UAE and Netherlands to focus on water and food security projects ahead of Cop28

Diplomats say aim is to extend benefit of projects and research to other nations

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Water security will be among key green initiatives taken up by the UAE and the Netherlands ahead of the Cop 28 climate summit in Dubai later this year.

Diplomats from both countries said the work will have a global impact.

Jamal Jama Al Musharakh, the UAE's ambassador in the Netherlands and Gerard Steeghs, the incoming Dutch envoy, told The National about taking on challenges related to water, energy and food.

“When it comes to collaboration with the kingdom of the Netherlands, the focus on water is very important and the next is food security,” Mr Al Musharakh said in an interview at the UAE embassy in The Hague.

How you secure healthy crops is important
Jamal Jama Al Musharakh, UAE ambassador to the Netherlands

“The number three collaboration is helping countries in need to face the challenges of climate change.

“That is a very integral part of Cop28 which the UAE will host at the end of the year.

“The projects in the pipeline include a focus on water in particular.

“I can’t reveal much in terms of the what the outcome will be but we are very hopeful that such a collaboration will lead to something that will benefit greatly not only our two countries but countries beyond.”

Details of the project will be announced later.

Mr Steeghs also spoke of taking the partnership to new heights.

“The Netherlands is a land that is very much engaged in the field of water,” said the Dutch diplomat who takes on the ambassador’s post in Abu Dhabi in July.

“We are looking at Cop28 and at the great contribution we can make in the field of water and adaptation with regard to climate change.”

Frederik Vossenaar, special envoy at the Netherlands' agriculture ministry, said co-creation was vital to both countries that are small in size but keen to deliver on sustainability promises.

“It is about dialogue, discussion, co-creation and learning,” he said.

“Co-operation with the UAE is based on a sustainable vision for the long term,” he said. “By putting our ideas together we can achieve the best results so other countries can profit from this in the long run.”

Stepping stones to climate action

Cop28 will take place from November 30 until December 12 and as the host, the UAE has outlined its ambitions to unite the world on climate action plans with bold and practical solutions to pressing global challenges.

Mr Al Musharakh said historical ties with the Netherlands on agriculture and technology were building blocks to future partnerships.

“It’s a growing conversation that is becoming in-depth on global issues,” he said.

“So our conversations are not only of the bilateral nature but to take on global challenges through private companies, government entities.

“Constant conversations on how to strategically plan around not only food security but nutrition as well – that is something the Netherlands has pioneered.

“Usually when food security is spoken about, it’s about how to secure crops but how you secure healthy crops is important.”

The Netherlands is an agricultural powerhouse and the second largest global exporter of food after the US.

The total value of goods and services trade between the Netherlands and the UAE was €10.2 billion (Dh40.8 billion) in 2022.

Dutch exports to the UAE are largely of food, animals, machinery, transport equipment and chemicals.

Mr Al Musharakh also met a group of UAE government officials and professors visiting the Netherlands.

He spoke about the need to involve young people and to introduce young Emiratis to exchange programmes with universities in the Netherlands.

Reaching young Emiratis

Mr Al Musharakh said it was crucial that cutting-edge research was not confined to laboratories, and that awareness should spread to Emiratis and residents about how they can be involved.

“It’s about how to raise awareness among all segments of society to care more for the environment, be more aware of the challenges, how to face them and how to mitigate future risks,” he said.

“It’s how to accustom our future generations to be aware of significant differences one can make by adjusting their lifestyle to secure a more prosperous future for generations to come.”

The UAE has made strides in efforts to feed its population, with local horticulture companies growing a range of vegetables and fruits, from lettuce and tomatoes to blueberries and strawberries.

Dutch companies work closely with UAE agribusinesses by exporting technology and know-how to build greenhouses.

“We have a lot to offer each other and these conversations are being held at the highest levels,” Mr Al Musharakh said.

“What we have in common with the Netherlands is that both our countries have taken on the environmental climate challenges which our countries' experience and transformed this into an advantage.”

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, met Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs in the UAE in January.

The ministers pledged to combat climate change and enhance partnerships in fields including energy and food security.

Energy transition in cities of the future

Mr Steeghs, the Netherlands ambassador-designate, said he was excited to further develop ties with the UAE.

“I think the UAE is doing great experiments in building green cities,” Mr Steeghs said.

“How you deal with the energy problem and transport in these cities – there we can work together.

“The objectives the UAE has set for itself in going over to a climate-neutral economy are challenging.

“The world knows the UAE as a supplier of hydrocarbons, gas and oil.

“So it’s incredibly important that the UAE is saying we still should make that climate policy, we should make the energy transition.

“Hosting Cop28 is showing the planet that this is what is important, this is what we have to get on top of.”

He looked forward to soon begin his ambassadorial role in the Emirates.

“I’m looking forward to broadening and deepening our relationship with the UAE,” he said. “It’s already very strong particularly when it comes to economics and agricultural co-operation.

“I think we will take it to new heights together.”

Updated: October 16, 2023, 11:42 AM