Kerry teases coming announcements to finance climate change policy in developing nations

GLASGOW, Scotland — Speaking during and immediately after a meeting of the High Ambition Coalition, a group of roughly 60 countries that advocate for the strongest possible policies to address climate change at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry hinted Tuesday that major announcements on climate finance are in the offing.

“A hundred billion dollars doesn’t do it, folks,” Kerry said to a gaggle of press following the meeting at the conference, also known as COP26. He was referring to the promise of $100 billion per year in financing for adapting to and mitigating climate change for developing countries, made by developed countries at the last major round of climate negotiations, in Paris in 2015. “It’s trillions of dollars that are needed. And the only way that we will get this done is if trillions of dollars are forthcoming. And they are. Tomorrow there will be an announcement. I’m not going to jump the announcement, but there are tens of trillions of dollars announced that are available to be invested in this transition.”

By “get this done,” Kerry means reaching an agreement in Glasgow during the next two weeks that will commit all countries to steep enough cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to ensure the world doesn’t tip over into catastrophic climate change. Until now, the lack of adequate financing to rapidly develop the economies of poor countries without resorting to using fossil fuels — the “transition” Kerry referred to — has been a major sticking point in negotiations. Large developing nations like India have shied away from making firm commitments to near-term emissions targets because of this.

U.S. climate adviser John Kerry speaks to the media in the hallway at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday. (David Knowles/Yahoo News)

It’s unclear who will provide the tens of trillions of dollars Kerry mentioned, but reading the tea leaves — especially his reference to investment — it sounds like the private sector will play a major role, providing loans as opposed to grants.

“Let me give you an example,” Kerry said when asked by Yahoo News who would be providing the funds. “My office worked with the six largest banks in America — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, State Street, Bank of America and JPMorgan — they publicly stood up a number of months ago, it wasn’t much noticed, and they announced that they will, over the next 10 years, they will invest $4.1 trillion.”

During his prepared remarks at the meeting, Kerry began by lauding the progress that has already been made on reaching the $100 billion goal. That money was supposed to materialize by 2020, but it hasn’t been fully funded so far.

“People have stepped up significantly,” he said. “President Biden, as you know, announced at the U.N. that there would be an $11.4 billion additional commitment from the United States, a doubling of our doubling that he already did at the summit in April. And that has created further commitments. So according to the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development], the ’22 year, next year, is somewhere in the vicinity of $95 [billion] to $98 billion. When I was in school, a 98, if you got that on a test, it’s pretty good.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry delivers a speech as part of the World Leaders' Summit of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday.
Kerry speaking at the U.N. climate summit on Tuesday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“But, nevertheless, we want to close it out,” he added. “And I believe that in the next hours, the next days, there is still space where I believe announcements will be made that will take it over $100 billion.”

The United States just rejoined the High Ambition Coalition after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the group, which at Tuesday’s meeting Kerry said he “regret[ted].” He praised the group for successfully pushing for more aggressive action to combat climate change in Paris and in the run-up to COP26.

“How many of you would have thought six months ago or nine months ago that achieving 1.5 degrees from certain countries would be possible?” Kerry said. “Or that guaranteeing that we would have a ban on the funding of coal externally? That was achieved. Critical steps have been taken and will be taken in the next days and hours. And I think that means unprecedented ambition will be summoned here in Glasgow. Will it be sufficient from all countries to guarantee that we get there? No. Should it be? Yes.”

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