John Kerry changes optimistic tone on Cop26 and admits Glasgow may not hit target

‘It would be wonderful if everybody came and everybody hit the 1.5 degrees mark now’

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 14 October 2021 16:46 BST
Climate Change: COP26 might change our world

With two weeks to go until the UN Climate Conference kicks off in Glasgow, US climate envoy John Kerry the global confab may end without meeting the global target for cutting fossil fuel emissions.

Mr Kerry, who spoke to the Associated Press for an interview on Wednesday, noted that many US allies — including the EU and Japan — have made ambitious pledges to hasten their cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in response to entreaties from him and other Biden administration officials.

Yet the former secretary of state stopped short of predicting that the world’s leaders would agree on a global plan of action to halt climate change.

“By the time Glasgow’s over, we’re going to know who is doing their fair share, and who isn’t,” he said, acknowledging that some countries aren’t yet able to commit as much as they should.

“It would be wonderful if everybody came and everybody hit the 1.5 degrees mark now,” he said. “That would be terrific. But some countries just don’t have the energy mix yet that allows them to do that.”

Mr Kerry has been engaged in a months-long effort to shore up support for a global shift away from burning fossil fuels, which scientists say are responsible for an increasing global temperature and more severe and unpredictable weather events.

He has called the Glasgow summit “the last, best chance” for world leaders to build support for global emissions cuts and provide assistance to poorer countries looking to end dependence on coal and oil, all towards a goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 Celsius).

One potential stumbling block for Mr Kerry’s efforts at persuasion is Congress’s failure to pass the climate-related parts of President Joe Biden’s ambitious infrastructure legislation.

He told the AP that not doing so would be a blow to US leadership akin to America’s 2017 exit from the Paris Climate Accords.

“It would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again,” Mr Kerry said during an interview with the Associated Press in his State Department office.

He added that the administration’s difficulty in fulfilling Mr Biden’s promise of better climate policy “hurts”.

“I’m not going to pretend it’s the best way to send the best message. I mean, we need to do these things,” he said, adding later that he believes Congress will “act responsibly” by passing some version of climate legislation.

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