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Climate change: Translating global goals into local action

Nabil Habayeb

Published: Updated:

The ambitious goals announced and reaffirmed at summits such as the Regional Climate Dialogue, the Leaders Summit on Climate and others, reflect the growing consensus that we are at a critical moment of action. Across the globe, governments, individuals, and companies are taking tangible steps to confront the unprecedented crisis that climate change represents. That is good news.

And yet, our ability to overcome this challenge and achieve the results we so urgently need will not happen only through events such as these, nor during government policy meetings, or in corporate boardrooms. While these are essential to alignment and making commitments, the action to achieve these goals will happen in the local markets.

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Where the rubber hits the road

Success actually occurs “where the rubber hits the road” – in the homes, factories, industrial facilities, power plants, and office buildings where sustainable, low- and zero-carbon technologies, systems, and practices are deployed. This needs to happen in a diverse array of geographies, climates, demographics, and economies.

Some countries are densely populated; others have vast uninhabited areas. Some regions get all their water from desalination and require constant air conditioning for brutal summers; others have rivers that run full year-round, and their major concern is heating during freezing winters.

These different conditions not only impact each country’s response to climate change, but also how they approach the broader “energy trilemma.” This trilemma reflects the challenge countries face to address sustainability, while at the same time balancing their needs in two other critical areas: energy equity (often related to affordability), and energy security and reliability.

Even as the world rallies around the need for concerted action, the path taken by each country and community will look different. What that means, quite simply, is that effective climate action – particularly in the context of the energy trilemma – will need extensive localization. This local approach requires technology and an understanding of the local environment and market. We must look forward to the future with new paradigms and technologies, alongside customers, governments, and partners.

Hydrogen gas turbine. (Image: General Electric)
Hydrogen gas turbine. (Image: General Electric)

Reimagining tomorrow’s technologies

As a company with presence in 130 countries around the world, we are able to see and be part of, some of the biggest trends in climate change, decarbonization, and the energy transition.

The industry is bringing proven technologies that will support organizations in taking steps today – not years from now.

Hydrogen has become a focus for many companies, us included. Our HA gas turbines are engineered to complement variable renewables. The first purpose-built hydrogen-burning power plant in the US also recently announced that it plans to use our turbine, which has the capability to transition to 100% hydrogen over time. This is a trend that is of particular interest in this region.

In the renewables sector, although some countries in the region have traditionally lower wind speeds, innovation is catching up to the need. This is all the more important given Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s recent comments and commitments regarding climate change action and the place for renewable energy in their future plans.

Supporting the energy transition

Across the Middle East and North Africa, there is a strong focus on cutting down carbon emissions and diversifying the energy mix.

With the goal of building one of the world’s most efficient energy systems, Saudi Arabia plans to diversify its energy mix to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. During its G20 presidency in 2020, the Kingdom advocated the need to adopt a circular carbon economy and launched the Green Saudi Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative to reduce carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 per cent of current global contributions.

In the UAE, diversification is also key to progress. By 2050, the country aims to have an energy mix that includes 44 percent renewables and 38 percent natural gas.

Ultimately, our success as a global community in pursuing a low-carbon future requires steps now, across the entire value chain and around the world. The commitments announced and reaffirmed by world leaders give us the direction and inspiration we need.

For those of us who operate in the plants, facilities, and systems where decarbonization happens, our task is to translate these global and national commitments into the local implementations that will lead us to a sustainable, low-carbon future.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.