Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in the UAE on Monday to discuss cooperation on clean hydrogen, ammonia and recycled carbon fuels ahead of this year’s United Nations climate talks in Dubai.
Kishida’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, which will host COP28 in November-December, is part of the first Gulf tour by a Japanese premier since the late Shinzo Abe in 2020.
Japan is almost entirely dependent on imports for its crude oil, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar accounting for the majority of its supplies.
As the Asian country increases the role of renewables in its energy mix, the Gulf states, too, are moving more towards cleaner energy sources.
Kishida flew in from Saudi Arabia, where he met with de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday. After talks with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, he will head to Qatar on Tuesday.
Japan’s PM plans to offer Japan’s “cutting-edge decarbonization technologies” as part of a green energy initiative for the Middle East, he said in an open letter carried by the UAE’s official WAM news agency.
The Tokyo embassy confirmed the comments.
Under the initiative, the UAE and Japan “will be in a good position to cooperate in the related fields of production and use of hydrogen and ammonia as well as carbon recycling”, said Kishida.
As the oil-rich UAE prepares to host the UN’s COP28 climate talks, many countries are still far apart on ways to reduce fossil fuels and the global warming they cause.
“Japan will work closely with the UAE towards the success of COP28,” Kishida said.
On Monday, Sheikh Mohammed said he had “fruitful and constructive talks” with Kishida in Abu Dhabi on “developing bilateral relations and promoting the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries”.
On Sunday, Kishida discussed energy security and decarbonisation with senior Saudi officials including Prince Mohammed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, official Saudi statements said.
During the meeting with Prince Mohammed, Tokyo and Saudi Arabia agreed on the “Lighthouse Initiative for Clean Energy Cooperation,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
“The initiative will support the ongoing efforts that Saudi Arabia is making to become a hub for clean energy,” said a joint statement made by SPA on Monday.
It will focus on areas including hydrogen, ammonia, recycled carbon fuels and carbon capture technology, the statement said.
Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter to Japan, meeting 40 percent of its total needs, the kingdom’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Sunday.
“The Kingdom, based on its commitment to the strategic relationship with Japan in the field of energy, will continue to ensure the security of oil supplies to Japan,” he said, in comments published on his ministry’s website.
During Kishida’s visit, Saudi Arabia and Tokyo signed 26 cooperation agreements, including in the fields of energy and green energy, according to state-run Al Ekhbariya TV.
The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and Japan also announced on Sunday the start of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, according to a statement from the GCC.
EPA-Japan FTA negotiations began in Tokyo in September 2006 but talks were suspended in 2009.
“Japan is seen as one of the Council’s priorities,” said GCC Secretary General Jasem Mohamed AlBudaiwi, hailing a “new era of partnership”.
The prime minister was due to visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar in August last year, but postponed the trip after contracting the coronavirus.
His visit comes at a time of growing relations between the region and China which fueled a shock meeting between Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran in March.