No slowdown in the clean energy transition

SAPPORO, Japan (AP) — So much has been invested in clean energy that moves to end carbon emissions cannot be rolled back, US climate envoy John Kerry said Sunday.

Kerry noted that if countries deliver on promises to phase out polluting fossil fuels, the world can limit average global warming to 1.7 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), better than worst-case scenarios but still above ‘current limit of 1.5C global warming above pre-industrial levels.

“We are in a very different place than where we were a year ago, let alone two and three years ago,” Kerry said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“But we’re not doing everything we said we would do,” he said, after attending a meeting of the G7 rich nations’ energy and environment ministers. faster, deploy renewable energy faster, bring new technologies online faster all of this needs to happen.

Kerry said the G-7 talks in Sapporo, northeastern Japan, were “really constructive” in providing a show of unity to phase out the relentless use of greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels.

A meeting Thursday of President Joe Biden’s Major Economies Forum, which includes leaders from 20 nations that account for more than three-quarters of global carbon emissions, provides another opportunity to commit resources toward the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050 Kerry said.

“The United States and the entire developed world have a responsibility to help the developing world through this crisis,” he said. “Those countries will really determine what happens. If they scale back, if they take the initiative, if they start implementing new technologies, if they stop using fossil fuels relentlessly, we will increase the chances of winning this battle.”

Kerry has hoped for cooperation with China on climate despite frictions over Taiwan, human rights, technology and other issues, saying he had a “very good conversation” with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, just days earlier.

“We agreed that we need to get back together personally, visit and try and see what we can find to work on together to speed up the process. It is feasible? I hope so,” Kerry said.

The Biden administration has moved aggressively to entice companies to invest in electric vehicles and other cleaner energy technologies. While the United States still lags other countries in EV use, the market is changing as consumer preferences evolve and manufacturers invest billions.

No one can undo what is happening in the climate sector, Kerry said, “because private companies have made big bets on the future and they are not going to undo them.”

One area where much more needs to be done is in climate finance, Kerry said, even as developed countries were close to their goal of $100 billion in annual support for developing countries. In 2020, $83 billion was committed.

Last week’s annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington were a start, “but they are not enough. They have not brought about enough change, in our view, to really unleash the kind of financial support that is needed.

“Our hope… is that over the next few weeks and months more will be put on the table, more will be agreed and we can move faster,” he said.

The hope is to reform the finance structure to ensure that these multilateral development banks lend more and at better rates.

“Anyone is going to look pretty critically at what’s going to happen with their money,” Kerry said, noting that “there’s a lot of money and it’s looking for these deals right now.”

The Inflation Reduction Act is an important step towards incentivising climate-friendly investments, “sending a signal to the market that there is money to be made by switching and moving in the direction of clean energy technologies,” he said.

In the United States, the money will not be invested in new coal-fired power plants, because “there is no such thing as clean coal,” Kerry said. “The market doesn’t support it. Investors don’t support it.”

Some countries, including Japan, have refused to set a clear timeline for phasing out coal-fired plants, citing energy security. And for some countries, that’s a valid concern, Kerry said, though she added, “I think energy security is overdone in some cases.”

The greater imperative is to do everything possible to reduce carbon emissions, given the millions of people who die every year from unclean air, extreme heat and other dire consequences of climate change.

“If we are to be responsible, we need to go back and figure out how to end emissions faster. We need to reduce the emissions that are warming the planet and are leading us inexorably towards several tipping points beyond which there is no turning back,” said Kerry.

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