Canada understands the UAE's net zero ambition better than anyone

Resource-based countries with harsh climates should stick together on sustainability

As an environmental scientist and a diplomat who represented Canada across the globe, I have always been focused on the policies that countries deploy to deal with complex environmental issues, both domestically and internationally.

I applaud the recent decision by the UAE to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. This a bold statement of leadership that sends a clear message to the world a few weeks away from Cop26 in Glasgow.

That being said, I am not surprised to see the UAE being the first Gulf economy to take on this commitment, given its track record of delivering on ambitious targets, as demonstrated in the success of the UAE mission to Mars earlier this year. The challenges will be enormous for a resource-based economy dealing with a harsh climate.

My country, Canada, also knows a thing or two about being a resource-based economy dealing with a harsh climate and aiming to achieve net zero. The Parliament of Canada adopted the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act in June 2021. The Act hold this and future governments accountable for emissions reductions to address climate change and achieve net-zero emissions by or before 2050. The Government of Canada has also established a $3 billion Net-Zero Accelerator Fund to help large emitters achieve their emissions reductions.

There are enormous opportunities for collaboration as we both aim to decarbonise and electrify our economies, as well as reduce emissions from our natural resources sectors. Our future collaboration means opportunities for knowledge and technology transfers, joint R&D and the development of demonstration projects. I see clear opportunities for collaboration between Canada and the UAE in several areas.

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There are enormous opportunities for collaboration as we both aim to decarbonise our economies

Energy efficiency is where the low hanging fruit usually is, with savings that often pay for themselves. Canadian companies are working on contracts to help commercial buildings in the Emirates reduce energy consumption by up to 30 per cent without any expensive hardware, and to help them remain cool in the summer months while doing so. There is room for so much more as we quickly scale up energy efficiency projects.

The discussion on hydrogen as a key ingredient of the energy transition has also picked up in both countries in the past year. Canada is a leader in the development of hydrogen fuel cells. In December of last year, Canada released a national hydrogen strategy to develop the low-carbon hydrogen value chain, from hydrogen production through to storage and transport technology, as well as end-use applications. Canada is currently home to the largest green hydrogen plant in the world today, an Air Liquide facility in Quebec, which has 20 MW of electrolyzing capability.

In the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance is leading the way in the development of both blue and green hydrogen. New partnerships have been established between Canada and the UAE and I expect to see many trade and investment opportunities arise in this area.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that even as we decarbonise, there will remain a role for hydrocarbons during the transition period and beyond. We need to find a way to monitor and reduce emissions from oil & gas throughout the supply chain. Canada is the global leader in producing clean hydrocarbons from source to end use thanks to the work of groups like the Clean Resources Innovation Network, and will be well-positioned for knowledge share its knowledge and experience.

I also see opportunities for R&D collaboration in the area of carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCUS). CCUS involves the capture of CO2 from oil & gas, industrial or power sources or directly from the atmosphere. The CO2 is then either stored permanently underground or used to create products such as concrete and low-carbon synthetic fuels. Canada has used CCUS for many years and has identified this as a key driver toward our net-zero objectives.

Climate Change is a real emergency, and we need to act now. We will only succeed in reaching our goal by working together internationally so that solutions can be developed and scaled faster than ever before.

Canada will use its presence at Expo 2020 Dubai to advance the collaboration with the UAE in the area of climate change and net zero as our theme at Expo2020, “The Future in Mind”, aligns perfectly with one of the greatest challenges of our times: addressing climate change.

Published: October 20th 2021, 9:00 AM
Jean-Philippe Linteau

Jean-Philippe Linteau

Jean-Philippe Linteau is the Canadian Consul General for Dubai and the Northern Emirates