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COP28 in UAE: Harmonizing AI and Climate Policy through Legislation

December 8, 2023

As the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is hosting the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), it’s poised to showcase not just environmental stewardship but also technological innovation, particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI). This article explores the UAE’s integration of AI into its climate change initiatives and underscores the need for legislative frameworks to regulate and optimize AI’s role in these efforts.

The UAE’s AI Integration in Environmental Strategies

Showcasing its commitment to harness AI for various sectors, with environmental management being a prime focus, the UAE’s Cabinet of Ministers adopted the UAE’s National AI Strategy 2031, therefore implementing initiatives “aimed at employing artificial intelligence in vital areas such as education, government services and the community wellbeing”. The implementation of the National AI Strategy 2031 is to be supervised by the Emirates Council for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transactions, in coordination with several Government entities. AI’s potential in enhancing climate data analysis, optimizing energy consumption, and aiding sustainable urban development is immense. However, realizing this potential responsibly calls for well-crafted legislation.

AI’s Role in Climate Change Initiatives and COP28

COP28 is set to highlight various ways through which AI can bolster climate action:

  • Predictive Analysis for Climate and Environmental Patterns:

Utilizing AI for analyzing complex climate data can lead to better forecasting and informed policymaking. This necessitates legal frameworks that ensure data accuracy and ethical use. A significant step taken by the UAE is illustrated in the meeting held between the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerations (UICCA) team and several corporations (such as General Electric) to learn more about the potential application of AI to improve sustainable practices. 

  • AI in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resources:

AI’s role in enhancing the efficiency of renewable energy resources, like solar and wind energy, is critical. Legislation could focus on standardizing AI algorithms used for predictive maintenance and energy optimization to ensure reliability and safety. From a practical standpoint, in 2023, the UAE announced a new initiative in the form of a collaboration between Abu Dhabi’s G42 and Microsoft, aimed at developing artificial intelligence for the ultimate purposes of combatting climate change, thereby resulting in more efficient uses of energy and a smoother transition to renewable energy resources.

  • Smart Urban Planning:

AI’s application in sustainable urban development requires legal provisions to safeguard against biases in AI algorithms and ensure equitable resource distribution across communities. The UAE is already taking its first steps in this regard, with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City announcing its plans to use AI to “better understand trends related to water and electricity consumption, transport and mobility, and increase efficiencies”.

Legislative Proposals for Regulating AI in Climate Change

To maximize AI’s benefits in climate change initiatives, the following legislative suggestions are proposed:

  • Data Protection and Privacy Laws:

Regulations must be established to protect the massive amounts of environmental and personal data processed by AI systems, ensuring privacy and preventing misuse.

  • Standardization and Safety Protocols:

Legislation should aim to standardize AI applications in climate technology, setting safety and performance benchmarks to maintain consistency and reliability.

  • Ethical AI Frameworks:

Ethical guidelines for AI in environmental management should be legislated to prevent biases and ensure that AI-driven initiatives are aligned with broader societal and environmental goals.

  • Public-Private Partnerships Regulation:

Laws facilitating collaboration between public entities and private AI innovators can accelerate the development of AI-driven climate solutions while ensuring public interests are safeguarded.

  • International Cooperation in AI Governance:

In October 2023, the official announcement was made of the selection of H.E. Omar Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy, and Work Applications to serve on the United Nation’s High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence. Such selection marked a significant milestone for the UAE in respect of international cooperation in AI governance. The UAE can spearhead further similar initiatives for global cooperation in formulating international standards and laws for the use of AI in climate change, promoting a unified approach.

To this end, as the UAE showcases its AI-driven environmental initiatives at COP28, it also faces the challenge of pioneering legislative frameworks to govern AI’s application in climate change. The conference presents a unique platform to propose and discuss these legislative measures, setting a global precedent. The integration of AI in climate strategies, backed by robust legal frameworks, will not only enhance the effectiveness of these initiatives but also ensure they are sustainable, ethical, and equitable.

COP28 is an opportune moment for policymakers, technologists, and environmentalists to converge on creating legal frameworks that harness the full potential of AI in climate action. The UAE’s role in this endeavor is crucial, serving as a model for how technological advancement and legislative foresight can jointly foster a sustainable future.

Call to Action

Stakeholders in the renewable energy sector, investors, and policymakers should engage in dialogues to shape these anticipated tax policies. It is crucial to ensure that the changes brought forth by COP28 not only foster the growth of renewable energy in the UAE but also set a benchmark for other nations in the global fight against climate change.

This Article was prepared by Mohamed ElBaghdady, Senior Associate, at Habib Al Mulla & Partners. For further information please contact him or any of the members of our team.

Contacts

Mohamed El Khatib

Principal Partner – Head of Disputes

mohamed.elKhatib@habibalmulla.com

Mohamed ElBaghdady

Senior Associate
mohamed.elbaghdady@habibalmulla.com

Marwan Alnooryani

Senior Associate
marwan.alnooryani@habibalmulla.com

Basem Ehab

Associate
basem.ehab@habibalmulla.com

Kholoud Hafez

Associate
kholoud.hafez@habibalmulla.com

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