John Kerry, US climate envoy, tells major polluters ‘we all need to act faster’
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WASHINGTON — John Kerry, President Biden’s global climate envoy, warned nations Thursday that the world was “not on track” to meet his goal of moving away from fossil fuels to avoid climate change. most dangerous consequences of climate change.
In a virtual meeting of the world’s most polluting countries – including China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – Mr Kerry asked ministers to outline what their governments are doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and follow through on promises made at a UN climate summit last year in Glasgow.
The meeting was the first gathering since the Glasgow conference of leaders from major economies as well as small island nations and other countries particularly vulnerable to climate change. Although just over two months have passed since the meeting, Mr Kerry said change was not happening fast enough.
“One thing is clear: we all need to move faster in this decade to accelerate the transition from coal to renewables,” Kerry said in a statement after the closed-door meeting.
He was more direct at an event sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce this week.
“We have problems. I hope everyone can understand that,” Mr. Kerry said. “No problem that we can’t get out of. But we’re not on the right track.
Nations have pledged to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. This is the threshold beyond which scientists say the dangers of devastating sea level rise, heat waves, drought and wildfires increase dramatically. The world has already warmed by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Mr Kerry noted in a statement that the world used 9% more coal last year than in 2020, and that nearly 300 gigawatts of new coal-fired power are being built. It comes at a time when the International Energy Agency has said countries need to shut down at least 870 gigawatts of coal over the next eight years to have any hope of keeping global temperatures at bay.
“Far from building new factories, we need to close existing factories,” Mr. Kerry said.
Few countries have policies in place to achieve their individual climate goals. The United States did not.
Mr Biden has promised to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. Legislation essential to achieving this goal, however, is stalled in Congress.
Questions remain over a promise at the heart of the Glasgow Accord: Countries agreed to spend this year developing new climate targets to more aggressively cut emissions.
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But there are discouraging signs. The United States should not come up with new targets, Kerry said. Neither does Australia, even though it is considered a climate laggard.
On Thursday, Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s environment minister, said his country would not submit a new target. Guilbeault said Canada raised its ambition ahead of the Glasgow summit, pledging to cut emissions 40-45% below 2005 levels within this decade.
“I’m not saying it doesn’t apply to us and we’re closing the door on the possibility of increasing our targets even further,” Guilbeault said. But the government is focused on achieving the goals it has already set, he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested this week that he would not cut emissions at the expense of other priorities such as food and energy security “to ensure the normal lives of the masses”. China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
At Thursday’s meeting, countries discussed working together to reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas that seeps into the atmosphere from oil and gas wells, and set collective goals. concerning electric vehicles and green energy from wind, solar or other sources.
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