[INTERVIEW] UAE looks to Korea to help weather climate change storm

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UAE Ambassador to Korea Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi speaks with the Korea JoongAng Daily at the embassy in Seoul on May 31 about the country’s responses to the effects of climate change in light of its hosting of the United Nations climate conference in 2023. [PARK SANG-MOON]

As the UAE faces extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, drought and rising sea levels, it has increasingly identified Korea as a partner in addressing common global challenges. climate change, said the Emirati envoy in Seoul.

“The Republic of Korea is one of the oldest and most important partners of the UAE, and the low-carbon and sustainability sector has been at the center of our bilateral cooperation given the commitment of our governments in favor of green growth and climate action,” the United Arab Emirates said. Ambassador to Korea Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, speaking to Korea JoongAng Daily at the embassy in Seoul on May 31.

“A number of Korean companies are building the peaceful carbon-free nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, and Korean companies are actively involved in the development of solar and hydrogen capacity in the UAE,” he added. “Korean companies are notably present in Masdar City, our center for investment and research in sustainable development in Abu Dhabi.”

Korea helped build the Barakah nuclear power plant in the country. Two of its four reactors began commercial operations in March. Once all four are commissioned, they should cover a quarter of the country’s electricity needs.

According to Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, which operates the plant with Korea Electric Power Corporation, full operation of the plant will lead to a reduction of approximately 22.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, which they say is comparable. to approximately 4.8 million passenger cars. ride for a year.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country’s president, openly welcomed the selection of the United Arab Emirates as the host of the annual United Nations climate conference, the Conference of Parties (COP), for 2023, COP 28.

He led a delegation to Seoul in February 2019, when he was Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. During his visit, the two countries signed several agreements on the front of renewable and green energies, in particular on hydrogen and recycling.

More recently, Sultan bin Ahmed al-Jaber, the UAE’s industry minister and special envoy for climate change, visited Seoul earlier this month to meet his counterparts, including the environment minister, to discuss bilateral cooperation in response to climate change.

Korea had also considered hosting COP 28, but decided to support the United Arab Emirates and instead aim to host COP 33, the next time a country from the Group of Asian States- Pacific, where Korea and the United Arab Emirates are parties, will be able to host the conference.

To learn more about the Gulf nation’s climate agenda and where its partnership with Korea stands on the subject, the Korea JoongAng Daily spoke with Al Nuaimi last month at the embassy.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q. What are some of the environmental challenges facing the UAE today?

A. Like many countries, the UAE is feeling the effects of climate change and, as a country where the heat can be intense and water is scarce, we are particularly aware of the need for progressive climate action. . Without significant mitigation efforts, our region is projected to experience twice the average temperature increase by 2050. Cities in the UAE are also low lying and directly on the coast, so we are concerned about rising sea levels. the sea.

This is why the UAE has been proactive in its response. We were the first Gulf country to sign and ratify the Paris Agreements. Our latest Nationally Determined Contribution makes us the first country in the region to commit to economy-wide emissions reductions by 2030.

The United Arab Emirates were [also] the first country in our region to endorse the 30 by 30 biodiversity target – which calls for the protection of 30% of oceans and 30% of land by 2030. These marine protected areas remove other constraints on marine species, giving them a little more ability to cope with climate change.

What kind of action plan does the UAE have to meet its carbon reduction target?

The UAE sees climate change as a defining issue of the times, requiring a defining response. But we also see the response to climate change as a major economic opportunity and a driver of diversification of our economy.

So we were the first country in our region to adopt renewable energy about fifteen years ago, and today we have the cheapest solar energy in the world, even below the cost of natural gas.

We also enacted the region’s first economy-wide emissions reduction target, green building codes, mass transit and large-scale carbon capture and storage, and energy. peaceful zero-carbon nuclear with the support of the Republic of Korea.

The United Arab Emirates is proud to be part of this change, investing billions in low-carbon technologies and projects and supporting other countries with billions of dollars in climate aid for renewable energy and humanitarian aid.

Any recent projects the UAE has been involved in to develop such low-carbon technologies?

One of our most exciting and recent partnerships is the Agriculture Climate Innovation Mission. It was announced by [U.S.] President Joe Biden, Bill Gates, and our Prime Minister, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in April, and will dramatically increase investment in climate-smart agricultural R&D and innovation within five years.

Vertical farming, drought-tolerant seeds and digital monitoring tools are examples of areas of innovation that will be key to managing climate change, and we will invest to improve our adaptive capacity, as well as to create new jobs and sectors.

Do you think the UAE and Korea agree on the green energy transition?

Renewable energies are a game-changer in particular. It is now the cheapest source of electricity in nearly every country, giving us a powerful economic rationale for changing the way we power our economies.

Major economies like the Republic of Korea have also announced ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which send a clear signal to the international market on the case for climate action and encourage more ambition. I don’t want to underestimate the challenge – it’s unprecedented – but I think we’re turning the corner of the economic case in favor of climate action, and that will dramatically accelerate progress.

I would also like to point out that the UAE is a close partner of the Republic of Korea in the Global Green Growth Institute. We host the regional office in Abu Dhabi, and this is a major multi-country initiative aimed at making the economic case for green growth.

What does hosting COP 28 mean for the UAE?

During COP 26 in Glasgow, the UAE was selected to host COP 28 in 2023 in Abu Dhabi. The selection shows the international community’s recognition of the UAE’s commitment to supporting global efforts to overcome the threat of climate change. Hosting this event will allow the voice of every nation and stakeholder to be heard, ensuring that together we not only help to mitigate the effects of global warming, but also open up new opportunities to achieve greater prosperity and a better life for future generations. .

BY ESTHER CHUNG [[email protected]]

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