform the climate challenge into economic opportunity.

Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change Dr. Al Jaber said: “We are all here because we all believe that accelerating climate action … this principle has driven the UAE’s expansion in clean tech and sustainable development for the last 15 years. Last year, for instance, set a record for newly installed renewable energy capacity at 260 GW. And this was achieved despite the economic headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

CAFU and the tree seed project

Dubai-born pioneering technology and car services company CAFU has taken big strides in its strategy towards becoming carbon neutral, starting with the ground-breaking Ghaf Tree Seed Project to plant 1 million Ghaf seeds in the UAE desert to combat climate change.

It has completed two rounds of planting with over 10,000 seeds in the desert this year using its drone technology and first-of-its-kind planting mechanism designed by the CAFU engineers in the region.

CAFU’s team of engineers and technology experts have designed and developed a pioneering in-house pressurized air mechanism built into the drone, which shoots the seed balls to the required depth, while also geotagging the location to track its progress.  

CAFU also announced an MoU with the UAE University (UAEU) to scale findings to explore other types of native plants suited for the UAE landscape.  

Working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, CAFU announced last year that it aligned itself with UN SDG 13 on Climate Action, focusing on 3 benchmarks within UN SDG Goal 13:

1. Science-based emissions and reduction in line with a 1.5°C pathway

2. Land degradation neutrality including zero deforestation

3. 100% resource recovery

Saudi Solar

Saudi Arabia announced a major development plan for solar energy as it looks to slash emissions and cut how much oil it burns for power.

It signed seven agreements to produce electricity from solar power in various parts of the country, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at a recent conference. These projects will add up to 3,670 megawatts of capacity.

One of the plants, developed by the sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund, will be the country’s largest when it starts operating, producing 1,500 megawatts of clean power.

The switch to solar aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7 million tons. Some of the projects have set a new world record for the lowest cost of solar-produced electricity, costing 1.04 US cents per kWh.

Read: Flexible working: A new and unlikely weapon in the fight against climate change

Read: Oil, electric vehicles and the environment: Driving climate change plans

Earth takes a break

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Earth noticed as carbon emissions dropped, and air quality improved.

Bill Gates said that “if we learn the lessons of COVID-19, we can approach climate change more informed about the consequences of inaction.”

A May 2020 study found significant drops in daily global carbon dioxide emissions, with a peak decline of 17% in early April. But if the coronavirus pandemic is giving the Earth a breath of fresh air, it may only be temporary. As lockdown orders lift across the globe, experts have warned emissions will quickly rebound.  

Policymakers and governments are urged to start working on the structural and societal changes needed to tackle climate change.

This includes adopting flexible work-from-home schedules to reduce traffic, closing down streets to vehicles, encouraging the use of bicycles, and increasing investments in clean energy. 

Additionally, governments can promote advancements like electric vehicles and renewable energy, which create jobs while helping the planet, according to climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré, a professor at the University of East Anglia.  

The drop in carbon emissions during the lockdown, though significant, still wasn’t enough to impart long-lasting change. Scientists say that won’t happen until we bring emissions down to net zero, meaning we remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as we release.

Some tech companies are taking steps to tackle climate change. Apple said it plans to become carbon neutral across its entire business by 2030. Microsoft also teamed up with major companies including Nike, Unilever, and Starbucks to form Transform to Net Zero, an initiative geared toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company aims to become carbon negative by 2030.