Abu Dhabi Sustainability week towards COP28

Abu Dhabi Sustainability week towards COP28

Overview & Programme


Ahead of COP28, the 15th edition Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), first presented in 2008, is clearly even more significant.

Established as a global platform by the UAE government and “its clean energy powerhouse” Masdar, ADSW aims to reflect the Nation’s long-established ambition to put sustainability at the core of its economic transformation strategy1.

This year it will play a crucial role in serving as a curtain raiser for hosting of COP28 at Expo City Dubai, (30 November – 12 December). ADSW will also likely offer a glimpse of the direction the UAE wants to take with the COP agenda, helping shape narratives for stakeholder engagement and corporate communications.

Another important aspect of ADSW in the context of COP, is that it seeks to demonstrate the long-standing commitment that the UAE has made to advancing transition strategies through investing in clean energy and renewables.

At a time when global opinion is likely to be critical of the UAE’s position as the 6th largest exporter2 of oil, accounting for at least 30 per cent of its GDP, it will be targeted as being a major part of the problem fueling global warming.

Therefore, the credentials ADSW present offer substantial evidence to support the counterpoint – IE that in fact the UAE is an important part
of enabling the solution. After all, the UAE was the first Arab country to set its Net Zero strategy3, which it revealed at Expo 2020 eighteen months ago.

Key Themes

ADSW aims to drive discussion around climate action in the run-up to COP28, using the World Future Energy Summit on 16 January as a forum to debate a wide range of topics including food and water security, energy access, industrial decarbonisation, health, and climate adaptation.

These serve as clues to the themes the UAE is keen to address at COP which embrace technology, space and the role of youth in embracing practices which deliver an environmental dividend. Education and employment will also likely feature as part of this enabling narrative.

Interestingly, the issue of water security is likely to be a serious concern. Not just because of its scarcity, volatility and potential to be leveraged for geopolitical
purposes, but especially so because of its environmental impact. Both in terms of the effect global warming has on expanding desertification4 and the evaporation of natural sources of water5.

The topic will not only grab the attention of Middle Eastern countries, but should greatly concern the US, which comes second in the world after Saudi Arabia for production of desalinated water – ahead of the UAE in third place.

Alarmingly, not only is this expensive from an environmental point of view, but around 44% of the cost of desalinated water relates to the energy it takes to produce it6.

This creates a powerful opportunity to debate energy transition and explore remedies which are generally kinder to the planet. The obvious example here is nuclear and the benefits that Small Modular Reactors present in generating green electricity and decarbonising the production of fundamental resources, let alone those it offers to multiple energy intense industries.

ADSW 2023 Key Event Calendar Summary

January Event Web Link Location/Detail
14 – 15 IRENA Assembly Here St. Regis, Saadiyat Island
Atlantic Council Energy Forum Here St. Regis, Abu Dhabi
16 Opening Ceremony Here ADNEC + Virtual, 10AM
COP28 Strategy Announcement NA
Zayed Sustainability Prize Awards Ceremony Here ADNEC, 10AM
ADSW Summit Here ADNEC, 1PM-9PM
16 – 18 World Future Energy Summit Here ADNEC, 10AM-5PM
Youth 4 Sustainability Hub Here ADNEC, 10AM-5PM
Innovate Here ADNEC, 10AM-5PM
17 WiSER Forum Here ADNECD, 4PM-7.30PM, by invitation only
UAE – UK Business Council Here ADNEC, time TBC
18 Green Hydrogen Summit and Here ADNEC, 10AM-5PM
Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum Here Abu Dhabi Global Market, 10AM-5PM

For more detailed information about each event and a review of key speakers, please follow this link.

ADSW – Key Milestones

1 Multiple references available from government sources including UAE Future
2 Multiple sources with varying estimates which fluctuate widely due to the volatility in global energy markets World Trade.
3 UAE 2050 UAE Net Zero Strategy
4 UN News focus on the impact in the volatile Sehal region
5 National Geographic Water Distribution on Earth
6 According to information presented by Advisian