John Kerry in UAE: climate talks are under way in Abu Dhabi

UAE’s special envoy for climate change Dr Sultan Al Jaber and Cop26 President Alok Sharma discuss action

A major regional event to discuss commitments to tackling climate change began in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

US climate envoy John Kerry is among the dignitaries attending the Regional Climate Dialogue.

The UAE’s special envoy for climate change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, and the Cop26 President Alok Sharma also spoke about the need for action to tackle climate change.

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

The veteran politician was made climate envoy by US President Joe Biden and vowed to swiftly make up for America’s “lost years” in the battle to protect the environment.

The dialogue comes during a critical year in the global fight to halt rising temperatures.

Mr Biden has called a virtual summit of 40 leaders, including those of India and China, on April 22 and 23. It will be streamed publicly.

In November, the Cop26 climate change summit will be held in Glasgow, Scotland.

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

He also visited Abu Dhabi’s Noor and Shams 1 solar parks, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Jubail Mangrove Park in the heart of the capital.

He will later travel to India and Bangladesh – two countries badly hit by climate change-linked natural disasters.

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 deal aims to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

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

One of Mr Biden’s first acts in office was to announce the US would rejoin the Paris accord.

Mr Sharma warned of the destruction that will be unleashed if the world fails to tackle rising temperatures. Already, seas are rising and freak climate events are becoming commonplace.

Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Summit in January, Mr Sharma said choices made today would determine the world’s fate.

“It is vital we act now,” said Mr Sharma, who serves in the Cabinet of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The UAE has ambitious plans to rapidly increase the amount of energy it generates from green and renewable sources.

At the end of 2020, the country’s renewable capacity reached 2.3 gigawatts.

That is forecast to leap to nine gigawatts by 2025.