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Parties to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are committed to create a new international climate agreement during COP21 in Paris this year. The targets under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement requiring governments to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, are expiring. Furthermore, this Conference is all the more crucial because it must result in an international climate agreement enabling us to limit global warming to below 2°C, as to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Building on the work carried out at COP20 in Lima in 2014, it will be necessary to reach a certain number of decisions this month.

Ahead of the Conference, countries had agreed to publicly outline what post 2020 climate action they intend to take under a new international agreement known as their “Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions” (INDC). The INDC will largely determine whether the world achieves an ambitious 2015 agreement and is put on a path towards a low-carbon climate resilient future. The UAE welcomed the inclusive structure of the INDC model, which is consistent with a recognition of the special circumstances of developing countries with high dependence on fossil fuel production. The UAE hydrocarbon production has made a significant contribution to the country’s social and economic prosperity. However, government strategy is now more than ever focused on the diversification of the national economy. The UAE’s proposed actions to attain the necessary targets – such as setting the region’s first renewable energy targets, undertaking comprehensive policies to reduce energy and water demand as well as developing innovative technologies to improve efficiency and reduce emissions in energy intensive industries – are based on a strategy for economic diversification that will yield co-benefits in terms of both mitigation and adaptation.

The Emissions Gap Report, an authoritative assessment undertaken by a team of leading scientists and modelling experts from around the world, has presented a review of the 119 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The INDCs submitted by 146 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, would slow the rise in temperature to about 2.7 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times. While in themselves not sufficient to limit global temperature rise to the recommended level of 2°C this century, the INDCs assessed in the Emissions Gap report represent a historic step in the direction of decarbonizing our economies. However, in order to close the gap and limit global temperature rise of 2°C by 2100, it is essential that a new universal climate agreement is adopted by governments at the COP 21. What is left to concretize is what form this agreement will take. The notion of common but differentiated responsibility as well as the divide of binding agreements between countries that have vastly different economies occupy center stage in the negotiations.