John Kerry in UAE: We face an enormous global climate challenge - and it's only growing

US President Joe Biden's climate chief hails Emirates' 'remarkable' green energy progress after touring Abu Dhabi's desert solar parks

US climate envoy John Kerry said the world must face up to the "enormous global challenge" together on his first day on a tour of the UAE.

The veteran politician used this first trip to Asia in his new role to start the countdown to the Cop26 climate change conference in the UK – where leaders from across the globe will be urged to renew environmental commitments.

Mr Kerry is in Abu Dhabi this week to attend the Regional Climate Dialogue, which takes place on April 4.

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Tomorrow, we will share thoughts about what can be best done in order to raise our ambitions in Glasgow, which is the most important conference after the Paris Agreement

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

"Tomorrow, we will meet with a number of leaders from the region to share thoughts about what can be best done in order to raise our ambitions in Glasgow, which is the most important conference after the Paris Agreement."

Earlier, Mr Kerry visited Abu Dhabi's Noor solar park, on the first day of a trip to the Emirates. He will later travel to India and Bangladesh – two countries badly hit by climate change-linked natural disasters.

Mr Kerry was given a helicopter tour of the facility, which is the largest single-site solar park in the world.

He was accompanied by the UAE's special envoy for climate change, Dr Sultan Al Jaber.

"I’m delighted to have seen the largest solar field in the world’s largest single-site solar project, Noor Abu Dhabi," Mr Kerry said.

"I also listened to Dr Al Jaber about the UAE’s plan to lead the world in terms of technology as well as in mitigation of emissions.

"It’s remarkable to find the UAE trying to lead many other nations in the search of new technology to address the global climate challenge and in transitioning to the new economy while facing this crisis."

Turning political talk into action

Mr Kerry was later shown another major solar development, Shams 1, south of Zayed City in Al Dhafra.

He also visited the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, which is devoted to driving sustainability solutions through innovations in artificial intelligence.

Mr Kerry concluded the day with a visit to Jubail Mangrove Park. Mangroves, native to the UAE, have the triple benefit of preventing coastal erosion, encouraging biodiversity and capturing more carbon per hectare than rainforests.

Dr Al Jaber said: "Over the past 15 years, the UAE has made bold commitments on climate change, domestically and internationally, and has demonstrated its ability to act on them.

"Looking ahead, 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."

On Sunday, Mr Kerry will attend high-level discussions on advancing global action.

Mr Kerry vowed to swiftly make up for America's "lost years" in the fight to protect the environment.

The UAE itself 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.

Alongside the Noor solar site, which began generating power in 2019, there are four new projects that will drive this growth.

The biggest is the 2GW Al Dhafra solar scheme in Abu Dhabi, 50km outside the capital.

That site is expected to become fully operational in 2022 and will generate enough electricity for about 160,000 homes.

Dubai currently has more than one gigawatt of installed capacity – all of which comes from three phases at the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park.

Kerry to rally global action on climate

Mr Kerry is leading efforts to get countries to commit themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by about the middle of the century.

Mr Biden has called a summit of 40 leaders, including those of India and China, on April 22-23.

Later this year world leaders will gather for the UN climate summit in Glasgow to build on a 2015 Paris accord to halt the increase in global temperatures at levels that would avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

"Looking forward to meaningful discussions with friends in the Emirates, India and Bangladesh on how to tackle the climate crisis," Mr Kerry tweeted before he arrived in Abu Dhabi.

India says it will not only stick to the Paris accord to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35 per cent from its 2005 levels by 2030, but will likely exceed those goals as it increases use of renewable energy.

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