Toxic Ukraine war politics hits climate progress, says John Kerry

Welcome to 'Ukovinpol' — a heady fusion of the Ukraine war, Covid-19, inflation and ugly politics

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry at the Doha Forum. EPA

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has damaged prospects for keeping global warming within safe limits, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said on Wednesday.

In an address to a US think tank, Mr Kerry said Russia and China were not doing enough to scrap dirty fuels like coal and oil, hurting efforts to hold global warming at less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“The differences of opinion between our countries have been hardened, and sharpened, and that makes the diplomacy more complicated,” Mr Kerry said at an online event hosted by the Washington-based Centre for Global Development.

“If climate becomes one of the tools, one of the weapons in the bilateral back-and-forth, we’re cooked. We’re in serious trouble.”

Mr Kerry has coined a phrase to describe the crises undercutting global co-operation in 2022 — “Ukovinpol” — referring to the Ukraine war, the coronavirus pandemic, runaway inflation and the political gridlock they create.

“You put the four of those ingredients together, and it's not a good mix to be able to move forward,” said Mr Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has been widely regarded as a turning point in international relations, undermining faith in security while reinforcing ties between Moscow and Beijing and among western allies.

This shift makes it harder for the industrialised world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitters — China, the US, India, Russia and the European Union — to agree on targets for cutting pollution from planet-warming gases, Mr Kerry said.

“We have China and Russia and other countries that are not reducing their footprints sufficiently and don't have plans to [do so] over the next 20 and 30 years,” he said.

“That's a serious, serious problem, because that undoes all the efforts of other countries.”

Mr Kerry’s comments followed a report this month from the UN’s climate science panel, which found that emissions are still rising, putting the world at risk of runaway temperature rises and more frequent storms, fires and other heavy weather.

According to the study, governments have expanded use of renewable energy and made improvements in energy efficiency, but not fast enough to counteract emissions from growing industrial activity and population growth.

A US government report on Tuesday found that the Biden administration needed more staff and less administrative red tape to keep pace with the creation of wind and solar renewable energy projects on federal land.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 4:13 PM
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