US climate envoy John Kerry to build ties with UAE to boost green agenda

Veteran politician tells of his optimism after holding talks with the UAE's climate change envoy, Dr Sultan Al Jaber

The UAE and the US discussed ways to make progress on the global climate agenda in a meeting between US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry and UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Dr Sultan Al Jaber. Image: Wam
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America's new climate champion, John Kerry, has vowed to work with the UAE to build a greener future for the planet and make up for his nation's "lost years" in the fight to protect the environment.

Mr Kerry, who was appointed as special presidential envoy for climate by President Joe Biden, held talks with Emirati minister Dr Sultan Al Jaber on joint efforts to deliver global action on key environmental issues.

The call to Dr Al Jaber, who was appointed the UAE's special envoy for climate change last year, was Mr Kerry's first official outreach to the region.

Mr Kerry, a former US secretary of state who ran for the presidency against George W Bush in 2004, has moved quickly to bolster ties with those making the green agenda a global priority.

Mr Kerry has discussed environmental concerns with ministers from countries including Australia, Chile, New Zealand and South Korea in recent days.

"Excellent conversation today with our long-term partner, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE Special Envoy for Climate," wrote Mr Kerry on Twitter.

"I look forward to strong and productive collaboration on tech, investment, and regional leadership as we work together to ensure global action on deep decarbonisation."

Dr Al Jaber, who is Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and chairman of Abu Dhabi renewable energy company Masdar, said the UAE "welcomes the new US administration’s sharpened focus on climate change and we look forward to exploring the many potential areas of synergy with the United States, one of the UAE’s most longstanding and trusted allies".

"Over the past 15 years, the UAE has emerged as a regional champion in renewables, with investments in major projects in thirty countries around the world, including three of the largest and lowest cost solar plants here in the UAE," Dr Al Jaber said.

"We have also established regional leadership in many other clean technologies, including carbon capture utilisation and storage, and we are more than willing to share our experience and expertise with the global community. These investments will not only accelerate efforts to reach climate goals, but will also enhance economic opportunity and diversification, while creating knowledge, skills and jobs."

One of Joe Biden's first acts in office was to announce America would rejoin the Paris climate accord.

His predecessor Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement last year, arguing it came at too high a cost for the US economy.

Mr Kerry discussed America's return to the agreement with Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of climate change at the United Nations.

"We'll make up for lost years - with humility and ambition both," said Mr Kerry on Twitter in regards to the conversation.

The UAE aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions to about 240 million tonnes by 2030, down 22.5 per cent compared to the business as usual figure of 310 million tonnes, as part of its own commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Helped by better technology and tougher regulations, initiatives will promote sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency and clean energy, and cut food waste and transport emissions.

The Emirates also wants to increase capacity for carbon capture, use and storage, for which the country set up the region’s first commercial-scale network to speed up technology introduction.

Last August, The UAE's environment minister urged international leaders not to neglect the threat posed by climate change as they seek to revive economies hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Abdullah Al Nuaimi stressed the importance of safeguarding natural resources during challenging times.

"Countries around the world are currently shaping their recovery plans, and we urge them to align their post-Covid-19 economic activities with the environmental protection priority, because climate change still is the most important existential threat to humanity," he said.

"Any plans of economic recovery must factor in the green economy as its cornerstone."