Reaching net zero in manufacturing by 2050 needs fundamental change


Ministers, trade officials, and business leaders from the UAE and UK have stressed the importance of bilateral agreements and investments between the two countries to ensure the most carbon-intensive sectors can contribute to national 2050 net-zero targets.

The Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) Week today heard how the two nations have a thought leadership role to play in helping the global manufacturing, aerospace, and construction sectors decarbonise by leveraging Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies and developing innovation ecosystems.

Following the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow earlier this month, around 90% of the world economy is now covered by a 2050 net-zero commitment, Simon Penney, UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General in Dubai, told the audience at the UAE-UK Conference during the GMIS Week. But net-zero goals “will not be met unless government and industry work together”, he said. 

H.E. Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, UAE Minister of State and UAE Co-Chair of the UAE-UK Business Council said: “Manufacturing, engineering, and construction will need to change if we are to achieve 2050 net-zero goals. With the construction sector contributing nearly 40% of global energy-related emissions, retrofitting existing buildings and developing greener and more efficient buildings will be an important factor in keeping global warming below 1.5°C.” 

He added: “I hope that today’s discussion will lead to new partnerships between the UK and UAE in delivering the transformation of the manufacturing, aerospace, and construction sectors as we begin our journey to net zero.”

During an opening address, Lord Udny-Lister, UK Co-Chair of the UAE-UK Business Council, said: “We are going through a transformation of the industrial sector. Manufacturing is a key driver of the UK economy, representing half of our exports and contributing nearly US$200 billion to the economy. But many of the sectors depend on carbon-intensive processes, and collectively they represent around 12% of the UK’s direct greenhouse emissions. Reaching net zero by 2050 will require much more fundamental change.”

Referring to the UAE’s recent US$10 billion investment in the UK, he noted that the Gulf country’s investors are playing “an increasingly important role” in pursuing the UK’s decarbonisation objective.

At the conference’s first session, dedicated to advanced manufacturing, H.E. Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research, Technology & Innovation (SRTI) Park, said: “Governments have a big role in incentivising the private sector to adopt technologies related to additive manufacturing. The private sector doesn’t want to disrupt its operations and spend money on things they don’t necessarily understand. The role of the government is to raise awareness of these technologies and raise skills. Through collaboration with the UK, we can accelerate the deployment of these machines.”

But new technologies and techniques need to be supported by a skilled workforce. The manufacturing sector is currently facing a significant skills shortage. In a panel discussion called ‘Addressing the Skills Gap in Manufacturing’, Jan Ward, CEO of Corrotherm, noted that net-zero targets in industry cannot be achieved without the constant development of skills, and stressed the need for governments to support this priority. Ali Al Marzouqi, Acting Deputy Director General of Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET) and President of EmiratesSkills, said the UAE is attracting the young generation to the manufacturing sector by “making it exciting”. “This is the new way, and I advise other countries to follow it. In the UAE, the interest has increased dramatically.”

During a session on ‘Decarbonisation of Aerospace’, Mariam Al Qubaisi, Head of Sustainability & Business Excellence at Etihad Aviation Group, said: “The lowest-hanging fruit is carbon credits.” Ana Haurie, Co-Founder and CEO or Respira, echoed her comments: “We need to support nature because it’s available to use right now. Technology will take time.” And Mansoor Janahi, Deputy Group CEO of Sanad, added: “There must be an incentive for decarbonisation. Becoming carbon-neutral will come at a cost, so there has to be a concerted effort. There has to be an offset.”

In the ‘Decarbonisation of Construction and Infrastructure’ panel, the group of experts discussed the need for collaboration between governments, academia, and the private sector to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, which contributes some 39% of total global emissions. One of the key areas to address is retrofitting existing building stock, according to Jonathan Holyoak, Policy and Net Zero Programme Director at Atkins, who demanded “meaningful regulation, not just targets” from policymakers.

Rob Jackson, Chief Growth Officer at Asite, said: “Of the 39%, almost 75% comes from existing buildings and 25% is from the construction itself. How do we drive efficiency into that existing building stock? Technologies such as digital twins can support that.” 

He added: “It would be great if all countries could adopt international standards. One of the key areas of collaboration between the UK and UAE is to establish common standards. That would help to inform investors and de-risk investments.”

The GMIS Week included the two-day #GMIS2021 Summit on 22-23 November, The Green Chain Conference and The Global Prosperity Conference on 24 November, and country-focused conferences in partnership with the UK, Australia, and Italy. Throughout the six-day event, a manufacturing and advanced technology exhibition is featuring over 30 world-class exhibitors to highlight the UAE government’s ‘Make it in the Emirates’ campaign, a first-of-its-kind initiative to encourage local and international investors, developers, and innovators to benefit from the facilities and incentives offered by the country’s industrial sector.

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