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Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi | UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment

The historic visit of President Xi Jinping of China to the UAE promises to elevate bilateral ties to the next level in politics, economy and trade. It is a reaffirmation of the strategic partnership the two nations have enjoyed over the years; a partnership that was established by the founding father of the UAE, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 28 years ago, when he visited China in 1990.

Proceeding from the vision of the UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and following the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, towards building and maintaining good relations with countries across the globe as well as exploring further areas of international collaboration, the UAE has long strived to bolster relations with the People’s Republic of China to serve the best interests of both nations.

China’s commitment to further enhancing its strategic partnership with the UAE comes as no surprise, given that the latter is a global leader in renewable solutions, environment conservation and climate change mitigation. The unwavering attention paid to the renewable energy industry in the UAE reflects its drive to diversify sustainable energy resources and paves the way to establishing a robust market conducive to investment in renewables. In line with this priority, the UAE has announced its Energy Strategy 2050, which has set an ambitious target of 44 per cent of the overall energy mix from clean resources.

On the other hand, UN reports indicate that China is the driving force for global surge in solar energy investment, leading to solar energy dominating global investment like never before in 2017. China saw some 53 gigawatts of solar capacity added last year, more than half the global total, and $86.5 billion (Dh318.14 billion) invested, up 58 per cent.

Having a shared vision for a more sustainable future, the UAE and China have joined hands on multiple fronts, particularly in renewable energy investments and green economy. Some of the most prominent joint investments are the region’s largest renewable energy projects that use concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic panels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with a total generation capacity of 1,800 megawatts.

Public-private partnerships

The two states have vowed to employ the latest of technologies in environmental areas, sharing experiences in agriculture and livestock breeding and forging public-private partnerships between them. As a result, the UAE-China trade in livestock and agricultural products amounted to a remarkable Dh2.2 billion last year. Furthermore, the UAE is home to more than 740 Chinese firms that run environmental and sustainable development operations.

As for their collaboration in greening the UAE desert, multiple China-UAE ventures have been announced in this area, including growing rice in the UAE desert and land reclamation using desert soilisation technologies, among others. Such ventures contribute to increasing local agricultural production by expanding the area of arable lands, reducing the frequency and intensity of sandstorms, helping the UAE become food self-sufficient and increasing the country’s long-term strategic reserve.

On another note, the UAE is a key partner and strong supporter of the Belt and Road Initiative announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with the aim of developing the emerging economies of Asia and strengthening their trade and economic relations with the rest of the world. Coinciding with the UAE’s efforts to revive the “Silk Road”, the UAE will play a pivotal role as a gateway for China to the region through its capabilities, talent and expertise. The country will also provide land, air and sea logistical support throughout the Middle East.

Last but not least, the visit of the Chinese president to the UAE and the UAE leadership’s initiative to hold the UAE-China Week annually underscore the beginning of a new and more advanced phase of mutual cooperation between the two countries, especially on the back of the visit that Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed had made to China in December 2015. These exciting times will support and strengthen the efforts of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to attract greater cooperation from the public and private sectors, particularly in the agricultural and environmental sectors, and employ state-of-the-art technologies to ensure a more sustainable future for both countries.