The UAE has taken a leading regional role in pushing climate change policies, President Joe Biden's Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry said on Thursday.
Mr Kerry travelled to the Gulf last month where he spoke to leaders in the region about climate change. In the United Arab Emirates, Mr Kerry met with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, as well as top UAE officials including Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.
“There is a level of leadership engagement, creativity and readiness to embrace the urgency of the challenge that makes the UAE a leader, and that’s what we need right now to use the next 10 years to the fullest,” Mr Kerry said during a telephone briefing on Thursday.
The Emirates has transitioned very significantly from dependency on oil and gas, he said.
“They are already diversifying and other countries need help to be able to diversify, that's when the developed world needs to come to the table and be helpful,” Mr Kerry said.
During his trip to the Emirates, Mr Kerry and key UAE leaders reaffirmed the US and UAE's commitment to the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, which the two countries jointly announced at President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate and will launch formally at COP26 in Glasgow.
“I went to discuss the agriculture initiative we put together and to talk about India and deployment of 450 gigawatts of renewable energy that the UAE is going to partner in,” he said.
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They also discussed jointly identifying opportunities for strategic investment in India’s clean energy transition and mobilising investments in clean energy around the world; collaborating on climate and security, developing and scaling clean energy technologies; and working constructively to demonstrate ambition and make COP26 a success.
The UAE has pioneered carbon capture and storage to decarbonise heavy industry by investing around $17 billion in commercial renewable energy projects in six continents and provided over $1 billion of grants and soft loans for renewable energy power plants.
It has been leading initiatives in climate-smart agriculture and has put biodiversity conservation at the top of its priority.
Last month, the Emirates launched the region's first industrial-scale green hydrogen project. This will use solar power from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to produce hydrogen on a commercial scale.
Mr Kerry also travelled to Saudi Arabia and Egypt to discuss the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow.
On Saudi Arabia, Mr Kerry met with senior officials in the kingdom and said the country is set to make some announcements on its climate change initiatives during the next few months.
“Saudi Arabia will announce the green hydrogen initiative, which is a very significant, important potential contributor to the transition in our energy mix right now,” he said.
Mr Kerry is seeking to re-engage America with the issue of climate change after the previous administration of president Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement that sets strict emissions targets to try to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Mr Trump said the deal was bad for America and “undermined” the economy.
Mr Kerry described the move as a “huge symbolic blow to the momentum” of climate change but not to Washington’s participation after rejoining the agreement.
“We are moving back very rapidly, there is no question about it. We come to the table with humility but we are pushing very hard to make up for it,” he said.
“We are all in this together, we all have to join together and this will be a test for every country to see if they are willing to be part of a solution,” he said.