As John Kerry stepped onto UAE soil this Easter weekend, I was reminded of the words of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed, who emphasised the importance of unity in order to provide a better life for our people, to realise their hopes and aspirations, and to ensure stability.
Mr Kerry’s visit to the UAE in his role as US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate during our Golden Jubilee year is an example of Sheikh Zayed’s vision playing out on the highest of international levels. From here, our two nations will only continue to leverage a long-standing partnership to rouse the international community into creating a unified action plan for a stable and sustainable future.
This notion was clear for all to see as Dr Abdullah Al Nuaimi, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE’s Special Envoy on Climate, hosted Alok Sharma, President of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (Cop26), as well as Mr Kerry and leaders from countries of the GCC and Mena region in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to inaugurate the UAE Regional Climate Dialogue.
Chaired by Dr Al Jaber, the event marked the first multilateral ministerial dialogue aimed at driving new climate mitigation efforts and growth opportunities in the Mena region and beyond.
Indeed, in the joint statement issued after the meeting, participants urged the international community to take steps to keep a Paris-aligned temperature limit within reach through “enhanced nationally determined contributions". The statement also outlined the importance of energy adaptation and the co-benefits of building resilience to climate change. The participating nations will aim to achieve these goals, they said, through “investments in renewable energy, ecosystem-based approaches, nature-based solutions, climate-smart agriculture, carbon-capture technologies, and other low-carbon solutions [that] will support sustainable economic growth and job creation".
Also on show during the Dialogue was a value the US and the UAE hold close: collectivism. The event brought together a multitude of perspectives to solve our biggest challenges and leave a lasting impact. Similarly, since taking office in January, the Biden-Harris administration has wasted no time in putting this into practice to confront the greatest challenge of our times: the climate emergency.
Mere days after being sworn in, President Joe Biden signed a set of sweeping environmental executive orders and announced a virtual summit of 40 world leaders on Earth Day this month as part of a resolute focus to build traction around global climate action. The UAE, which will be one of only two Arab nations in attendance at the Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22, has already begun aligning with the US on strategies to address the global climate agenda.
To date, several collaborations on renewable energy and sustainability-focused projects in the UAE have seen us working together to tackle global climate change challenges. Among them are the peaceful nuclear co-operation that resulted in the establishment of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant that generates clean electricity for the UAE, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s role in establishing and developing Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and subsequently Khalifa University and partnerships on carbon capture and renewables-powered desalination.
And in the other direction, the UAE has invested in a raft of forward-looking projects that are currently taking shape in Nebraska, Texas, California and New Mexico, covering solar photovoltaics, wind energy and lithium-ion batteries.
Marking the next step in this relationship, Dr Al Jaber opened a dialogue with Mr Kerry in February with a view to teaming up to combat the climate crisis while unlocking opportunities for economic growth and diversification and job creation that help build a carbon-free future.
The two special envoys agreed to set up bilateral working groups to advance our nations’ shared global climate agenda, and contribute to regional and global sustainable development. With time running out to limit global warming, and mere months to go before Cop26 in Glasgow, Scotland, close collaboration remains vital – not just between the UAE and the US, but also with our respective allies.
As the permanent home to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the UAE has contributed significantly to shaping the global dialogue around renewable energy. But our own energy leadership extends to concerted policy action and business incentives. For over 15 years, the nation has developed a considerable green economy with value additions in a wide range of areas, from eco-friendly transport and sustainable industry to carbon capture and storage, and clean energy.
To take just one sector as an example, the UAE has sizeable renewable energy investments in 70 countries around the world, including three of the biggest and lowest-cost solar plants right here within our own borders. These assets, whether in the UAE, the US or elsewhere, have improved economic opportunities, strengthened industrial diversification and enhanced financial output while creating knowledge, skills and jobs on the road to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The next 10 years, the US, the UAE and the wider international community firmly agree, must be a decade of action. As we move towards Cop26 for what must mark an inflection point in our approach to the climate emergency, the UAE stands ready to share its experience and expertise from the frontlines of the clean energy movement.
As Sheikh Zayed said, our forefathers recognised the need to conserve the environment, to take from it only what they needed to live and to preserve it for succeeding generations. Sustainability is in our DNA, and strengthening our partnership with the US will allow us to leverage the power of the green economy for the global good.
Dr Nawal Al-Hosany is a permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency