ABU DHABI // The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, yesterday expressed his country's interest in collaborating with the UAE on renewable energy projects.
Mr Wen, who is attending the World Future Energy Summit, commented on the region's "important strategic position" for China.
"We cannot ignore the unique status and role of West Asia and North Africa," Mr Wen told delegates at the high-profile annual event at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, opened the summit.
During his speech, Mr Wen described the people of the region as "talented, courageous, hard-working and warm-hearted".
"China will work more closely with other countries to enhance green innovation," he said.
Mr Wen also described what his country has done to reduce its carbon emissions.
China is the world's top greenhouse gas emitter, but it emits less on a per-capita basis than the UAE.
Until recently, China has relied mainly on coal-fired plants to meet its energy needs. But the country has also committed to investing in clean energy and in industrial-level energy efficiency schemes. Because of these efforts, Mr Wen said, China is saving 148 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Until last year, China had 200 gigawatts capacity of hydro power and 47 gigawatts capacity of wind power, Mr Wen said. In 2011, the country committed to a development plan that has made reducing the carbon intensity of the country's emissions a key priority. By 2015, China plans to increase its energy efficiency by 16 per cent and reduce carbon intensity by 17 per cent, Mr Wen said.
Experts welcomed his comments.
"For me, the speech was very specific, very detailed," said Dr Kandeh Yumkella, the secretary general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. "He gave numbers that can be verified about what China has done."
Fatih Birol, of the International Energy Agency, said the country had also provided electricity to 500 million people in the space of ten years. By comparison, he said, some countries in West Africa chose to export oil and gas while leaving many of their citizens without electricity.
"I will not give examples and name these countries, but in one of them 50 per cent of the population have no access to electricity," he said.
Mr Birol said governments worldwide needed to encourage investment in renewable energy.
He noted that subsidies of fossil fuels were estimated at US$400 billion (Dh1.46 trillion) globally.
"It is like eating junk food after a fitness run," he said.