US climate envoy John Kerry on COP27: we need to step up and get this job done

US climate envoy John Kerry on COP27: we need to step up and get this job done
Ahead of next month's climate summit, COP27, US climate envoy John Kerry took questions from reporters, in which he touted renewables investments and also acknowledged inequities between the West's biggest polluters and vulnerable African countries.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
27 October, 2022
US climate envoy John Kerry does a telephone briefing with reporters before next month's COP27 summit in Egypt. [Getty]

Around 10 days ahead of the COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt, John Kerry, the United States' special presidential envoy for climate, said that it's important for all countries to 'step up' and do their part to address the urgent problem of climate change.

During a telephonic briefing on Wednesday, he told reporters, "What you see happening around the world now makes it more urgent and more clear than ever that we need to step up and get this job done – every country.  No country has a right to be delinquent in not putting up an NDC [Nationally Determined Contribution], not strengthening it where they can, and not being part of this effort."   

The US climate envoy fielded questions from reporters from different countries, mainly in the Middle East, related to the summit and goals for addressing climate change in general. He pointed to large-scale investment projects for renewables in Egypt and in the United Arab Emirates, where COP27 and COP28 are taking place, and he described Sharm el-Sheikh as a stepping stone for assessing what needs to be done.

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However, with the theme of all countries stepping up, a reporter from South Africa noted that not all countries or regions are equal in producing pollution, with many African countries accounting for small proportions of carbon emissions compared with their Western counterparts. At the same time, some African countries have become among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Kerry agreed, noting that most of the impact of climate change is coming from the 20 most developed countries in the world, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are around 50 countries that are responsible who are only 0.55 per cent of all the world's emissions. Moreover, the continent of Africa produces only around three per cent of all emissions, yet 17 of the most vulnerable countries to climate change are in Africa.   

"I share the frustration," said Kerry. "We have to get this allocation right, which is why the United States supported completely the doubling of money for adaptation and President Biden stepped up and has created an Emergency Program for Adaptation and Resilience with US$12 billion allocated over five years, US$3 billion this year in our budget."   

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"So we're really deeply committed to this, and I hope this will be the year where people all kind of get on the same page, recognising that there are some special inequities and they deserve some special attention," he added.    

Kerry's acknowledgement of disparities between countries' contributions and burdens of climate change appeared to be a step forward in accountability from his previous press briefings.

However, like in previous briefings, at no point in the discussion did the envoy discuss the importance of the biggest polluting countries reducing energy consumption, which China has done in recent years amid high pollution levels and something that major countries in Europe are preparing to do as winter approaches amid fuel shortages.