Kerry at the COP is fighting hard for a global push to end climate change

John Kerry is everywhere and on the move in a fateful UN climate summit.

President Joe Biden’s envoy at the Glasgow talks, Kerry moves from side talks with rivals the United States, China and Russia, painstakingly investigating common ground on climate, to press conferences extolling progress. Kerry appears in project launches, rewarding CEOs and bankers for their emissions reduction efforts with time and high-level accolades. The lanky envoy smiles for a photo with indigenous women from Brazil, his feathered 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 unite global climate efforts that threaten to hit a wall at home.

“The alternative is you don’t do anything, don’t say anything” about the weather, Kerry told reporters at the summit. “You have no promises, you have no commitments. And you are sitting there, waiting for the deluge.”

He was talking about a climate fight that grows more urgent, as global warming from the burning of fossil fuels intensifies, and more tense, as the United States’ own seesaw policies endanger the climate efforts of the United States. Biden and again threaten global momentum on the matter.

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

But Biden’s lagging political support and Republican upheavals in last week’s out-of-year elections add to the uncertainty that the US administration can deliver on some of Biden’s biggest climate promises.

Kerry, President Barack Obama’s secretary of state and former senator, returned after President Donald Trump to serve as Biden’s climate envoy.

The work has involved apologizing for the global disruption that Trump, who mocks the science behind climate change, caused when he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, which Kerry helped negotiate. Scientists say the ground lost during the Trump administration leaves this decade as a last chance to prevent the Earth from heating up to more catastrophic levels.

Kerry’s work now is part diplomatic and part encouraging. At the Glasgow climate conference, as in previous months, Kerry negotiates to realize all possible climate efforts by countries and companies, and then pushes for more. While the U.S. return to global climate negotiations has helped push allies into deeper cuts in emissions, the world’s other big polluters – in addition to the United States, China, Russia, India, and others – are short on emissions promises, at best.

Kerry Joins Global Climate Momentum As Uncertainty Grows In US # Climate Change # COP26

At 77, Kerry is waging just the latest of his campaigns in a decades-long personal battle to curb the fossil fuel emissions that heat the Earth.

Kerry “brings a deep understanding of what is at stake,” said Jennifer Morgan, CEO of Greenpeace International and a veteran of the climate talks. “He brings long-term relationships to these conversations and the spirit of collaboration.” However, he adds, “it is limited by what happens at home.”

If there is “no credible American plan to meet the targets and phase out fossil fuels, there is much, just so far, that can go here,” Morgan said.

Conservative groups feature Kerry online, making social media memes of his wealth (in Glasgow he featured a speaker as his neighbor on Martha’s Vineyard) and supposedly love of air travel around the world.

Kerry’s intent in diplomacy to try to pressure and lure coal-loving China toward faster emissions cuts also puts him in public contrast to Biden and some of Biden’s top officials, who have openly turned critical of China. China is currently the world’s leading climate polluter. The United States is number two right now and the worst carbon polluter in the world over time.

Biden’s parting 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.

Veteran observers of the global climate talks speak favorably of Kerry’s calmer job as a climate envoy.

Thom Woodroofe, a researcher on US-China climate diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said Biden’s appointment of the former secretary of state made countries like China “really sit up and take note of how significant .. How important is the Biden administration was going to bet on diplomacy and its climate action at home. “

As Chinese leaders publicly scold and snub members of the Biden administration, China’s veteran climate diplomat Xie Zhenha told reporters in Glasgow that he estimated he had spoken to Kerry 23 times in Kerry’s current post.

When a news site published a cartoon showing the exaggerated chinned Kerry with one hand on the shoulder of the equally exaggerated round-faced Xie, and with the other hand cupping the Earth and her future, Kerry framed the cartoon and presented it to her. to Xie.

At the climate summit, Kerry’s height makes it an easy spot among the thousands of climate advocates, government officials, and reporters at the summit site, which stretches for more than half a mile (about a kilometer). It is a mix of permanent and temporary structures along Glasgow’s River Clyde that feels like an airport terminal flanked by a military forward operating base.

Kerry seems patient and courteous to the advocates and random reporters from around the world who approach her at the summit.

Ahead of the summit, climate activists on a hunger strike outside the White House filmed another Biden administration official tapping his phone impatiently as they approached him to discuss the need for climate action.

Kerry, on the other hand, went out and spoke with the young climate strikers, telling them about his own environmental activism as a young man.

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

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

The irreversible damage from global warming was even more obvious to everyone in November 2016, when Kerry made one of his last trips as Obama’s secretary of state, becoming the highest-ranking US official to visit Antarctica.

The US presidential election had just brought victory to Trump, who had already pledged to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord and would soon reverse US climate efforts in office.

Kerry crunched boots on a frozen sea, confronted a curious penguin, and spoke to American scientists there.

The South Pole had the purest air in the world, but it was also heavily polluted with coal and oil waste, the scientists told him. The West Antarctic ice sheet was melting from below into the warm waters, breaking up and floating out to sea.

It was “one of the most impressive wilderness areas,” Kerry reminded The Associated Press last month, and it was “mixed with negative impacts from humans.”

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