The US and China must end world's 'suicide pact' says climate envoy John Kerry

John Kerry meeting President Xi Jinping in 2015.
John Kerry meeting President Xi Jinping in 2015. Copyright John Kerry / Twitter
By Marthe de Ferrer with AP
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US special climate envoy John Kerry has urged major polluters to join forces to fight the climate crisis.


US climate envoy John Kerry called on China to join America in urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

He described the international alliances that rebuilt Europe after World War II as a model for fighting against climate change.

Kerry challenged global leaders to accelerate the actions needed to curb rising temperatures and pull the world back from the edge of the abyss.

"Allies, partners, competitors and even adversaries” must work together, he said during a speech at London’s Kew Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site where scientists are working to protect plants from global warming.

“The climate crisis is the test of our own times, and while it may be unfolding in slow motion, to some, this test is as acute and as existential as any previous one,” Kerry said. “Time is running out.”

Kerry described the next decade as decisive, saying countries around the world must speed up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if they are to meet their commitment to limit temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

While many countries have pledged to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says emissions must be cut by at least 40 per cent by the end of the decade to keep temperatures in check.

Organisers of the next United Nations climate summit are calling the November event in Glasgow, Scotland “the world’s last best chance to get runaway climate change under control.” The primary goal of the meeting, known as COP26, is for countries to set “ambitious” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

To meet these targets, countries need to phase out the use of coal, reduce deforestation, accelerate the shift to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewable energy, according to the conference organisers.

The biggest emitters of greenhouse gas

China, the United States and India are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, meaning efforts to control climate change are likely to fail unless all three lead the way in slashing emissions.

Kerry referred to the often tense relationship between the US and China but said the future depended on their cooperation. Both countries also need to raise their ambitions, he said.

“It is not a mystery that China and the US. have many differences. But on climate, cooperation is the only way to break free from the world’s current mutual suicide pact,'' he said.

“President Biden and President Xi have both stated unequivocally that each will cooperate on climate despite other consequential differences. America needs China to succeed in slashing emissions. China needs America to do the same.''

China’s output of climate-wrecking pollution surged in the last decade as its economy boomed, especially as it kept operating, building and financing new, dirty-burning coal-fired power plants.

The Rhodium Group analysis firm reported in May that China as of 2019 was pumping out more than 27 per cent of all climate-damaging emissions globally. That’s more than the United States, which stood at 11 per cent, and more than the rest of the developed world combined, Rhodium said.

The Trump administration and others in the United States pointed to China’s lead role in climate damage in justifying the rolling back of many emissions-cutting efforts in the US.

China and other developing economies, meanwhile, say Western nations most responsible for the global warming that occurred in the past are asking them to rein in their own development with little or no compensation. Additionally, a significant portion of China's emissions come from manufacturing goods that are shipped elsewhere - effectively allowing countries like the US to outsource their industry, and thus their carbon emissions.

Furthermore, when emissions are considered on a per capita basis - neither India nor China end up in the top three.


Antony Froggatt, an energy policy consultant at the Chatham House think tank in London, applauded Kerry’s speech for highlighting the urgent need for action — for all.

“There is an acceptance from…one of the highest climate change officials in the world that climate change is here, it’s real, it’s having an impact, and its future impact will be equivalent to sort of a global war…and therefore we need to do things now,” Froggatt said. “

That isn’t just America, that isn’t just the EU. It is India. It is China. It is these major emitters that actually need to take action in the real short term and demonstrate that they are changing emissions levels.

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