In statements released Tuesday, US Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry expressed confidence that the world’s major fossil fuel emitters will eventually decarbonize. However, President Joe Biden’s top foreign climate official has cautioned that time is running out.”
Kerry cautions that nations are running out of time to decarbonize and China is being challenged to abandon coal
Kerry stated, “I have no doubt that the wealthiest nations will eventually achieve a zero carbon or net (zero) carbon economy.” “However, I am not sure — not at all — that we will arrive in time to avert fundamentally unsettling fundamental changes in the nature of our planet, as well as the ability of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people to survive. Kerry gave his remarks virtually at a US-Japan Council event alongside Japan’s Minister of the Environment Shinjir Koizumi, according to event organizers. Kerry was in Japan on Tuesday, meeting with Koizumi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to discuss Japan’s plans to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 and decrease emissions by 46% by 2030. (relative to its 2013 levels). Following pressure from the US and other countries, Japan announced the 2030 aim in April. Biden declared in April that by the end of the decade, the US would have lowered emissions by 50-52 percent compared to 2005 levels. Kerry’s Asia talks are an important part of his ongoing climate diplomacy in the run-up to the vital UN climate conference in Glasgow in November. The most important aspect of the Glasgow negotiations will be attempting to put the world’s governments on a path to curb emissions so that global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The world’s temperature is now hovering around 1.1 degrees Celsius, and according to a recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, reaching 2 degrees or more would result in catastrophic climate repercussions. Kerry added that even if the US and Japan both went carbon neutral by “tomorrow,” “we still have a big problem,” underscoring the gravity of the climate catastrophe and the necessity for more countries to make bolder climate pledges. He pointed out that the United States and Japan are part of a group of countries that have committed to become carbon neutral by 2050, with significant reductions in the coming decade. “Fifty-five percent of global GDP is dedicated to approaches that could keep 1.5 degrees alive,” Kerry added, referring to global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. “The issue is that the remaining 45 percent has yet to arrive. China, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, and others must join us in the endeavor to use the Glasgow meeting to approve a 10-year plan.” From Wednesday to Friday, Kerry and his crew will be in China, where they will have a more difficult task. China is the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for 27% of global emissions in 2019. (the US is second at 11 percent of global emissions). China has stated that it will achieve net zero emissions by 2060 and that its emissions will peak before 2030. Kerry will meet with his Chinese colleague, Xie Zhenhua, to continue discussions aimed at persuading China to phase out coal use and commit to not building coal power plants in other countries. “To give the world a fighting chance for 1.5 degrees, China needs to accelerate its peaking timeline far earlier than 2030, ideally by 2025,” Li Shuo, a climate analyst with Greenpeace in China, told CNN. “That necessitates immediate action.” Kerry claimed China can decarbonize quicker than the United States and that the country’s large investment in renewable energy shows it can move away from coal. “China’s higher leadership must take steps that are entirely feasible,” Kerry added. “We’re not asking China to do anything she can’t. Some of it is difficult, but it is not impossible. In recent years, China has been bringing large volumes of coal-fired power online.”
Biden’s climate envoy also stated that the US must follow through on its commitments, emphasizing the importance of improving infrastructure and investing extensively in renewable energy, which he described as a “gigantic component” of the climate solution. Kerry gave a nod to a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would rebuild the US electrical grid, which is one of the President’s main goals. Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on parts of the power grid in Louisiana and Mississippi this week, knocking out power to over a million homes and businesses. “In America, we have separate grids — one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast, and one in Texas,” Kerry explained. “But there’s a great gaping hole in the middle of our country where we can’t transport a simple electron from California to New York. We’re the country that went to the moon, established the internet, and invented vaccinations. That’s ridiculous. It’s completely ridiculous.”
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