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Just Back From: Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

Jan 27 2023 - Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi feature image.

By Paula Peña


Social Media Manager, The Climate Pledge

A precursor for COP28, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates later this year, the conference brought together global leaders for five days of critical climate discussions.

Last week, 30,000 members of the global community—including heads of state, government officials, and business leaders—convened at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the first major sustainability event since COP27 and a preview of what we can expect when the United Arab Emirates hosts COP28 in Dubai later this year.

To set the tone for the future, H.E. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the recently announced COP28 president-designate, took to the stage during the ADSW Opening Ceremony to announce his vision of “a COP for all and a COP of action, where global north and south communicate with each other and we move from goals to getting it done.” As his remarks concluded, applause erupted from the crowded auditorium, evoking a sense of urgency and optimism that maintained over the course of the week.

As an event sponsor, The Climate Pledge participated in a main stage panel alongside two of our signatories—Siemens and Johnson Controls. Additionally, Amazon, Microsoft, and PepsiCo were among several Pledge companies to present best practices, innovations, and climate action progress.

“ In time, this will become the biggest business opportunity we’ve ever seen—bigger than the advent of the internet. ”

Thomas Blood

EMEA Sustainability Leader for AWS

Here are some session highlights from the fascinating and motivating week in Abu Dhabi:

Decarbonizing the Grid: Corporate Renewable Energy Purchasing

Jake Oster, Director of Sustainability Policy at Amazon Web Services (AWS), led a session at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) on Amazon’s clean energy procurement. Increasing renewable energy development is critical to meeting Amazon's Climate Pledge commitments and—as the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy with over 380 projects—Amazon is on track to power operations with 100% renewable energy in 2025, five years ahead of their original target.

Corporate Innovation and Climate Action

Rohan Chopra, Director of Sustainable Infrastructure (for the Middle East and Africa) at Johnson Controls, and Helmut Von Struve, Regional CEO (for the UAE and the Middle East) at Siemens, joined Sally Fouts, Global Leader of The Climate Pledge, on the main stage to discuss how they’re meeting their Pledge commitments. Von Struve stressed the need for collaboration in combatting the climate crisis and The Climate Pledge’s role as facilitator of joint-action, with Chopra adding: “There is enough room for each [business] to play their role and collaborate. We need to move beyond the return-on-investment mentality. The cause is much bigger.”

Masdar City and AWS Announce Partnership

Representatives from Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s pioneering sustainable community and innovation hub, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) gathered at the Masdar City Exposition Hall booth and signed an agreement to collaborate to accelerate the growth of UAE startups. Through AWS, Masdar City Free Zone startups in key sectors like renewable energy, water efficiency, and energy storage, will gain opportunities to build scalable and secure cloud-based services that accelerate their growth. The collaboration also offers startups access to AWS Activate, a program that provides tools and resources to help startups innovate.

Green Hydrogen Innovation Stocktake

Daniel Gross, Director of Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund, participated in the Green Hydrogen Summit to explain his decision to invest in a wide range of green hydrogen technologies. "Ultimately we don't care which tech wins. We just need tech that can help us serve our customers at the prices, speed, and reliability that [they] expect of us."

Commitments to a Low Carbon Future

At their WFES session, Sherif Tawfik, Chief Sustainability Officer (for the Middle East and Africa) at Microsoft, and Yasmin Fansa, MENA Sustainability Lead at PepsiCo, highlighted their respective company’s impressive climate commitments and bold actions. Microsoft has plans to fully remove all historic emissions since their inception in 1975, while PepsiCo is working with local farmers to implement irrigation and water distribution efficiencies.

Technologies Will Significantly Help Decarbonization Strategies

Thomas Blood, EMEA Sustainability Leader for AWS, took the stage at WFES to share how cloud computing technology is helping customers decarbonize quickly. Blood encouraged audience members to think of climate issues as opportunities to innovate. "In time, this will become the biggest business opportunity we’ve ever seen—bigger than the advent of the internet."

Recap images Abu Dhabi Sustainability week image.

The Climate Pledge and Masdar City Co-Hosted Dinner

In partnership with Masdar City, The Climate Pledge hosted a dinner at Masdar City Central Park. As one of the world’s most sustainable urban communities—a low-carbon development made up of a rapidly growing clean-tech cluster—Masdar City was the perfect place to engage our existing signatory community and inspire commitments from even more local businesses. Climate Pledge Principal Program Manager, Kiesha Clayton, welcomed guests and introduced Steve Severance, Head of Program Management and Investments for Masdar City, who thanked The Climate Pledge for its role in encouraging corporate climate action. Sally Fouts then took the stage to give a brief overview of the Pledge and showcase the trailer for our upcoming documentary series, Future Forward.