John Kerry: A divided world must unite to overcome climate change

US climate envoy says war in Ukraine has created discord at a time when collective action is needed

John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, has said 'the mood is tough and everyone knows it'. Victor Besa / The National
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

US climate envoy John Kerry said climate change was the biggest threat facing the world — and called on the international community to come together to overcome the challenge.

Mr Kerry, US presidential envoy for climate, said that instead of uniting for “concentrated action together”, divisions had been caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

He called the conflict an “an inexcusable, grotesque exercise of power in the 21st century,” during a Countdown to Cop27 event at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi, part of a sustainability week staged by The Economist.

“The mood is tough and everyone knows it,” Mr Kerry said.

He said the world had its destiny in its hands and must be guided by science and not ideology when tackling climate change.

“We control it [climate change] ultimately because we are the ones who caused it,” he said.

“And now the challenge is, are we going to listen to the science and respond adequately to the things that we know we have to do?

“I will tell you bluntly. Nothing that we are proposing to do is based on politics or ideology; it is based on mathematics and physics, and science, which we all went to school to learn.”

Race against time to protect planet

Warning that the world is racing against time in mitigating climate change, he said, “We will get to a low-carbon, net-zero world. We will get there in this century. The question that is outstanding is, will we get there in time to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis?”

He took aim at Donald Trump, US president between 2017 and 2021, accusing him of damaging policies towards climate change.

“Those years were blown by a president of our country who was so ignorant about this subject and he just did nothing,” he said.

“No, he didn't do nothing. He went negative and pulled out of the Paris Agreement.”

The international treaty on climate change was adopted by nearly every nation in 2015.

But Mr Kerry struck a more optimistic note over the US push towards renewable energy.

He said that “75 per cent of new electricity in the United States of America that was coming online in the last five or six years, has all been renewables”.

Mr Kerry said big business had invested hundreds of billions of dollars to shape a more sustainable future.

“We will be electric. We are going electric by 2035. Our goal is zero carbon in our power sector, and our utilities have bought into that as they are in other parts of the world.

“So, this is a moment that is unbelievably exciting.”

Along with the energy transition, Mr Kerry said there is also an opportunity for big economic transition that “will be as big as the Industrial Revolution”.

“Every one of us needs to redo our method of delivering power to homes and businesses. And cleaning it up. Every one of us needs to figure out how we're going to transport millions of people,” he said.

But Mr Kerry said the transition to net zero and the estimated $4 trillion needed can be achieved only with the support of the private sector.

“There's barely a government in the world that has money to do this. And I've been saying for several years and I believe this very deeply. We don't get there without the private sector,” he said.

Global fight on climate change - in pictures

Updated: October 06, 2022, 2:55 PM