UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, expressed a strong desire to enhance energy collaboration with Bangladesh, with a specific emphasis on both renewable and conventional energy sources. This commitment was conveyed during a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence, Ganabhaban.
Following the meeting, PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters, underscoring the UAE’s keen interest in participating in the energy sector and exploring business opportunities within Bangladesh.
Dr. Ahmed, who holds key positions as the chairman of ‘Masdar,’ a prominent energy company, and the Managing Director of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), outlined their proposal to send two teams from the UAE to Bangladesh. One team will engage in discussions about renewable energy, while the other will explore various business prospects.
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The distinguished gathering at the meeting included PM’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman, PM’s ambassador-at-large Mohammad Ziauddin, PMO Secretary Mohammad Salahuddin, Environment Secretary Farhina Ahmed, and UAE ambassador to Bangladesh Abdullah Ali Al Hamoudi.
The meeting primarily focused on crucial subjects such as climate change and bilateral matters, with a strong emphasis on fostering economic cooperation between the two nations. Dr. Ahmed, serving as the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change and President-Designate for COP28, praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her exemplary leadership in tackling the climate change issue.
During their meeting, he expressed optimism about her continuous support in this crucial matter. Alongside climate change, Ahmed also discussed the significance of collaboration on food security matters, emphasizing the UAE’s determination to drive positive transformations.
“We aim to bring about significant change,” Ahmed asserted, emphasizing their commitment to advancing climate action. He revealed that the UAE is actively urging for the swift collection of climate funds to address urgent challenges ahead of COP28. With a focus on sustainability, the minister aimed to make a substantial and positive impact during the UAE’s presidency of COP28.
Prime Minister Hasina acknowledged the pivotal importance of COP28, especially regarding the global stocktake of the Paris Agreement it entails. She expressed hope that the UAE’s presidency would facilitate a realistic assessment of progress and identify areas where stronger climate actions are necessary to uphold the 1.5-degree temperature target.
Both leaders demonstrated a mutual vision for combating climate change and promoting cooperation on common objectives, underlining the urgency of addressing global challenges through collaborative endeavors.
PM Seeks Larger UAE Investment in Bangladesh
During a virtual speech to the Joint Business Council (JBC), which represents business communities from Bangladesh and the UAE, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on the UAE business community to explore substantial investments in Bangladesh’s Economic Zones, Hi-Tech Parks, and renewable energy sectors.
This address, conducted earlier in 2022, emphasized the vast potential for collaboration and development between the two countries. The Prime Minister’s appeal to the UAE business community underscores the significance of seizing these opportunities to strengthen economic relations and foster progress in both nations.
Renewable Energy Initiatives in UAE
The UAE is making impressive advancements in adopting renewable energy sources, evident through the operation of three of the world’s largest solar plants and the rapid construction of more facilities. A standout example is the Noor Abu Dhabi solar park, forecasted to reduce the country’s carbon footprint by an astonishing 1 million metric tons annually, equivalent to removing 200,000 cars from the roads.
Although blessed with 8 percent of the world’s oil reserves and currently relying heavily on fossil fuels for energy, the UAE has demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability and renewable energy. The nation has set ambitious targets, with renewable energy projected to constitute 44 percent of its energy mix by 2050, with incremental progress aimed at reaching 38 percent by 2035.
Ultimately, the UAE aims to achieve a remarkable milestone of relying entirely on renewable energy and became the first Gulf country to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Renewable Energy Sources in Bangladesh
Renewable energy resources play a vital role in fulfilling Bangladesh’s energy requirements. The nation possesses a promising variety of renewable sources, such as solar, biomass, wind, hydropower, and geothermal energy, which hold the potential to address its energy challenges. At present, renewable energy constitutes approximately 3% of the national energy consumption, with hydro, solar, and wind contributing 60%, 39.5%, and 0.5% respectively.
Bangladesh heavily relies on its proven natural gas reserves of 34 TCF, expected to last for around 20 more years. Currently, about 82% of the country’s natural gas is utilized in the power sector for electricity generation. Conversely, renewable energy sources contribute only a small portion, accounting for 3% of electricity production.
In response to the increasing power demand, the Bangladesh government has introduced a comprehensive master plan for future electricity generation, emphasizing the significance of exploring and tapping into the country’s natural resources.
The objective is to strengthen the power sector and encourage the adoption of renewable energy. Renewable energy presents a potential alternative to conventional fossil fuels, garnering substantial attention due to environmental and economic concerns.
The Bangladesh government actively supports the development of renewable energy projects, offering subsidies to incentivize their implementation. This proactive effort reflects the country’s dedication to enhancing its renewable energy infrastructure and fostering sustainable energy practices, ensuring a more resilient and environmentally friendly future.
Ties between UAE and Bangladesh
The UAE had a trade surplus, with exports to Bangladesh amounting to US$1.3 billion, while imports from Bangladesh stood at US$500 million
Significant Reduction in Navigation Time
The current ship traffic between Bangladesh and the UAE is routed through ports in Singapore and Ceylon, Sri Lanka, taking approximately 40 to 42 days. However, a direct shipping line will lead to a remarkable reduction of two-thirds, bringing the transit time down to around 14 days. This advancement is expected to cause a substantial increase in bilateral trade volumes.
Bilateral Trade Boost
In 2021, the bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to US$1.8 billion. With the implementation of a direct shipping line, this trade is projected to multiply several times over. Notably, the UAE had a trade surplus, with exports to Bangladesh amounting to US$1.3 billion, while imports from Bangladesh stood at US$500 million.
Benefits of the Direct Shipping Line
The direct shipping line will be particularly advantageous for Bangladesh as it seeks to export excess food production, such as rice and vegetables, to the UAE. This efficient export route will result in mutual benefits for both countries.
Learning from UAE’s Technological Progress
The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister acknowledged the UAE’s significant technological progress, especially in port management. As Bangladesh possesses multiple ports and a long coastline, it aims to learn from the UAE’s expertise in port management and is open to collaborating with reputable UAE-based companies for the operation of its ports.
Bangladeshi Diaspora in the UAE
Around 700,000 Bangladeshis actively contribute to the development of both Bangladesh and the UAE across various sectors. This sizable expatriate community is the third largest in the UAE, following Indian and Pakistani communities.
Collaborating for Peace and Prosperity
Bangladesh and the UAE cooperate in various international forums, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), to promote regional and global peace and prosperity.
Hopes on UAE’s Climate Leadership
With the UAE hosting the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Abu Dhabi in 2023, Bangladesh looks forward to the UAE’s leadership role in addressing climate challenges. Bangladesh seeks the UAE’s cooperation in increasing the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to reduce carbon emissions.