Interview: Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan

In what ways can local and international stakeholders support Abu Dhabi’s sustainable growth?

SHEIKHA SHAMMA BINT SULTAN BIN KHALIFA AL NAHYAN: The focus on sustainability at COP28 UN Conference on Climate Change, which will be held in the UAE in November 2023, presents opportunities for the public and private sectors. NGOs and academia will meet to promote sustainable developments.

In 2021 the UAE launched an initiative to reach netzero emissions by 2050, reinforcing its commitment to significantly reducing its carbon output. The initiative aligns closely with the Principles of the 50 blueprint, the UAE’s roadmap for accelerating economic development. The major opportunities offered by the path to net zero are likely to lead to dynamic development across the country. The UAE’s net-zero target also takes into consideration the fundamentals of the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to prepare long-term strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and together limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

The UICCA supports the UAE’s net-zero ambitions by working with stakeholders across key sectors – including energy, economy, industry, infrastructure, transport, waste, agriculture and the environment – to develop effective plans, strategies and policies that will help the country reach its national targets.

How can disruptive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) be integrated into data collection and analytics in the transition to a greener economy?

SHEIKHA SHAMMA: Technology and innovation will be essential drivers of the transition to a greener economy. However, it is important to bear in mind that in order for this process to be seamless and have a real impact, current social, economic and governance structures need to be significantly reorganised.

Some of the most promising opportunities in disruptive technology lie in Industry 5.0, which is set to build on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to emphasise human-centred, resilient and sustainable design. The concept of Society 5.0, an integrated cyber and physical platform in which humans play a central role, is also relevant. Society 5.0 can proactively help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the adoption of disruptive technologies – such as the internet of things (IoT), image processing, AI, big data and smartphone applications – to create prosperity, end poverty, improve disaster management and protect the planet.

We already saw the role connected devices play in daily life during the Covid-19 pandemic, when remote access to medical information helped relieve overwhelmed health care systems. The pandemic made everyone understand that IoT and AI are not just emerging technologies; instead, they have a key role to play in society and the economy. In addition, disruptive technologies are paving the way for sustainable education.

However, we need to ensure we have policies and regulations in place to govern these technologies, and maximise their positive impact on people’s lives and the planet, as well as curtail any adverse effects.

What role will academia play in shaping future leaders with a focus on a greener economy?

SHEIKHA SHAMMA: Academia is critical in connecting theory and practice to fight climate change. Educational institutions have the capacity to conduct scientific research, in turn developing the necessary knowledge base and human capital to assess and address climate change. Since change is the only constant and uncertainty hardwired into society, human ingenuity to devise solutions can help us mitigate and adapt.

As such, developing human capital capable of resolving problems is one of the most important roles academia can play today. Educational institutions must give young minds a greater appreciation of the challenges ahead, and expand their offerings and programmes to give future professionals the skills in sciences and humanities that will help ensure a sustainable future.