Kempe’s remarks come ahead of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, with the Atlantic Council holding its second-annual Global Energy Forum in the capital this weekend. The two-day premier event, opening today, gathers international and regional industry leaders in Abu Dhabi to address the geopolitical, energy and sustainability challenges and opportunities of the future.
The forum is hosted under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It is convened in partnership with the UAE’s Ministry of Energy, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, and Mubadala Investment Company.
In an interview with Emirates News Agency, WAM, the Atlantic Council President explained that the most important contribution of the forum is looking at the geopolitics of the energy transformation. He said that the shift over time to renewables will greatly benefit nations, although there is a need to consider the challenges that could arise as a result of some nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, with possible political instability.
Having the summit in the UAE is key, Kempe explained, as the country is the "most visionary of the fossil fuel producing countries, and (is) thinking about renewables and planning for the future, and diversifying its economy.
"We chose to base the forum here because, in some respects, the UAE is the ‘model’ of how to think about the energy mix while still having time to plan for it." The summit seeks to draw global attention to the UAE’s journey of progress in this field, "which in many ways embodies some of the smartest directions in dealing with the energy transition."
The UAE Energy Plan 2050 aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 70%, increase clean energy use by 50% and improve energy efficiency by 40%. By 2050, the UAE aims to obtain 44% of its energy for local consumption from renewables, with gas accounting for 38%, clean fossil fuels for 12% and nuclear energy for 6%. At the moment, more than 90% of the UAE’s energy needs are met by natural gas.
Commenting on the UAE energy strategy and its role the country plays in the global renewable energy sector, Kempe said, "I’m not sure there’s another country in the world that’s a global leader in fossil fuel production and renewable energy."
Addressing the potential for enhanced collaboration between the United States and GCC nations, the Atlantic Council president sees plenty of room for cooperation. "The big market for everybody is Asia," he continued, adding that the main belief for a period of time was that the US would take less interest in the region because it’ll be extracting less energy resources from it. However, he said, "What we’ve learned is that the geopolitical interest in the region and the overall impact of the GCC on the world energy market ensures that the US will stay focused on this region for some time to come."
Following on with the latest hike in oil prices in 2017, Kempe commented that the global markets are seeing a return of geopolitical risks, and that "as long as markets perceive these risks, you’ll see prices going up." He went on to explain that if "these risks are not borne out of true crises, my guess is in another year, prices will come back down again," adding that there is natural evolution towards renewables.
Female participation in the energy sector is integral to ensuring GCC countries’ innovation and economic prosperity, he added. Commenting on the fourth agenda topic of the forum, Kempe said, "What we’re learning more and more is that the countries that do best in the world are those that unlock half of their society, and the UAE has been ahead of the curve in unlocking the potential of women in society."
"We are particularly moved by the centenary of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s birth. If you think about where the UAE was 100 years ago when he was born, and where it is now, it’s breathtaking," Kempe concluded.