Kerry rallies around global climate push as uncertainty grows in US

John Kerry is everywhere and on the move at a fateful United Nations climate summit.

President Joe Biden’s envoy to the Glasgow talks, Kerry is emerging from side talks with US rivals China and Russia, who are painstakingly seeking common ground on climate, to press conferences touting the progress. Kerry is involved in project launches, rewarding CEOs and bankers for their emissions reduction efforts with time and high praise. The gangly envoy smiles for a photo with indigenous Brazilian women, their feather headdresses barely reaching his chin.

Towards the end of the first of two weeks of the UN climate summit, Kerry’s voice grew hoarse over his mission to rally global climate efforts that threaten to hit a wall at home.

“The alternative is you don’t do nothing, you say nothing” on the climate, Kerry told reporters at the summit. “You have no promises, you have no commitments. And you’re setting there, waiting for the flood.

He spoke of an increasingly urgent climate fight, as global warming from fossil fuel combustion intensifies, and heavier, as the United States’ own seesaw policy jeopardizes climate efforts. of Biden and once again threatens the global momentum in the matter.

With the summit underway, the US House finally passed a stalled infrastructure bill on Friday that contains important measures to reduce US emissions.

But Biden’s lagging political support and Republican upheaval in last week’s off-year election increase uncertainty over the U.S. administration’s ability to deliver on some of Biden’s biggest climate promises.

Kerry, Secretary of State to President Barack Obama and former Senator, returned after President Donald Trump to serve as Biden’s climate envoy.

The job involved apologizing for the global disruption that Trump, who pokes fun at the science behind climate change, caused when he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which Kerry helped to negotiate. Scientists say the ground lost during the Trump administration leaves this decade one last chance to prevent the Earth from warming to more catastrophic levels.

Kerry’s job is now part diplomat, part cheerleader. At the Glasgow climate conference, as in previous months, Kerry negotiates to define all possible new climate efforts from countries and businesses – then asks for more. While the United States’ return to global climate negotiations has helped push the allies to deeper emission cuts, the world’s other big polluters other than the United States – China, Russia, India and others – are at best short of show promises.

At 77, Kerry is leading just the last of her campaigns in a decades-long personal battle to reduce the fossil fuel emissions that heat the Earth.

Kerry “brings a deep understanding of what is at stake,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International and a veteran of climate talks. “He brings long-term relationships to these discussions and the spirit of collaboration.” Yet, she adds, he “is limited by what goes on at home.”

If there isn’t “a credible American plan to meet the targets and phase out fossil fuels, there isn’t much, only so far it can happen here,” Morgan said.

Conservative groups are singling out Kerry online, making social media memes of his wealth – in Glasgow he featured a speaker as his neighbor on Martha’s Vineyard – and his supposed love for traveling the world.

Kerry’s diplomatic intention to try to push and drag coal-loving China into faster emissions cuts also puts him in public contrast to Biden and some of Biden’s top officials, who have become scathing criticism of China, the world’s biggest carbon polluter. The United States is the second worst.

Biden’s farewell words as he left the Glasgow summit last week after joining more than 100 other world leaders here were that Chinese President Xi Jinping had made a “big mistake” by not attending.

“They have lost the ability to influence people around the world,” Biden said.

Seasoned observers of the global climate talks speak favorably of Kerry’s quieter work as climate envoy.

Thom Woodroofe, U.S.-China climate diplomacy researcher at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said Biden’s appointment of the former secretary of state made countries like China “really sit down and take note of importance… The Biden administration was going to bank on diplomacy and its climate action at home. “

As Chinese leaders publicly reprimand and snub members of the Biden administration, China’s own veteran climate diplomat Xie Zhenha told reporters in Glasgow he calculated he spoke to Kerry 23 times in the past. Kerry’s current position.

When a news site posted a cartoon showing an exaggerated chin-up Kerry with one hand on the shoulder of an equally exaggerated round-faced Xie’s shoulder, and the other hand holding the Earth and her future, Kerry had the picture framed. cartoon and introduced it to Xie.

At the Climate Summit, Kerry’s size makes him a special place among the thousands of climate advocates, government officials and journalists at the summit site, which stretches for more than half a mile (almost a kilometer). It’s a mix of permanent and temporary structures along the River Clyde in Glasgow that looks like an airport terminal flanked by a military forward operating base.

Kerry seems patient and polite with lawyers and random reporters around the world approaching her at the top.

Ahead of the summit, climate activists on a hunger strike at the gates of the White House filmed another administration official Biden impatiently flipping through his phone when they approached him on the need for climate action.

Kerry, on the other hand, came out and spoke to the young climate strikers, telling them about his own environmental activism when he was young.

Kerry’s primary cause after returning from fighting in the Vietnam War was activism for the first Earth Day in 1970, he says. His wife, Teresa Heinz, says they met on Earth Day later, in 1990.

In 2015, his work in the climate negotiations and the confidence Xie seemed to place in Obama negotiators, including Kerry, helped seal a global climate deal in which more than 190 countries pledged to take decisions. measures to reduce climate emissions.

The irreversible damage caused by global warming was even more evident to all in November 2016, when Kerry made one of his last trips as Obama’s Secretary of State, becoming the top US official to visit the ‘Antarctic.

The US presidential election had just given victory to Trump, who had already pledged to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement and would soon undo the ruling US climate efforts.

Kerry snapped into boots on a frozen sea, confronted a curious penguin, and spoke with American scientists there.

The South Pole looked the purest in the world, but it was also heavily polluted with coal and oil waste, scientists told it. The West Antarctic ice sheet was melting from below in the warming waters, breaking apart and floating towards the sea.

It was “one of the most breathtaking wilderness areas,” Kerry told The Associated Press last month, and it was “mixed with the negative impacts of human beings.”

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