The AP Interview: Kerry says climate talks may miss target

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US climate envoy John Kerry is dashing hopes for a UN climate summit, which is sometimes billed as a make-or-break for Earth’s future, conceding that next month’s talks would potentially end up with nations falling short of coal and petroleum emissions reduction targets. To stop the increasingly catastrophic level of global warming.

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But in an interview with The Associated Press, Kerry called the efforts of the United States, the European Union, Japan and other allies to bring the world closer to the scale of larger, faster fossil fuel cuts ahead of next month’s climate talks in Glasgow Scotland. credited for. the wanted. He hoped that enough nations would join in the next few years. “By the time Glasgow is over, we’re going to know who’s doing their fair share, and who isn’t,” he said.

Kerry also talked about the implications if the US Congress – under a slim Democratic majority – fails to pass legislation calling for significant action on climate by the United States, as the Biden administration aims to gain leadership on climate action. . “It will be as if President Trump is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement again,” Kerry said.


Kerry spoke to the AP on Wednesday from his office at the State Department in a conference room down the hall, with its upper aisles still shrouded in people in the coronavirus pandemic. Kerry’s remarks come after nine months of intense climate diplomacy by plane, phone and computer screen aimed at undermining most global commitments to climate action ahead of the UN climate summit, which opens on October 31 in Scotland .

Kerry plans final stops in Mexico and Saudi Arabia, where he hopes to make new, last-minute climate pledges ahead of the summit, before settling in Glasgow for two weeks of talks.

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Kerry’s efforts abroad, along with President Joe Biden’s multi-billion-dollar promises for cleaner-burning energy at home, come after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

Kerry rejected a suggestion he was seeking to lower hopes for the summit, which became a deadline – but not the last, leaders have begun to insist – for countries to announce that To show how hard they will work to change their economies from pollution to cleaner-burning. Kerry and others billed the Glasgow summit as “the last, best chance” to cut emissions, invest in renewable energy, and allow less-wealthy countries to switch from dirty-burning coal and petroleum. To limit warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) in time.

The world has already warmed by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the world’s countries set that target in Paris in 2015. Scientists have warned that the damage is irreversible and is headed for frightening levels in the absence of major reductions in emissions.

When it comes to closing the gap between the cuts made by countries and the cuts needed, “we expect that we’ll get pretty close to that… although there will be a gap and … we have to be honest about the gap.” Will, and we have to use the gap as further motivation to continue “as fast as we can,” Kerry said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, putting money into developing cleaner technology like battery storage would fuel advances that would make it easier for backward countries to catch up, he argued.

Briefing reporters separately on Wednesday, a senior UN official said international leaders often spoke with less enthusiasm than Glasgow’s expected achievements. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, the official left the door open that nothing could be done until the end of Glasgow climate talks to achieve the international target of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030. Is. The official stressed that the Paris Agreement allows countries to submit strong pledges at any time.

Crucially, Kerry’s repeated visits to China and diplomatic efforts from other countries have so far failed to garner public promises of rapid emissions cuts from that major climate player. China’s enthusiasm for coal-fired power plants helps make it the world’s biggest climate polluter by far. China, under President Xi Jinping, shows no interest in being seen as following the US lead on climate or anything else.

Kerry declined to name China as a reason why Glasgow may not be such a huge success – although surprise announcements by China remain a possibility.

“It would be great if everyone came and everyone got to the 1.5-degree mark,” he said. “That would be awesome. But some countries don’t yet have the energy mix that allows them to do that.”

For Biden at home, it’s the lawmaker mix that’s the problem. The holdouts so far of the president’s own party are blocking the administration’s multibillion-dollar climate legislation that is needed to make good on US climate promises of support for clean energy.

Asked how the administration’s troubles in delivering on its own climate promises affect their work on climate action abroad, Kerry said, “Well, it hurts.”

“I’m not going to pretend this is the best way to send the best message. I mean, we need to do these things,” he said.

Kerry said he expected Congress to move forward. “I don’t know what size it will be…or in what law, but I believe we are going to act responsibly”, he said.


Seth Borenstein contributed from Washington

Credit: / John Kerry

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