Wrapping up in Dubai in the UAE late last week, the fourth edition of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS 2021) had the theme of “Rewiring Societies: Repurposing Digitalisation for Prosperity” and aimed to chart a roadmap for the industrial sector to recover globally and regionally from the Covid-19 pandemic while banking on digitisation and the green transition.
A solid regulatory framework governing the green transition and the digitisation of the industrial and manufacturing sector in order to unleash private investment is key to accelerating the sector’s recovery from the pandemic, James Spence, co-founder of Libra Project, a UAE blockchain-based renewable energy impact firm, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
According to a recent report published by the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), global manufacturing production continues to recover following a major drop during the first half of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The emerging and developing economies, including Egypt, posted 3.2 per cent growth in the sector in the first quarter of 2021, according to the report, which said this was a moderate rate of growth.
Spence is also a partner in the Green Chain Initiative, a UAE platform that aims to attract and host programmes to encourage the adoption of alternative energy solutions. The initiative aims to accelerate the global decarbonisation of the manufacturing sector by curating investment opportunities for sustainable projects as well as utilising blockchain and crypto technologies to offer an online platform to encourage environmental impact investments in developing countries.
GMIS is a joint initiative by the UAE and UNIDO that was established in 2015 with the aim of bringing together manufacturers, governments, NGOs, technology specialists, and investors in harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s (4IR) transformation of manufacturing. It is a global platform that presents stakeholders with opportunities to shape the future of the manufacturing sector and contribute towards global well-being in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
GMIS 2021 called for the adoption of decarbonisation to transform industry and manufacturing for the green transition, particularly in the local markets of developing countries and as a fundamental avenue to creating nature-based solutions.
Ana Haurie, CEO of the British Respira Company, an international impact-driven carbon-finance business, said that while the methodology for issuing carbon credits was improving, there is a need to build trust in the system and to enhance integrity. Carbon credits are widely issued to offset CO2 and other greenhouse-gas emissions by companies and other entities.
“We need a good, solid base line to measure and avoid increasing emissions,” Haurie said, adding that everyone must take action on decarbonisation, which was a long process. She noted that the private sector could make major contributions to it.
GMIS 2021 also touched upon the role of green hydrogen in accelerating recovery in the developing countries by adopting its use in the manufacturing and industrial sector. The world would not be able to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement temperature targets on global warming without the use of hydrogen, said Khaled Al-Muhaidib, senior vice president for hydrogen business at the UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
He said that while green hydrogen and other green solutions may be expensive today, costs would come down in time. Meanwhile, he said that all stakeholders, from production down to supply chain and end users, needed to collaborate in the area, adding that governments needed to put in place enabling regulations.
“We need clear regulatory frameworks and clear incentive programmes in this regard,” Al-Muhaidib said. Governments should also develop the required infrastructure for the wide use of hydrogen as a green solution on energy use, Mauricio Vargas, CEO of Bayotech, a US energy solutions company, said.
As part of efforts to encourage the adoption of other energy solutions in the manufacturing and the industrial sector, the Green Chain Initiative also announced the launch of its unconventional impact-investment platform. The manufacturing sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, and it is critical that manufacturers adopt new technologies to decarbonise the sector, said Namir Hourani, managing director of GMIS.
One way of doing so is through the deployment of renewable energy technology solutions, though these can be expensive, and their high costs make them challenging for developing and least developed countries to adopt, even though they are essential to maximising the potential of renewable energy resources, Hourani said.
He added that the technology presented energy storage and transportation challenges over long distances, but that the initiative aims to tackle this and other issues by providing potential investors with environmental impact investment opportunities in developing countries, encouraging them to deploy any financial returns towards decarbonising their facilities.
Digitising the industrial sector is a core pillar for countries wanting to fast track the recovery process in the manufacturing sector, particularly in developing countries, participants at GMIS 2021 said. UNIDO also released a working paper on the digital transformation and its positive impacts in terms of good governance in the industrial and manufacturing sector.
“Digitising traditional manufacturing has shown its value in combating the pandemic and improving resilience and recovery,” UNIDO managing director Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento told the Weekly.
From the production of personal protective equipment and ventilators to harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for contact tracing, industry has been crucial to the alleviation of the crisis, he said. “As we move forward towards the post-pandemic phase, the onus is now on the international community to adopt preventative approaches to future global disruptions, powering data and digital capacities and upscaling industrial capabilities and life sciences to avoid crises,” he added.
GMIS concluded with an announcement that it will hold its fifth edition in Pittsburgh in the US under the name “GMIS America” in 2022 with the collaboration of the American Middle East Institute (AMEI). Pittsburgh was the second city in the US to adopt the UN Sustainable Cities label, preceded by its adoption of the Four Principles of People, Planet, Place, and Performance (P4) designed to index and monitor targeted policy actions fighting climate change.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.