Abu Dhabi climate talks: No 'vaccine' for climate change if we don't act now, says Irena chief

Francesco La Camera said momentum is building in a crucial year for the planet

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2019.   IRENA Meeting day 1.
Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency. 
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  John Dennehy
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Vaccination has shown a path out of the Covid-19 pandemic, but unless we act now there will be no time to create a "vaccine" to reverse climate change, the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said on Sunday.

Francesco La Camera, director general of Irena – an intergovernmental organisation – said the coronavirus had underlined that it is critical we take care of the planet.

Speaking after attending the Regional Climate Dialogue event in Abu Dhabi, Mr La Camera said everyone was now more aware of and sensitive to the environment.

He pointed to the year ahead with two big events – US President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit this month and the UN's Climate Change Conference (Cop26) in Glasgow in November – as major developments of the path to a green future.

John Kerry's call is speed. We have to accelerate this. The direction is right but we have to increase the speed

"This year is characterised by two big events," Mr La Camera told The National.

"Momentum is building, not only at a political level but at all levels. People are aware and more sensitive.

"The pandemic, this tragedy has shown how important taking care of the environment is and a global challenge similar to climate change,” he said.

"People understood that a vaccine can end a pandemic but if we don't act now – there [won't be a] 'vaccine' for climate change"

At the event on Sunday, the UAE's special envoy for climate change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, and Cop26 President Alok Sharma spoke about climate action, while US climate envoy John Kerry was among those attending.

It was Mr Kerry’s first visit to the Middle East since being appointed to the role.

Mr La Camera, meanwhile, said Sunday’s meeting was very productive.

"The spirit of the meeting was working together to get the best for all in the region. It was a very good meeting. There is a business case to act," he said.

Mr La Camera said you only had to look at the numbers of how much new renewable capacity is being added.

“John Kerry’s call is speed,” he said. “We have to accelerate this. The direction is right but we have to increase the speed.”

Cop26 in Glasgow has been described as the most important summit since Paris in 2015.

Agreed the same year and now signed by 195 countries, including the UAE, the Paris Agreement aims to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

But experts warned the world faces increases of more than 1.5°C within 10 years if countries fail to act.

Cop26 represents the first time that countries are expected to commit to enhanced pledges to cut emissions since Paris was signed

“Glasgow is crucial,” Mr La Camera said.

"It is about partnership, political commitment, ambition and showing it is possible. We are working for it.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kerry said the world must face up to the "enormous global challenge" together if climate change was to be addressed.

"We face an enormous global challenge and it’s growing in intensity," Mr Kerry said on Saturday.

The UAE has taken major steps to address climate change and has ambitious plans to increase green and renewable energy sources.

Dr Al Jaber said the country has made commitments and acted on them.

"We look forward to further building on this progress to turn political commitments into new practical solutions with long-term economic benefits for the UAE, the Mena region and the world," he said on Saturday.