UAE and US in $8bn drive to prepare agriculture for climate change

Fund announces at Cop27 that it has doubled its existing commitment, from $4bn

Funds will go towards projects that can help to tackle climate change, prepare for its effects and lift people out of poverty. Photo: Aim for Climate
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A joint UAE-US fund to help prepare the agricultural sector for climate change has been doubled to $8 billion.

The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (Aim for Climate) has mobilised another $4bn since it launched last year to build more resilient agriculture and food systems, it was announced at Cop27 on Friday by Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Tom Vilsack, the US Agriculture Secretary.

The funds will go towards projects that can mitigate climate change, prepare for its effects and help to lift people out of poverty. Aim for Climate also seeks to support small-scale farmers, especially women, and communities in low- and middle-income countries most susceptible to the world's changing climate.

"We wanted to partner with a strong one," Ms Al Mheiri told The National, about the tie-up with the US. "We also have political will on both sides."

Aim for Climate seeks to boost the use of vertical farming, hydroponics and aquaculture. Ms Almheiri said the UAE has shown how this technology and innovation can help to grow crops never thought possible in the country.

"We are growing berries now," she said. "How can that happen? This showcased that when you are able to control an environment, it can open up so many different things. You don’t need to use chemicals. It is a much more efficient system and you have got something that is so tasty."

Ms Al Mheiri said vertical farming, also known as "closed environment agriculture", would be crucial in the years ahead as it allows countries to grow fruit and vegetables much more sustainably by recirculating water, using renewable power and avoiding dangerous chemicals.

"When you have that you start a whole domino effect of behaviour change because people will start buying locally and start reducing the carbon footprint when it comes to sourcing food."

Agriculture is a crucial part of the fight against climate change as it contributes about 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN. Food security is also imperiled globally, with crops susceptible to changing temperatures and extreme weather.

Aim for Climate is now being supported by more than 275 government and non-government partners that include businesses, academia, non-profit organisations, think tanks and others.

Aim for Climate also said on Friday that the number of its “innovation sprints” — initiatives funded by private sector rather than government that have targeted goals in areas such as small-scale farming and methane reduction — have increased by 22 to 30.

It also announced plans to hold a climate summit in Washington, from May 8-10, to highlight issues before the Cop28 meeting in Dubai next year.

“Aim for Climate is focusing on a sector that has been overlooked in terms of the opportunities it offers for global climate action,” Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, said at the fund's launch last year.

“This initiative demonstrates the UAE’s holistic and inclusive approach to climate action.”

The announcements came on the same day US President Joe Biden arrived to address the climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh.

Bolstered by his Democratic party's stronger than expected showing in the US midterm elections, Mr Biden is expected to try to galvanise ambition at the conference.

Cop27 at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt — in pictures

Updated: November 11, 2022, 4:01 PM