Kerry says rest of world ‘doomed’ unless 20 nations take climate action
President Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry says that unless the world’s top 20 worst emitters do not take “bold action” to tackle the climate crisis, the global environment will reach a point of no return.
“There are 20 countries that are responsible for about 80 percent of all the emissions in the world, and if those countries are not doing enough, the rest of the world is doomed by their actions — or lack of actions, as the case may be,” he said on Wednesday.
Kerry was addressing participants in a high-level dialogue with Latin American leaders, who gathered to express their commitments on climate action ahead of this fall’s COP-26 United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
Praising the “entrepreneurial spirit” of Latin American countries, Kerry pledged that the Biden administration would boost U.S. financial assistance for renewable energy initiatives across the Americas.
“Today, I’m able to announce that we have plans to scale up our assistance for the renewable energy for Latin America and the Caribbean — a regional effort led by President Duque of Colombia — in order to increase renewable energy capacity to at least 70 percent across the region by 2030,” Kerry said.
Arguing that many corners of the globe, including the Arctic, the Antarctic and the world’s coral reefs, have already reached a “tipping point” that is “irreversible,” Kerry called for countries not only to make pledges, but also “to accelerate the implementation of those actions.”
“This is the moment,” he said. “We need the major economies, the 20 nations that constitute the 80 percent, to step up, and we need to lay out clear plans for what we will do.”
According to the intergovernmental International Energy Agency, the top 20 emitters as of 2018 were China, the U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and France.
Looking back at the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris, Kerry argued that country commitments to hold the temperature increase “well below 2 degrees” are inadequate and that 1.5 degrees must be the target. Nonetheless, he continued, only 55 percent of global economies have committed to taking measures that would help facilitate this goal at Biden’s Leaders’ Climate Summit in April, he said.
“If we do not do enough, between 2020 and 2030, then 1.5 degrees is dead, gone — that will happen; even 2 degrees will happen,” Kerry added. “And currently, as we’re talking today, we are regrettably on course to hit somewhere between 3, 4 degrees at the current rate.”
Even if each country met the individual commitments made in the Obama-era Paris climate accord, he explained, the temperature increase would “still be well over 3 degrees.” And while Kerry acknowledged that these circumstances are not due to any country’s malintent, he emphasized the pressing need to move beyond what countries are “willing to do.”
“We have to do what we must do, what we have to do, in order to achieve our goal,” Kerry said. “And it is only by doing that that we can meet the goal of 2030, which sets us on the path to achieve the net zero by 2050.”
“It is not a matter of politics, it is not a matter of ideology — it is simple mathematics and physics,” he added.
Kerry praised his Latin American colleagues for their leadership in pushing climate initiatives forward, encouraging the global responsibility “to harness every bit of entrepreneurial spirit in order to accelerate the net zero transition.” Doing so, he continued, will create millions of jobs and enhance prosperity in all of the Americas.
The Biden administration will not only be scaling up investments in Latin American and Caribbean renewable energy projects, but it will also be mobilizing public finance to help reduce emissions from forests and restore ecosystems in the region, according to Kerry.
The administration, he explained, is working with six major U.S. banks that have collectively promised an investment floor of $4.16 trillion in global climate adaptation efforts over the next decade. These funds will supplement those of asset managers, private investors and philanthropists, he added.
“We have the ability to put finance on the table,” Kerry said. “What we need is the political decisions made in order to make this happen.”
With such partnership, Kerry continued, will also come scientific knowledge exchanges and enhanced resilience — creating “a hemispheric powerhouse of innovation and implementation, which can serve the interests of the entire planet.”