February 6, 2021
As the incoming U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry will be the global face of President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate agenda. But rejoining the Paris climate agreement on Day 1 won’t be enough to win the trust of the government officials, CEOs and climate action advocates he’ll be dealing with around the world according to a January 19, 2021 report from Politico.
So, what does the world want from John Kerry in 2021?
The demands fall into two categories, according to interviews with more than 20 officials and advocates across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
The first: that the U.S. Congress backs Kerry’s rhetoric with tough domestic emissions reduction legislation. The second: that Kerry himself plays the role of the world’s climate cheerleader, prodding laggards and increasing financial aid to convince reluctant governments to set aggressive climate goals, such as reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
Selected comments from world leaders about John Kerry and his role include the following:
- Frans Timmermans, the EU’s Green Deal chief, told an event he saw a “huge opportunity” to work with the Biden administration. “But we also have to take into account the United States coming back to the international scene, in terms of wanting to contribute to multilateralism again, [at a time when] it’s a different world. So, we are not going back to the Obama years,” he said.
- Governments have fresh memories of U.S. climate reversals, such as President George W. Bush’s repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol and the Trump administration’s Paris Agreement withdrawal. “What is, four or eight years from now, going to stop another Republican president from withdrawing again?” asked New Zealand Climate Minister James Shaw. To counter those fears, European officials and the NDC Partnership — a club of 65 countries that pool knowledge and resources to help meet Paris Agreement commitments — say Kerry will need to lead through action at home. The first test will be how fast the U.S. is prepared to cut its own emissions by 2030.
- Kerry’s stature as a former secretary of state and experience winning global support for the Paris climate agreement means every door is open to him. Foreign officials are already lining up, happy to brag about existing friendships, and fondly recalling personal anecdotes. “He’s in a different league,” said Marcel Beukeboom, the Dutch climate envoy.
- Nick Bridge, the U.K. climate envoy, said he’s hopeful the Biden administration will make climate finance a priority, and several people close to Kerry said they expect he will make financing emissions reductions a major focus.
- Mohamed Nasr, an Egyptian diplomat who negotiates climate finance on behalf of African countries, is desperate for Kerry’s intervention to generate new momentum, and says the U.K.’s efforts so far lack ambition and “concrete new ideas.”
- U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned that help for developing countries was lagging, since only 14 percent of climate finance goes to the poorest countries.
- “The U.S.,” said Raymond Clémençon, a Swiss former climate negotiator, “must significantly step-up engagement on climate justice, which essentially requires providing much more steady funding through the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility.”
- Coming up with the cash is a matter of survival for some countries. Carlos Fuller, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that the restructured USAID funding promised by the Biden transition team will be critical.
What this means to you
The demands of the world for John Kerry fall into two large categories. The first: that the U.S. Congress backs Kerry’s rhetoric with tough domestic emissions reduction legislation. The second: that Kerry himself plays the role of the world’s climate cheerleader prodding laggards and increasing financial aid to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
MIRATECH can help
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