John Kerry: Ukraine conflict cannot be a distraction from climate change action

US climate envoy says global warming is a fight the whole world must join in, regardless of political differences

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, right, and the US climate envoy John Kerry hold a joint press conference in Cairo on Monday. AFP

Tackling climate change necessitated a faster response, despite the world’s current preoccupation with Russia and Ukraine, US climate envoy John Kerry said on Monday.

“This (climate change) is an issue beyond politics, beyond ideology, this is an issue that affects the whole world at large,” Mr Kerry said during a speech at the American University in Cairo to start Egypt’s preparations for hosting the next edition of the UN Climate Change Conference.

Cop27 will be held in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh in November.

Mr Kerry said educating the youth, mobilising the private sector and ensuring a steady flow of finances were vital parts of the fight against climate change.

Mr Kerry’s speech at AUC followed his meetings with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry earlier in the day. It was also attended by the country’s international co-operation minister Rania Al Mashat and former secretary general of the Arab League Amr Moussa.

The US diplomat praised the university’s ongoing efforts to encourage more of its students to shift their focus to fields related to climate change, which, according to him, were becoming more and more lucrative as scientists, thinkers and businessmen all over the world continued to innovate new solutions to mitigate it.

Mr Kerry, who served as secretary of state in the Obama administration, also lauded AUC’s position as the first educational institution in the region to begin measuring and documenting its country’s carbon footprint.

He also stressed the importance of mobilising the private sector worldwide and ensuring that it continues developing its future business strategies with climate change as a focal point.

Finances are also going to play a central role in implementing the mitigation strategies which came out of Cop26, held in Glasgow last year, said Mr Kerry, highlighting a long list of international companies in various fields which have begun producing greener products and services without reducing their profits.

He underscored the importance of getting countries to implement the environmental pledges that came out of Cop26, highlighting the need to ensure a steady flow of capital from developed countries to help less developed countries in their efforts to combat climate change.

A joint US-Egypt statement following Mr Kerry’s meeting with Mr El Sisi highlighted the importance of intensifying global efforts to mitigate all aspects of the climate change agenda.

The statement highlighted the need to keep the temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius, and to then step up efforts to bring it lower than 1.5 degrees.

Mr Kerry’s visit also marked the launch of the US-Egypt Climate Working Group, a bilateral task force which will focus on ensuring Cop27 is a success.

Through Mr Kerry, the Biden administration expressed its confidence in Egypt as the incoming president of Cop27.

Without taking names, he said it was important that some countries joined the ongoing efforts against climate change and pledged themselves to the Cop26 commitments.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 9:39 AM