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“The crunch is here,” said US special climate envoy John Kerry on Wednesday as global leaders convene in Dubai for the critical UN Cop28 climate summit, where the world will “need to step up and help get the job done at a faster rate”.
“There's too much business as usual still. We have got to bring people to the table who are not yet there. And we will make progress in that [at Cop],” Mr Kerry told a media briefing.
He said Cop28 will produce “steps forward that have not yet been articulated”.
But he warned genuine progress will be hard-won, and will require the investment of “trillions of dollars” globally.
“Not everybody is doing what they promised to do. And needless to say, that's a problem and we need to have accountability at this Cop, for that lack of follow-through by some.”
That analysis is backed-up by daunting UN reports.
A November report from the UN Climate Change body found that national climate action plans remain “insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”.
It found that much more effort is needed to avoid climate change's worst effects.
“Governments combined are taking baby steps to avert the climate crisis,” said Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of UN Climate Change.
He said the conference must be a global turning point.
Mr Kerry promised a major focus on methane, financing, shipping and deforestation.
That focus on methane and non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases is an area where Mr Kerry sees room for increased US co-operation with rival power China.
The two countries will hold a joint summit on the issue during Cop.
The US envoy said methane is responsible for 50 per cent of the global warming and “is far more damaging, far more destructive than CO2”.
“We also think it's the easiest, quickest, fastest, cheapest way to begin to get gains in against the warming,” said Mr Kerry.
Enhanced co-operation between Beijing and Washington on climate change is important as the countries are the worst carbon emitters.
On financing, Mr Kerry emphasised that there are “trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines” globally on climate investments because of risk.
But he expressed hope that Cop28 “is going to produce a pretty healthy menu of possibilities” to create financial availability, including blended and mixed finance mechanisms.
“Working with the World Bank, we anticipate much higher level of less expensive lending to take place … I think it's an exciting time with a lot of potential and the deployment of these new initiatives,” he said.
The US envoy also emphasised the importance of a “candid” and “comprehensive” global stocktake.
Cop28 is set to conclude with the first-ever global stocktake, a process for countries and stakeholders “to see where they’re collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement – and where they’re not”, according to the UN.
“It's a unique opportunity, in my judgment to rally the world to significantly step up our collective efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Mr Kerry.
“I think this global stocktake needs to earn the credibility of the world by being candid, strong, visionary, and comprehensive."