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Capitol Report: John Kerry: Glasgow climate meeting is ‘last, best hope’ for big nations to make a difference

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The U.S. announcement to slash by half the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, similar pledges by other global giants — and the foot-dragging by still others — all position November’s U.N. climate meeting as the “last, best hope” for the world’s biggest polluters to take action.

That’s the view of John Kerry, special envoy on climate, speaking Thursday afternoon as part of President Biden’s Earth Day climate summit of 40 world leaders.

Read: Biden pledges to cut U.S. greenhouse gases 50% by 2030 — with major implications for oil and gas sector


Glasgow’s U.N. climate meeting is ‘last, best hope’ to move the needle on climate change.


— John Kerry

The November meeting, known as COP-26, and taking place in Glasgow, is when and where Kerry and other leaders hope to reach critical mass in lasting, verifiable action from at least the 20 largest economies responsible for more than 80% of global emissions.

Kerry sited a “big chunk of difference” in policy between now and January 19, or the end of the Trump presidency. The former president had pulled the U.S. from the multinational Paris climate accord based on what that administration believed was an unfair expectation for the U.S. compared to emissions actions by China, India and Brazil.

“I am not sanguine. The next six months [before Glasgow] is critical,” Kerry said. “We must all raise our ambition.”

China, the globe’s largest polluter ahead of the U.S., has made an informal pledge to work closer with Kerry and on Thursday pledged eventual coal reduction.

Less forthcoming at the Earth Day gathering were actions by Russia, which dominates in natural gas
NG00,
+2.15%

production and use, and Brazil, which expressed an understanding of the task at hand but was also critical of the U.S. emissions history.

Kerry was pressed by reporters on his expectations from these countries and whether cooperation was likely.

“I think if enough countries are on board, they will be too,” Kerry said. It’s a matter of “follow-through” on any pledges for pollution reduction, he said, the reporting and measuring of which will be less reliant on the emitters themselves and increasingly logged by real-time tracking at an international level.

Read: Greta Thunberg on U.S. eliminating fossil-fuel crutch: ‘I don’t believe you’ll actually do this’

Kerry was also asked about Republican cooperation, and tried for some of the “market-based solution” language that many GOP lawmakers usually assign to climate-change discussions.

Biden and the Democrats enjoy a narrow advantage in Congress as they move forward infrastructure proposals and other mechanisms for energy
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+0.44%

 and climate policy. Kerry repeated Thursday the administration’s push toward issuing executive orders to enact the climate policies it believes might not see daylight on Capitol Hill.


‘No politician can change what the market is doing. The world is moving and the market is moving.’


— John Kerry

“Tesla
TSLA,
-3.28%

is the highest valued car company in the world — why? That’s a signal. That’s the market signaling this is where we are,” he said, adding that the shift to a more dominant market share for electric vehicles at General Motors
GM,
-1.44%

and Ford
F,
+1.79%

is the choice of these companies who anticipate changing buying habits.

Republicans have expressed concern for climate-related costs, the impact on traditional energy-sector jobs and conflicting signs from China and other big emitters that they are doing enough to clean the air. Some GOP lawmakers also worry that proposed financial-sector climate regulations will choke off financing for the U.S. energy sector just as nation has secured energy independence.

“No politician can change what the market is doing,” Kerry responded. “The world is moving and the market is moving. This is an investment, not a throwaway move, toward more efficiently delivered energy, toward employment opportunities.”

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