John Kerry strikes upbeat tone on progress at Cop26 talks

US envoy says Paris climate goals are within reach thanks to agreements in Glasgow

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US climate envoy John Kerry struck an upbeat tone on Wednesday on the state of the Cop26 talks, which he said had made significant progress towards slowing global warming.

Mr Kerry said the target of keeping temperature rises below 2°C was within reach thanks to agreements in the first three days in Glasgow.

He gave the UAE and Saudi Arabia as examples of oil-producing countries that were “setting ambitious goals and saying they’re going to get this done”.

Earlier, he met Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE's special envoy for climate change and Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology.

They spoke on a panel with US billionaire Bill Gates and other guests, and “discussed the importance of inclusive, sustainable climate investments”, his office said.

The third day of Cop26 was dedicated to finance and opened the door for $130 trillion in investments from the private sector.

It came after two days of talks between world leaders ended with promises to cut methane emissions and curb deforestation.

US President Joe Biden gave a mixed verdict on the summit on Tuesday, saying it was hampered by Russia and China’s absence, while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “still a very long way to go”.

But on the sidelines of the talks, Mr Kerry said they were progressing better than at previous summits such as Kyoto in 1997 or Paris in 2015.

“There's a different energy here, there's a different level of commitment,” said Mr Kerry, who was appointed by Mr Biden in January.

“We've never had the private sector on the table in the way we do now. We've never had the sense of urgency being stated by leader after leader.”

Paris target can be met if pledges kept

Mr Kerry said he was shown a chart on Wednesday which suggested that global warming would be kept below 2°C if all national pledges were enacted.

“I was stunned when I saw that,” he said. “That’s what the modelling shows — and that’s the second day into this Cop.”

The Paris Agreement calls for warming to be kept below 2°C, or preferably to 1.5°C, above pre-industrial temperatures.

Scientists say the extra half a degree would have drastic consequences, making disasters such as floods and droughts far more likely.

This would have particularly severe effects in many developing countries who are looking to the rich world to help them adapt to climate change.

Wealthy nations failed to meet a promise to arrange $100 billion in annual funding by 2020, with the deadline now pushed back to 2023.

The finance talks on Wednesday resulted in governments promising to increase public funding while looking to private investors to provide much of the firepower.

A coalition of investors, led by Mark Carney, the former head of the UK's central bank, is promising to use its combined $130tn assets to help meet the Paris goals.

Global climate finance at record level

Norway promised to treble its funding for climate adaptation, while Japan and Australia will double theirs.

Alok Sharma, the summit president, said there was “more public and private finance for climate action than ever before”.

“I am delighted that work is under way to mobilise finance into developing countries to help with their energy transition,” he said.

“Countries are telling us what they need, now global finance needs to respond.”

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the pledges would help “move the billions to the trillions” in global finance.

“There is the money. We need to mobilise it for climate. We need to put it at the service of this,” she said.

The summit’s focus will shift to clean energy on Thursday. Other areas such as transport, cities and regions will take centre stage later in the 12-day talks.

Mr Kerry said cities and regions had a major role to play in enacting the promises made in Glasgow.

Once Cop26 is over, his negotiating team will morph into a “hand-holding agency” to help local authorities put green policies into practice, he said.

He praised US states that had continued green initiatives during the administration of former president Donald Trump, who pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement. Mr Biden reversed this on his first day in office.

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Updated: November 04, 2021, 8:22 AM