Next week, in my capacity as the Lord Mayor of London, I am heading to Dubai – less than a month after having already been to Abu Dhabi. The visits underline how seriously we in the City of London see the potential of our future relationship with the UAE. They are just the start of a golden year of opportunity for our two countries, as we look to strengthen our partnership for the decades to come.
That is because, as the UK leaves the European Union and Dubai welcomes the world for Expo 2020 later this year, the importance that we attach to our trading relationship with the UAE – already one of our strongest outside the EU – is coming into even sharper focus.
I hope to see the Expo site while I am there, and to discuss the cultural legacy that the city hopes to create as a result
Against that backdrop, the UK will count on the UAE as a fellow leader in green and sustainable finance when we host the United Nations Climate Change Conference – or COP 26 – in Glasgow later this year. I anticipate that the emphasis by the Dubai Expo on sustainability makes it an excellent precursor for the global conversation ahead of COP 26, while our hosting of a joint UK-UAE event this July at Mansion House will be yet another opportunity for us to build momentum together.
London, as the top-ranked financial centre globally for the quality of its green finance offering, will be looking to work with like-minded partners such as the UAE in Glasgow, so that we can agree on real progress towards transforming the global economy and therefore meet the challenge of climate change. Indeed, discussions around sustainability featured prominently throughout my visit to Abu Dhabi last month, which coincided with the emirate’s Sustainability Week.
In my keynote speech at the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum, I spoke of the urgent action required to transition to a zero-carbon economy and the leadership this will demand from the financial sector. As I looked ahead to COP 26, I explained the work already taking place by green-tech firms and promoted London-based initiatives, such as the Green Finance Institute.
My discussions with Mubadala and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority revealed a keen interest in investing in green finance opportunities in the UK, especially through green bonds – an area in which London already excels, with more than 100 available on the London Stock Exchange. Much of this centres on opportunities in renewable energy – something that was prominent in my conversation with Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, the chief executive of Masdar, as well.
Of course, these, as well as broader collaboration in areas such as sustainable cities, were hot topics when I spoke with Ali Al Sayegh and Mohammad Juma Rashid bin Jarsh Al Falasi – Minister of State and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Global Market and Undersecretary of the Department of Energy, respectively.
It is clear, then, that together our two countries can be global pioneers in sustainable finance, committing to investments that can change the planet. My hope is that this can provide a strong basis for our cooperation as the UK leaves the EU – something that was certainly of interest in my meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.
Indeed, my message as the UK leaves the EU and looks towards negotiating trade deals around the world, including with the UAE and the Gulf Co-operation Council, is that we remain an open trading nation.
As I look ahead to my visit to Dubai this week, during which I will once again be meeting key financial partners in both the private sector and across the UAE government, that is a message I will once again be reiterating.
In fact, while much was made of the effects of uncertainty for UK businesses, the reality is that the City of London’s pragmatism and global appeal have been enough for it to continue to thrive. It is true that we need to ensure that we maintain both as open a trading relationship as possible with the EU and access to global talent. These will be top priorities in the year ahead. But in emerging areas of financial services such as fintech, the UK is receiving more investment than ever before – more than France and Germany combined, with the growth in demand to invest in the UK far outstripping that of the US, China and Singapore. London, for its part, continues to be a magnificent place to live and work.
Away from the UK, with Expo 2020 coming up soon, this is of course a very exciting time to be visiting Dubai. I hope to see the Expo site while I am there, and to discuss the cultural legacy that the city hopes to create as a result. Our co-operation in this regard is something in which I take a particular interest, and the interaction between culture, innovation and trade is an integral part of the mayoral theme for this year.
There is plenty to look forward to in 2020, as the UK and UAE embark upon this promising new chapter in our relationship. I hope that the conversations I have in Dubai this week will be the next step towards a future of mutual prosperity for both of us.
William Russell is the lord mayor of the City of London
Updated: February 10, 2020 01:00 PM