WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US climate envoy John Kerry said on Wednesday (Dec 1) that big greenhouse gas emitting countries like China, India, Russia and others must move faster to help the world avert the worst impacts of global warming.
Pledges by governments to cut carbon dioxide and methane emissions are currently insufficient to limit global warming to an international target of 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels this century, he said.
“And that means you have China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, a group of countries that are going to have to step up,” Kerry said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference. “And we have to help them. This is not just unloaded responsibility on them.”
Kerry said Washington was engaging with some of these developing countries to help them accelerate a transition to cleaner forms of energy and reduce emissions.
He pointed to US support for India’s clean energy initiatives, as well as a joint agreement the United States secured with China, the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter, last month in which Beijing committed to accelerating emissions cuts.
Developing nations have been resisting calls to rapidly phase-out fossil fuels such as coal, arguing they are still needed for economic growth.
These governments say they lack the financial support required to transition to cleaner energy. And they point out that wealthy nations responsible for the bulk of historical emissions have been able to rely on these high-carbon fuels for more than a century.
Kerry told Reuters that private investment in clean-energy technologies – including green hydrogen, long-term battery storage, modular nuclear reactors and carbon capture – was also crucial to addressing climate change.
“No government on the planet has enough money to effect this transition … But, the private sector does have that money. I believe the private sector has the ability to win this battle for us,” he said.
He said companies that are first to the market with technological breakthroughs should be able to benefit financially through patents.
Intellectual property has been a controversial issue for developing nations keen to keep down the costs of transitioning from fossil fuels.
World governments agreed last month during a climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to revisit their national emission-cutting pledges in 2022 to help ensure the world can meet the 1.5 deg C target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Scientists have warned crossing that threshold could unleash catastrophic climate impacts from sea level rise to more frequent powerful storms, droughts and floods.
Kerry said he was worried whether countries and private entities would meet the challenge.
“This is an enormous lift – to do what we have to do,” he said. But he added: “This is doable. It doesn’t have to be frightening.”
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