The UAE and the UK can continue to lead in green technology thanks to "enormous potential" for the two countries to work together, after the UAE hosted the "tough COP" last year, confounding sceptics and persuading the world to move beyond fossil fuels, former Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson said in the UAE during a summit.

In a keynote address at Masdar’s Green Hydrogen Summit in Abu Dhabi, Johnson said his country had hosted COP26 in 2021 but the UAE’s COP28 in Dubai in later 2023 had been tougher to host. 

“There was a difference between COP26 and COP28 – the difference was the Glasgow UN summit was before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, before we saw the prices of hydrocarbons jump and before everybody started to get quite so sceptical about Net Zero,” Johnson said. 

“And, so I have to admit it frankly, and hats off to you here in Abu Dhabi, we did the soft COP, you did the tough COP, if you know what I mean.

“Yet you triumphed. The UAE Presidency prevailed over the negativity in some of the global media that were gloomy about the prospects of the COP28, you way exceeded the expectations of the NGOs, and here, in the world’s greatest and richest basin of hydrocarbons, you persuaded the world to move beyond fossil fuels, and you did it by sheer force of technological argument.”

Johnson, who served as Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and Prime Minister from 2019 to 2022, said the city had become known as the eighth emirate during his time as mayor, such was its relationship with the UAE.

He said a new golden age of cooperation had begun during that time between the two countries.

The UAE’s use of solar farms and other renewable energy projects had helped the UK rethink and change the way it thinks about power generation, he added, highlighting Emirati investment in Masdar through the London Array wind farm off the Essex coast.

An ‘even more astonishing project’ Masdar’s Dogger Bank South, one of the world’s largest planned offshore wind farms, is currently going through the UK planning process, he said.

Excess power from the farm could be used to help produce green hydrogen, he said, which has the potential to power jet engines in the future.

However, he added, it was important to move past doubt and scepticism about hydrogen as a power source to move forward.

“These things take patience, and they take political leadership, and they take relentless innovation,” he said. “And that innovation requires countries like the UAE and the UK to work ever more closely together, from everything from batteries to artificial intelligence.”  

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)