Countries must come together to raise ambition at climate talks – John Kerry

Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
·4-min read

Countries have to come together to raise their ambition on tackling climate change at a key UN summit in Glasgow in November, US climate envoy John Kerry has said.

Mr Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate under new US president Joe Biden, said that all “nations have to raise their sights together or we all fail together” at the talks which aim to prevent dangerous climate change.

In a stark message, he warned the world had to cut emissions in half by 2030 to prevent temperatures rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, above which the worst impacts of global warming will be felt.

That would require massively ramping up a coal phase-out, take-up of electric vehicles, renewable energy and forest cover.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum virtual Davos event on mobilising action on climate change, Mr Kerry said it was achievable but not without greater political will, tapping the energy of the market place and using the private sector to help financial institutions mobilise the trillions of dollars needed.

He highlighted the actions Mr Biden had taken on climate since taking power last week, starting with re-joining the global Paris Agreement, and the president’s plans to host a leaders’ summit on the issue on April 22.

Under the Paris accord, which Donald Trump took the US out of when he was president, countries committed to curb global temperature rises to well below 2C and pursue efforts to keep to the 1.5C limit.

But actions and plans so far under the Paris Agreement leave the world well off track to prevent dangerous climate change, even though a number of countries have pledged to cut their emissions to “net zero” by 2050.

Mr Kerry said Mr Biden is “totally committed to this fight”, and acknowledged the US was re-entering the international climate effort with “humility, because we know we’ve wasted four years in which we were inexcusably absent”.

But Mr Kerry also said the US administration was re-entering with ambition, although he did not give details of American plans for cutting emissions over the next decade.

He said: “Our goal in Glasgow is to see all major emitting countries together raise ambition, to not be content with goals 30 years from now, but to lay out roadmaps with benchmarks starting this year, to acknowledge gaps where they exist, but to show how we get there.”

He said Glasgow was the “last best chance” to summon the kind of response that was needed across all different sectors, adding: “Let’s make Glasgow what the world wants it to be, which is the roadmap to achieve what we need to achieve.”

Alok Sharma, who is president of the Cop26 Glasgow talks, said it was a critical year for climate.

“At the end of the day, we are in a fight for the very survival of our planet, for humanity, for nature, for biodiversity.”

Mr Sharma said plans for what countries were going to do by 2030 were “absolutely vital” on the pathway for cutting emissions to net zero – with steep cuts to emissions and any remaining pollution offset by measures such as planting trees – by 2050, which is required to meet the 1.5C goal.

He said countries had made progress at a virtual climate ambition summit in December, with a number coming forward with concrete actions and commitments to tackle the problem.

“But there is still a lot to do and the hard miles are very much ahead of us,” he said, adding that he wanted to see countries come forward with ambitions and concrete plans up to 2030.