UAE - US Climate Envoys meet ahead of COP 26

The UAE and US Special Envoys for Climate met for talks in Abu Dhabi focused on leveraging climate action as an opportunity for regional and global economic growth. The United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, returned to the UAE capital on his first visit following the Leaders Summit on Climate in Washington in April to rally progress ahead of COP 26 that will be held in Glasgow in November.

UAE - US Climate Envoys meet ahead of COP 26

Sec. Kerry was greeted on his arrival by Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology. The visit is John Kerry’s second trip to Abu Dhabi since he attended the UAE Regional Climate Dialogue in April, underlining the close collaborative relationship between the US and UAE and their common approach placing climate progress at the heart of domestic and foreign policies.

During their meeting, the envoys reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, aimed at limiting global warming through assertive climate action. They noted that a comprehensive approach- including investments in renewable energy, carbon capture technologies, nature-based solutions, climate-smart agriculture, and other low-carbon solutions is not only essential in this critical decade for climate, but can also act as powerful drivers for sustainable economic growth and job creation.

Commenting on Sec. Kerry’s return to the UAE, Dr Al Jaber said, "Our wise leadership in the UAE gives high importance to strengthening cooperation with the international community in areas that support sustainable development, economic diversification, the welfare of humanity and preserving the environment. Hence, I am delighted to receive the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate, Kerry. His return to the Emirates reaffirms the unique partnership between our two countries and our shared commitment to transform climate action into an opportunity for economic development and diversification."

"Doubling down on investments in innovative new technologies and R&D will pay dividends both in terms of climate progress and economic growth, and as global economies fully recover from COVID-19, smart initiatives can put the world on a low carbon/high growth trajectory that meets the Paris goals."

The two envoys discussed progress on the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate Initiative (AIM for Climate) that the UAE announced alongside the US at the Leaders Summit on Climate in Washington in April. AIM for Climate is a global initiative currently supported by nine countries focused on increasing R&D investment and accelerating innovation into sustainable agricultural practices that can meet the needs of a growing global population with fewer environmental impacts. Recognizing that the agricultural sector accounts for nearly a quarter of global GHG emissions, several additional country partners are expected to join the initiative in the months leading up to COP26.

The US Envoy was also briefed on the latest developments in the UAE’s strategy to develop hydrogen as a zero carbon fuel. Last month, the UAE launched the first industrial scale green hydrogen project in the region that will use solar power from the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to produce hydrogen at a commercial scale. In addition, the UAE is leveraging its existing gas infrastructure to explore scaling up production of blue hydrogen. Last month a 1000 kiloton/year blue ammonia project that will be located in Abu Dhabi’s chemicals and derivatives hub in Ruwais was announced. Blue ammonia will play a key role in the supply chain of the hydrogen economy as an efficient and safe way to store and transport hydrogen.

During his visit, Sec. Kerry welcomed the UAE’s offer to host the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2023, stating, "I think it’s terrific that there’s interest. I think it’s great. I personally can see strong arguments for the UAE’s candidacy. You know it’s not my decision alone or ours alone, at all, but the UAE is obviously a very strong contender for that. I think there are many reasons for the UAE presenting a very strong case." He went on to express appreciation for the country’s leading role in the region, as well as its holistic approach to mitigate the impact of climate change.

"I think it is very important that an oil and gas producing nation is smart enough to see that investing in alternative and renewable energy does not detract from economic prosperity or from income. It actually builds additional and alternative sources. I think the leadership of the UAE is well aware that the planet has very serious problems, and the UAE is very busy looking at ways to abate and reduce and capture emissions. I think that’s one of the reasons the UAE won a seat on the UN security council, because people see the leadership of the UAE as thoughtful and wanting to contribute to global solutions to global problems."

Sec. Kerry’s comments come after the joint statement issued by the UAE and the US after the UAE regional climate dialogue in April, in which both countries committed to working together to take on the climate challenge, by focusing joint efforts on renewable energy, hydrogen, industrial de-carbonization, carbon capture and storage, nature-based solutions, and low-carbon urban design.

During his visit, Sec Kerry toured ADNOC’s Panorama Digital Command Center, where he was shown the UAE’s best in class tech-led approach to environmental responsibility within its hydrocarbon industry. Panorama uses AI, big data and blockchain to track all ADNOC’s material data, including key environmental KPIs. ADNOC’s established record as one of the least carbon intensive oil producers in the world is being enhanced by the expansion of its first in the region carbon capture utilization and storage facility.

The UAE’s multi-faceted approach to climate action cuts across innovation, climate finance and protection of natural ecosystems. As part of its multi-pronged approach to deal with climate change, the UAE has undertaken major conservation efforts that have brought indigenous endangered species, such as the Arabian Oryx and Hawksbill Turtle back from the brink of extinction. Over 140 square kilometers of mangrove forests along Abu Dhabi's coast have also been restored and 30 million more mangroves will be planted by 2030, further enhancing biodiversity while preventing coastal erosion and acting as powerful carbon sinks. These measures not only reduce the cost of climate impacts, but generate returns from improved human health, increasing quality of life and enhancing the UAE as an attractive place to live and work.