The UAE was the only OPEC country to take part in clean energy talks among 23 major economies this week, solidifying its “unique” position as an oil producer looking beyond fossil fuels, the country’s top climate official said yesterday.
The Emirates hosted the talks, which followed its decision to become the first and only GCC state to recognise the Copenhagen Accord, a climate agreement reached in December. The UAE was also not among OPEC states that this month blocked a UN inquiry into tougher action to counter global warming.
The developments highlight the priority the Government places on promoting clean energy and reducing emissions from fossil fuels, but also underscore sharpening differences with fellow oil producers on the same issues, analysts said.
“We’re endeavouring to make a very unique position for the UAE,” said Dr Sultan al Jaber, the Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr al Jaber is also the chief executive of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government’s clean-energy company.
“The UAE has, in fact, signed and ratified the Copenhagen Accord. This demonstrates the UAE’s understanding of its role as a major oil economy in helping to advance renewable energy in a way that will help mitigate climate change.”
The Emirates has begun to develop a climate policy distinct from that of other GCC states, including Saudi Arabia, which has long led delegations from the region at climate negotiations, said Mari Luomi, a Gulf climate expert at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki.
“Because of the role that Abu Dhabi has taken in renewables – and the emergence of the International Renewable Energy Agency headquarters in Abu Dhabi plays a key role in that – Abu Dhabi cannot hide behind the back of its traditional ally in the negotiations,” Ms Luomi said.
Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, was absent from this week’s talks, she noted, after being widely perceived as obstructing the pace of annual climate talks since the 1990s.
“The fact that Abu Dhabi was invited and not Saudi, which is a G20 [Group of 20 leading and emerging economies] member, tells a lot about what Saudi Arabia is missing on, presumably because of its role in the [UN talks] – and possibly also because the country does not have an equivalent of a climate or environment minister or envoy,” Ms Luomi said.
Government officials of 23 major economies, including the US, China, Brazil and India, met on Monday and yesterday at the Emirates Palace to prepare for a ministerial meeting on promoting clean energy in Washington next month.
This week’s talks behind closed doors discussed ways to promote renewable energy, efficiency and carbon capture and storage, said David Sandalow, the assistant secretary for the US department of energy.
“The more these clean energy technologies are deployed, the more the cost comes down – the more countries co-operate on this agenda is good for everybody,” Mr Sandalow said.
The meeting in Washington will be the highest-profile clean-energy talks since the summit in Copenhagen, which was widely criticised for failing to agree on a new international treaty on global warming.
But Dr al Jaber rejected suggestions the Washington talks would be an alternative to UN climate negotiations, arguing it could be a “great contributor” to moving the treaty process forward.
“We are big believers that Copenhagen was not in any way a failure; Copenhagen was in fact a great success,” he said.