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John Kerry: US will push China and major emitters to raise climate ambitions

Rejoining the Paris agreement was just the beginning of Joe Biden’s climate policy. He put together a climate team which is led by true experts: White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, regarding the domestic climate policy and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who will oversee the international picture and the role the US will play.

“President Biden has set out the most ambitious climate agenda not as a matter of ideology or politics but as a matter of listening to the scientists and the evidence,” said John Kerry at CERAWeek by IHS Markit, held virtually from 1 to 5 March 2021.

And as his international role clearly states, Mr Kerry recognised that there is no solving any issues with only one country participating. In other words, other big polluters like China must sit at the table as well.

President Biden has announced that the United States will host a climate summit in April, bringing together all the major emitting nations.

“Specifically, we will ask those countries to increase their climate ambitions before going to Glasgow,” said Mr Kerry, referring to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) which will take place this November. “We are way behind. That’s why we are working on defining our own national contributions and hopefully, we will announce them in April.”

“The new climate plan must be aggressive, real and achievable,” he added. “We are on the verge to witness the greatest economic transformation since the industrial revolution.”

However, several experts have raised concerns about engaging with China leaving out a series of other issues, including the current tension on supply chains, and focus only on climate plans.

“We can untangle some of it,” Mr Kerry said. “China has expressed a willingness to work with other countries so we need to put this willingness at test, which is something we haven’t done yet.”

He referred to the fact that India for instance is focusing on creating its own solar panels that would be more efficient than the Chinese ones, which currently have a sort of monopoly in the market. Therefore, there is a possibility for new markets opening which will turn into more competition.

Of course, China is also funding coal mines in various parts of the world and Mr Kerry reminded that the issue had already been raised by the US as well.

But for the US climate story to become a true success, innovation is needed, especially in the infrastructure, as the recent power outages in Texas have shown. Mr Kerry referred to the fact that there is a West coast grid and an Eastern one while there is a sort of a hole in the middle and it is impossible to transport energy from one place to another.

“We are now working with Canada to see how we can use clean energy from there,” the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate said.

However, bipartisanship has always been an obstacle to shape the energy agenda in the US.

“Sometimes what is happening inside the Congress is against the interest of the nation and it slows down innovative projects, but we do need a smart grid, to be able to predict what is going to happen, which will also save us some money and at the same time reduce emissions,” he pointed out.

Asked what role will be left to oil and gas companies and if they can become allies in the climate adventure, Mr Kerry mentioned that many companies are already recognising that the times are changing and people are looking for solutions and are showing more interest in buying electric vehicles.

“If China has joined the fight against climate change is also because people are demanding it,” he said. “People are going to buy less gas, so new e-charging stations are needed, which is what the Biden’s administration is working on together with a fleet of electric buses.”

To him the question is not how to not become an oil and gas company but how to become an energy company.

“Although Europe seems, for now, to be moving more rapidly, we will also get there,” he said, referring also to hydrogen technologies, which although not yet ready, might represent the right solution to a global problem.

Photo: US Department of State.

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