Kerry: World leaders are failing Paris goals

Source: By Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2021

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told an international group of business leaders yesterday that every nation has fallen behind in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

His comments marked the first time Kerry spoke as President Biden’s climate diplomat. He addressed the Business 20, a forum used by the global business community to inform the Group of 20, which comprises the world’s biggest economies.

“No country and no continent is getting the job done,” Kerry said.

Kerry told the group that he was speaking from a place of humility because the U.S. went through “four wasted years” without addressing climate change. This week, Biden reentered the U.S. into the nonbinding Paris accord on his first day in office, about three years after former President Trump withdrew from the agreement.

Kerry acknowledged that rejoining the pact was largely symbolic, and he said strong action is needed worldwide to zero out carbon emissions by 2050. The U.S. is responsible for roughly 15% of global CO2.

He also laid out goals for the upcoming international climate talks to be held in Scotland in November. Nations must work to phase out coal at a rate that’s five times faster than today, increase tree cover five times faster, ramp up renewable energy six times faster and transition to electric vehicles 22 times faster, he said.

Reaching net-zero global carbon emissions will require a “wholesale transformation of the global economy,” Kerry said, adding that the world would need to spend more than $1 trillion annually on clean energy investments for at least a decade to achieve that goal.

“The success of that transformation will depend in large part on leadership from the private sector, firms, investors and innovators,” he said. “The good news, it’s the economic opportunity of many lifetimes. We’re looking at an unprecedented wealth creation opportunity.”

He said it’s the responsibility of the world’s major economies to work together to reduce emissions in carbon-intensive sectors that cross international borders, including aviation, shipping and heavy industry. That will require investments in technologies to capture carbon from the atmosphere as well as power plants, he said.

Kerry also pointed to laggard nations that are racing to build coal-fired power plants, in a pointed criticism that appeared to be directed at China.

“Some countries are funding coal-fired power plants,” he said. “Some are increasing coal-fired capacity. … I’ll be blunt — we must move from the dirtier options much faster.”