US climate envoy John Kerry to visit Abu Dhabi for key regional talks

Kerry to attend UAE meeting to prepare for Cop26 on first trip to the Middle East as envoy

John Kerry disembarks from a plane in Abu Dhabi in November 2015 when he was US Secretary of State. EPA
John Kerry disembarks from a plane in Abu Dhabi in November 2015 when he was US Secretary of State. EPA

The US special envoy on climate John Kerry is to visit the UAE next week.

On Sunday, Mr Kerry will attend high-level discussions on advancing global action to halt climate change at the GCC and Mena Regional Dialogue For Climate Action in Abu Dhabi.

This is his 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.

Mr Kerry's visit to the UAE comes during a critical year in the global fight to halt rising temperatures. A major international climate meeting convened by Mr Biden takes place this month, while the Cop26 climate change summit is to be staged in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

The UAE Regional Dialogue will include Cop26 President Alok Sharma, together with high-level representatives from the GCC and Mena region, the UAE's state news agency Wam reported on Thursday.

The meeting will allow participants to exchange experiences in their responses to climate change and build momentum for increased global ambitions.

Wam reported that the meeting will enable the US and the Mena region to examine new areas of collaboration in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation, with the aim of transforming the climate challenge into an economic opportunity.

John Kerry, US special envoy for climate, is heading to the UAE. Evan Vucci / AP
John Kerry, US special envoy for climate, is heading to the UAE. Evan Vucci / AP

Core themes will include accelerating the deployment of renewable energy solutions, exploring the potential of new zero-carbon energy sources, such as green and blue hydrogen, maximising the impact of technologies, such as carbon capture, and reducing the carbon emission intensity of hydrocarbon fuels.

Cop26 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 warned the world faces increases of more than 1.5°C within 10 years if countries fail to act.

The UAE was the first Gulf country to sign up to the Paris climate accords.

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, a former British minister who continues to serve in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Cabinet.

In advance of the talks in the UAE on Sunday, Mr Sharma said: "It is vitally important that the world works together to tackle climate change. That means countries coming forward with net zero targets and near-term emissions reduction targets that keep 1.5 degrees within reach. The transition to a clean economy is one which can benefit us all: through creating jobs, spurring sustainable development, and cleaning our air.

"We are already beginning to see progress and countries in the Mena region are well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities of this transition. However, the consequences of climate change are already being felt across the region, and the UK will use its Cop26 presidency to build momentum on adaptation to help to keep countries, communities and people safe from the impacts of climate change."

John Kerry meeting Alok Sharma in London last month. Alok Sharma/Twitter
US climate change envoy John Kerry meets with Cop26 organiser Alok Sharma in London. Alok Sharma/Twitter

Mr Kerry has held talks with Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE's special envoy for climate change.

The meeting came just days after the former US secretary of state took up the role.

"Excellent conversation today with our long-term partner, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE special envoy for climate," said Mr Kerry.

"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."

In comments reported on Thursday by Wam, Dr Sultan said: "We look forward to welcoming special envoy Kerry and Cop26 President Alok Sharma, along with ministers and high level representatives of the key economies of the GCC and Mena region to Abu Dhabi for this important dialogue. The UAE has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to progressive climate action and sought to promote sustainable development throughout the region.

"By coming together for this dialogue, I believe we can create greater momentum for progress. The UAE views climate action as an opportunity for economic development, while contributing practical solutions to a global problem that affects us all. As the world seeks new pathways to ‘building back better’ in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, special envoy Kerry’s visit will help consolidate efforts on smart sustainable solutions with tangible benefits for the global community.

"We are already seeing great examples of climate leadership throughout our region, including the recently announced initiative by our brotherly neighbours in Saudi Arabia. The Regional Climate Dialogue will provide a constructive platform for the Mena region to unite around progressive, practical solutions that can help the world reach global climate goals, while also fostering innovation for sustainable growth."

Emissions fell worldwide last year as many countries implemented Covid-19 lockdowns. But experts predict the reductions won’t last. Cop26 was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, the UAE's Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said international collaboration was important for talks to succeed and the UAE was dedicated to accelerating its transition to a green economy as part of its Covid-19 recovery plans.

The UAE has set out targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The country aims to cut emissions by nearly a quarter by 2030, compared to “business as usual”, which does not take into account the latest commitments.

The dialogue in Abu Dhabi will also consider policies for adaptation to the impacts of accelerating climate change trends that are of particular concern to the region, such as food and water security, desertification mitigation and environmental conservation, Wam reported.

Updated: April 2, 2021 08:19 AM

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