US willing to work with China on climate crisis, John Kerry says

The US is working with the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitting nations to hold a summit in April

FILE PHOTO: U.S. climate envoy John Kerry speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2021.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
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The US is willing to work with China and other major greenhouse gas emitting nations to tackle climate challenges and reduce the level of emissions much quickly.

The world's largest oil and gas producer aims to set up a separate track with China to co-operate on climate change - one that will not be affected by trade tensions that have marred relations between the world’s two biggest economies, US special presidential envoy on climate, John Kerry told CeraWeek on Tuesday evening.

“It is a compelling moment with respect to relations with China” Mr Kerry told the online global energy summit that has brought ministers, energy executives and policymakers together to discuss climate challenges and green energy transition.

Significant competition issues persist and “will exist” between the two nations, but “climate crisis is not something that can fall victim to those other concerns and contests”, Mr Kerry said.

“We will engage with China, we will be pursuing a track on climate that does not get confused by the other items.”

China is responsible for 30 per cent of all emissions, and together with the US and the European Union as a bloc, the three entities account for more than 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

“There’s no solving this by any one country alone. You have to have China on the table,” Mr Kerry, a former US Secretary of State and one of the main architects of Paris Climate Agreement, said. “There will be no other choices if we do not deal with this one correctly.”

Mr Kerry took up the special envoy's role after President Joe Biden took oath of office in January. The new US president signed an executive order, paving the country's return to the Paris Agreement – a global deal to cut carbon emissions and halt temperature rises – just hours after his inauguration, effectively reversing his predecessor Donald Trump's decision to pull out in 2017. It formally re-entered the pact a month later.

Mr Biden also reversed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, the controversial project with Canada, making good on his campaign promise and signalling the country's willingness to re-engage in addressing climate issues.

The US is now trying to bring major emitting nations including China, India, Russia and Japan to the table and push them to raise their climate goals, Mr Kerry said.

It plans a online summit of these nations on April 22 and it is “already talking to them about this”, he said.

“We will be asking all these nations to raise their ambitions as we go to Glasgow [for global climate summit]. We are way behind.”

The US is currently working on redesigning its own “National Defined Contribution (NDC), its climate goals ad roadmap to achieve them, which the country plans to announce at the summit, he said.

“It will have to be aggressive because we are behind,” he said.

The US, Mr Kerry said, is also willing to work with India in order to accelerate its transition to clean energy. Asia’s third-largest economy has a goal of producing 450 Gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030.

“It’s a great goal but they need about $600bn to be able to make that kind of a transition. Finances is perhaps one of the biggest challenges when it comes to India,” he said.

“I’ve put together a small consortium of a number of countries that are prepared to help India with some of the finance in transition. I have been working with major investment houses and asset managers in our country to try to determine how much private sector capital can be directed … so we can make this transition faster.”

The fossil fuel industry globally also needs to do a lot more to transition into a full fledged energy industry and embrace some of the new technologies, he said, adding that there are prediction that by 2050, about 6$ trillion a year of economic transfer will take place in the clean energy technology sector.

“It’s just the market of the future,” he said. “You have seen a massive allocation of $500bn allocated to wind, solar, clear transportation [sectors] and there is no sign it is going to stop.”

The market, he said, is changing as consumers are spending and buying differently and they are demanding a change.

“If you are the chieftain of an oil and gas company, you can’t help but read the tea leaves of the spreadsheet to see what’s coming … where the market is going,” he said.