Climate Change “Fundamental” to U.A.E.’s View of “Present and Future”

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April 19, 2021

In the wake of ​U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s visit to the U.A.E., and ahead of the Biden Administration’s ​Leaders Summit on Climate, Ms. Hana AlHashimi, Head of the Office of the U.A.E. Special Envoy for Climate Change, underscored the U.A.E.’s commitment to addressing climate change, ​telling a Business Council audience that ​”climate action is built into our polic​ies” ​and the U.A.E. is convinced there is a “business case for climate action.”  A video of the webinar, which was ​an outgrowth of the Council’s new Climate Change Task Force, can be found here

In a conversation moderated by Mr. Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, ​Ms. AlHashimi gave an overview of the U.A.E.’s diligent work to address climate change by developing and deploying new alternative, renewable, and clean energy sources. ​Ms. AlHashimi noted that the U.A.E. will have 14 GW of renewable capacity by 2030, and that it has committed to increase its carbon capture and storage capacity six fold in the same timeframe from 800,000 tons at present.  ​Ms. AlHashimi said it was a point of pride that the U.A.E. is one of only two Gulf nations invited to President Biden’s ​Leaders Summit on Climate, and ​that it was the first Gulf nation to sign the Paris Accords​. Ms. AlHashimi also pointed out that the U.A.E. has already allocated $400 million in loans to advance climate change action ​globally, supporting nations all around the world in their own efforts to combat climate change.

The U.S. and the U.A.E. ​have built a robust bilateral relationship when it comes to addressing climate change. Ms. AlHashimi emphasized that this deep bilateral commitment and cooperation can be leveraged to galvanize nations around the world to step up their efforts to ​combat global warming, which could produce upwards of 250 million climate change refugees in the next 20-30 years if left unaddressed. 

Ms. AlHashimi said that it was an honor for the U.A.E. to ​recently host ​U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and to be able to highlight the journey the U.A.E. has taken towards embracing a more sustainable future. ​Mr. Kerry witnessed some of the U.A.E.’s landmark renewable energy projects, specifically Abu Dhabi’s Noor and Shams 1 solar parks, and paid a visit to Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, where he heard about the potential of AI to improve energy efficiency. 

Ms. AlHashimi highlighted the crucial role of Masdar in the U.A.E.’s alternative energy journey. The U.A.E.’s leadership took a long-term view in 2005 that renewables would be competitive, leading to the creation of Masdar. This view has been validated by subsequent developments, with the U.A.E. producing the cheapest solar energy in the world. Masdar has been a key driver of the expansion of renewables in the U.A.E. over the past decade. At the same time, it made significant investments in renewables abroad, including in windfarms and solarfarms in the United States. Now, Masdar is an important player in U.A.E. efforts to explore the “game-changing” potential of hydrogen as a zero-carbon fuel.

Speaking about the role of the Office of the U.A.E. Special Envoy for Climate Change, ​Ms. AlHashimi outlined four main purposes of the office:

  • Encouraging greater renewable energy investment 
  • Decarbonizing the oil & gas sector
  • Advancing research & development
  • Advocating the strong case for climate action

In addition to the above, Ms. AlHashimi noted that the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change, headed by His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, works hand in hand with the U.A.E. Ministry of Climate Change and Environment by focusing on the international partnership aspects of climate change cooperation. 

Looking ahead to the Biden ​Administration’s Leaders Summit on Climate taking place this week on April 22-23rd, ​Ms. AlHashimi expects to see countries come forward with ambitious goals, looking for areas of collaboration. The U.A.E. hopes to see new opportunities arise from its ​high-level participation in the summit. ​

Ms. AlHashimi also spoke of the potential for Expo 2020 Dubai to foster partnerships and advance thinking on climate change. She remarked that it is no accident that sustainability week is the first of Expo’s thematic weeks. Moreover, she spoke of the Expo site itself as a city of the future and model for sustainable development.

For more information about the Business Council’s Climate Change Task Force, please contact Graham Reitman at greitman@usuaebusiness.org

For more information about the Business Council’s slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Mary Zuccarello at mzuccarello@usuaebusiness.org or visit our website at www.usuaebusiness.org