Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber addresses the Global Energy Summit organised by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is well-positioned to provide low-cost, low-carbon energy as economic growth and global demand returns, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, said during a virtual session of the Columbia Global Energy Summit.

Al Jaber said the increased demand for cost-efficient, lower-carbon energy positions the UAE at a competitive advantage as the country is focusing on low-carbon production. “The UAE’s primary crude grade, Murban, is one of the least carbon-intensive in the world, with less than half the carbon intensity of the industry average. This creates a dual advantage for us — low cost and low carbon,” he added.

Organised by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, the Global Energy Summit was a gathering of experts from around the world on understanding trends shaping the world’s energy system and addressing climate change.

In a conversation with David Sandalow, Inaugural Fellow at Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia SIPA, Al Jaber explained “that oil and gas will continue to play a major role alongside a diversifying energy mix and that diversifying the country’s energy mix is not only the responsible way forward, but can provide new economic opportunities”.

He added: “Using this approach, the UAE has grown its renewable investments from a low base 15 years ago, to a leading position in the region. Thanks to the long-term commitment of our leadership, the UAE has three of the largest and lowest-cost solar projects in the world with significant renewable energy projects in 30 countries globally,” he added.

Clean energy sources

Al Jaber continued: “To accelerate our progress on a lower carbon path, we

need to leverage every clean energy source available, including wind, solar and other renewable energies. This comprehensive approach means also using nuclear energy.”

He added “the UAE is a partner of choice across the entire traditional and alternative energy landscape, including hydrogen, which shows great promise as a zero-carbon fuel that could be produced at scale as part of the existing hydrocarbon value chain”.

The UAE is working with global partners to identify markets, map out value chains and develop a roadmap to creating a hydrogen ecosystem to serve both the UAE and the global marketplace. “This is just one area that demonstrates how the hydrocarbon industry can and should be at the centre of the conversation on climate change and very much part of the solution,” Al Jaber further explained.

Climate mission

During the virtual session, Al Jaber also touched upon the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4Climate), announced by the UAE and the United States with the support of seven other countries last month.

The UAE minister said the country is taking the lead on the initiative which is aimed at increasing research and development (R&D) investment and accelerating innovation into sustainable agricultural practices.

Al Jaber shared: “The UAE has always taken a holistic view when it comes to climate solutions and agriculture is sometimes overlooked as a significant source of emissions. Nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from agriculture; that’s basically the same GHG contribution as electricity generation. This is one of the reasons why the UAE joined with the US and a growing coalition of countries to launch AIM4Climate.

“We are already leveraging new technologies and innovative approaches to enable sustainable farming in desert conditions. We believe that by doubling down on investment in 4IR technologies, we can help the agricultural sector adapt to the impacts of climate change, reduce emissions and also support growth, opportunity and jobs in the emerging agri-tech sector,” he added.

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Post-COVID recovery

Al Jaber also outlined his expectations for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow in November. He expressed cautious optimism and said he believes the world understands that progressive climate action is an opportunity for economic growth, particularly coming off the back of post-COVID recovery.

He said: “I expect healthy discussion and debate, but I fundamentally believe that we can accelerate progress on climate change if we avoid one-size-fits-all policies. Ultimately, I think the willingness is there to take a great leap forward at Glasgow, and the UAE is more-than-willing to play its role as a regional leader and global convener in progressive climate action.”