JOHN KERRY, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW, LONDON
JULY 20, 2021
Thank you Robin for a remarkably generous introduction. Ladies and gentlemen I accept the nomination. [laughter]
I really appreciate Robin being here and I’m a great admirer of the incredible work of Chatham House, so thank you very, very much for being part of this.
Dame Amelia Fawcett – fellow Bostonian – but thank you very much for a warm welcome. From your world-renowned seed banking program to the modeling work that you do – I just met with one of your scientists – Kew is making measurable contributions to the challenge of climate and biodiversity. And we thank you very, very much for those efforts.
I want to promise you, ladies and gentlemen, though we came here to talk about the greenhouse effect we did not intend to put you in a greenhouse. And feel free I think I may take this off momentarily, but I appreciate it.
Let me introduce two guests – I’m very grateful to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who is one of the leaders in the C40 with mayors across the world. Thank you Mr. Mayor for being here today.
And an old friend from his days as environment minister when I was Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Secretary of State. Ed Miliband is here and we appreciate as a shadow minister, the shadow government representative today.
So, obviously we’re meeting at a very difficult time in the pandemic. And the COVID crisis still holds too many people at risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. And while the extraordinary technological development of vaccines is helping to ease the crisis, we are obviously not yet through it. I am very sorry to say, the suffering of COVID will be magnified many times over in a world that does not grapple with and ultimately halt the climate crisis. We don’t have the luxury of waiting until COVID is vanquished to take up the climate challenge.
So it’s good to be back in the UK – where my friend Alok Sharma and his team are hard at work, preparing to host the UN climate conference – COP26 in Glasgow this November. And I am particularly grateful to join you in this remarkable setting – it’s an amazing place – which is both a living tribute to nature’s beauty, but also its fragility.
And fundamentally, the struggle to tackle the global climate crisis is just as simple and profound as this place. It’s about protecting and preserving the fragile world that we share. It’s about understanding that it costs more not to respond to the climate crisis than it does to respond. And it is, without exaggeration, about survival.
But within the question of how we meet our collective responsibility is a political question – not about partisanship or ideology, but about the simple capacity of our institutions to come together and to do big, transformative things.
And that is also something about which the legacy of London can tell us a great deal.
I spent enough time in Europe as a young person that I learned not to take stability on the continent for granted. My grandfather was an American businessman who raised his family between the U.S., the UK, and France as the storm clouds of World War II gathered. My mother and members of her family fled France as an occupying army moved through the country. Their house was ultimately bombed and burned to the ground. And when I was just 4 years old, my mother brought me there to visit the ruins – her first visit back since the war. Almost nothing was left and a skeleton of a burned-out building rose into the sky with one stone staircase. That is my earliest memory.
And I mention it because I’m glad I have it – because like most in my generation, I grew up with a visceral understanding of how close the world came to chaos – and how allies and alliances dedicated to order and openness, common interests and shared values made all the difference: not just to avert another conflict, but to heal and rebuild a shattered world.
The world order that exists today did not just emerge on a whim. It was built by leaders and nations determined to make sure that never – never – again would we come so close to the edge of the abyss.
That journey has always given me a bedrock confidence that together we actually can solve humanity’s biggest threats.
The climate crisis – my friends – is the test of our own times, and while some may still believe it is unfolding in slow motion, no. This test is now as acute and as existential as any previous one.
The irony should not be lost on us that it is young people around the world who are calling on adults to behave like adults and exercise their basic responsibilities. Young people who feel forced to put down their schoolbooks and march out of the classroom to strike for climate. They know the world is not responding fast enough to an existential threat they didn’t create, but for which they risk bearing the ultimate burden: uninhabitable communities on an increasingly unlivable planet in their lifetimes.
How must the global political system look through their eyes? All the talk about values and architecture means little to a generation that has grown up every single day under the mounting danger and now the undeniable reality of a climate crisis to which the politics almost everywhere has failed to respond adequately for more than thirty years.
I’ve been part of that journey. I was there in 1988 when Jim Hansen testified that it was happening. I was in Rio in 1992 when we had the first Earth Summit. That was number one. Now we’re at number 26.
It’s no wonder their generation doesn’t share in the confidence that the world can and will move forward – the world can and will make a difference. It’s no wonder that those young people are wondering where we are. The world can and will rise to this occasion, despite the fact it hasn’t yet. At least that possibility is still there.
Nostalgia for what our parents’ generation accomplished is absolutely no antidote to their anxiety of these young folk, and even their anger at what our generation has so far failed to do.
We adults who have a votes in legislatures or elections and multilateral institutions, seats in the Situation Room in the White House and the boardrooms – we must provide answers that are tangible – not theoretical. And above all, we need to provide action and we need to do it now.
Because time is running out. Not a euphemism, not an exaggeration, time is running out.
Six years ago, the Paris Agreement brought countries together, I had the privilege of leading our negotiating team, the goal was of limiting the total increase in the Earth’s temperature to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts towards 1.5. Under the Agreement, each country committed to do what it determined by itself it was willing to do, collectively, to put the world on the right path.
Yes the Agreement was an historic show of unity in the face of a global threat, and it is making a difference today.
Countries put forward initial targets that would reduce warming by about a full degree Celsius. Just achieving that was crucial progress, pulling us back from the brink of an inconceivably dangerous future. But what we also have to be honest about now is the limits of what we engineered together.
Because the fundamental truth of the Paris Agreement is that even if every country fulfilled its initial promises –and many are falling short — even if everyone did what they said they would do in Paris, the temperature of this planet would still rise by upwards of 2.5 or 3 degrees centigrade.
We’re already seeing dramatic consequences with 1.2 degrees. Imagine the doubling. To contemplate doubling that is to invite catastrophe.
I’m not an exaggerator, I’m not an alarmist, but I do believe in science. Two and two is four. It’s still four, despite the fact that some politicians want you to debate whether or not it’s five, and chew up all our time and energy.
Since the years since Paris, the scientific community has now determined that even the Agreement’s “well below 2 degrees” is not enough to stave off climate chaos. A seminal 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, made clear that we must focus on capping warming as close as we can get to 1.5 degrees, if not 1.5. Much more warming than that, and life on our planet will become increasingly unrecognizable.
And that prospect of an unlivable tomorrow, should be, I would think, as alarming as it is sobering as we take stock of the world we are living in today.
Already, today, we share a world in which more frequent and powerful hurricanes and typhoons destroy homes, businesses, and communities. Just last week, a rainfall of such intensity that it flooded communities in Germany, Holland and Belgium leaving hundreds of dead and thousands facing years of difficult recovery. Nigeria and Uganda also experienced massive, destructive flooding in recent weeks.
Today we share a world in which fiery conflagrations rampage across Australia and the American West and even the Russian tundra. Even the rainforests of the Amazon are burning.
We share a world in which record heat waves force cities to install relief centers, cause roads to buckle, and illnesses to spike, resulting in thousands of heat-related deaths a year. Where extremes are everyday fare, like Siberia reaching a scorching 118 degrees inside the Arctic Circle or Antarctica at 70 degrees Fahrenheit last February.
We’re living in a world where crops no longer grow where they always did before; the chemistry of the oceans changes more and faster than ever before – where millions of people are forced to leave increasingly uninhabitable homelands – maybe 20 million a year migrating around the world. We all know that the political impact of migration was a few years ago, and still, imagine what happens when places become uninhabitable and people are knocking on the door of places where they know people can live.
These impacts are real and most of them, my friends, are irreversible. That’s what the scientists told me – irreversible. But even more horrifying is what the world will look like in the near future unless we change course.
The world of 2100 – the world of our children and grandchildren, just 80 years from now.
A world where major cities – Jakarta, Mumbai, Shanghai, Venice, Bangkok, New Orleans, and many more – will need trillions of dollars in infrastructure just to survive repeated flooding and high tides.
A world in which the ocean is more acidic and starved for oxygen, despite the fact that we humans breathe 51 percent of our oxygen coming from the ocean. An ocean that is increasingly hostile for marine life; devoid of most tropical coral reefs, and with that the loss of protection from storms and food security for millions.
A world in which the Arctic may not have any ice in the summer.
A world in which over 1/3 of the population will face longer-lasting heat waves with unprecedented regularity.
A world in which farmers and construction workers cannot work outside without risking heat-stroke.
Where a month’s worth of rain falling in an hour may become commonplace.
Where droughts last months longer and occur more frequently – and hundreds of millions of people suffer from freshwater scarcity. Just look at the Himalayas melting – the Alps, the other mountains – the feeders of the great rivers of our world: the Yangtze, the Yellow River, the Mekong, the Ganges, the billions of people living along those riverbanks.
A world in which the crops families have grown for generations are no longer viable.
Where conditions for malaria transmission and other chronic illnesses skyrocket and pandemics like the one we continue to battle today actually become more prevalent.
So what all these statistics add up to would be a world in chaos. It’s a world where whole countries would be destabilized from stalled economical growth, hunger, starvation, escalating conflict over resources, and people would be forced to abandon their homes. Just look at the people in Germany needing billions of bailout. We bailed out three storms a few years ago – $265 million dollars. But we couldn’t even find 100 million dollars to fulfill our obligation to the Paris Agreement.
So we’re looking at a world in which we ultimately spend so much money, the potential of the world, and effort just coping with disasters, that we can’t invest in tomorrow. It undermines everything we have been fighting for. And no country, rich or poor, will be spared.
So one thing is certain: everything I’ve just said is not the description of a world of science fiction. It’s what scientists tell us will be reality by the end of this century if our emissions of greenhouse gasses, pollution, do not decline. And we are forewarned – everything the scientists have been telling us now will happen for 30 years, is happening – but bigger and faster than was predicted.
And you don’t need to be a scientist to know that what we’re looking at is a world no parent would ever be content to leave behind as an inheritance for future generations.
Facts, evidence, and science all make clear that we have a narrow window to avoid that future. We can still avoid it. But we have to begin to act with genuine urgency, bringing countries all across this planet together.
Simply put: the world needs to cut emissions – greenhouse gas CO2 emissions particularly – by at least 45% by 2030 in order to be on a credible scientific path by midcentury to net zero. That’s what the IPCC showed us. 45% – not just in some countries or some regions, but the world over. They found that 45% is the minimum that the world must reduce.
That makes this the decisive decade. And it makes 2021 a decisive year.
And most of all, it must make COP 26 in Glasgow this year a pivotal moment for the world to come together to meet and master the climate challenge.
This week marks 100 days until Glasgow, six months into my time as President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate – and six months since President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement and committed his Administration to bold climate action.
After our absence for four years, my friends, we approach this challenge with humility, but – let me be clear – we approach it with ambition. We know that we cannot redeem the past or retrieve four lost years – which in Churchill’s phrase could be described as “years the locusts have eaten.” But now, a new American President is boldly moving to make up for lost time, and this is an important demarcation moment to assess where we all stand with the time that we have left to get the job done.
To meet the challenge, at the Leaders’ Summit in April, the United States announced an ambitious target of reducing our emissions over the next ten years, by 2030, we will reduce by 50-52 percent. And President Biden has announced bold policies to back that up – it’s not rhetoric, it’s real. Pick up the paper today and you’ll read about the fight that’s going on for infrastructure and for the future. He’s planning to put 500,000 electric vehicle stations deployed by 2030 around our country. He set a carbon-free power sector goal by 2035, investing $35 billion in clean energy research, development, and demonstration – and achieving net zero emissions no later than 2050, if not sooner.
We are moving to reach these goals with legislative and regulatory action, including working with Congress to achieve unprecedented resources for climate focused assistance for developing countries.
We do all this knowing full well that no country and no continent alone can solve the climate crisis.
So, we are working with allies, partners, competitors, and even adversaries all too aware that some things happening today threaten to erase the very progress that so many are struggling to advance.
How alarming it is, my friends, that as we race to Glasgow, some countries are currently still building new, carbon-polluting coal plants, and even planning to break ground on more in the future.
At a time when many countries are committed to plant more trees as a nature-based solution, other countries are actually clear-cutting more trees and continuing to illegally, illegally cut down the rainforest. They are removing the lungs of the world, destroying irreplaceable biodiversity – of all the places in the world that’s understood here – and destabilizing the climate, all at the same time.
How irrational it is that that there are countries actually burning more coal and using less solar than they were a decade ago – even as the costs of clean energy have plummeted well below fossil fuel.
To paraphrase Einstein – Insanity is continuing to do something that will kill you even when you know it will.
We can’t afford a world so divided in its response to the climate crisis when the evidence is so compelling for action.
We have to make choices – together. Life is about choices; you all know that – everybody does; so is governing; so is leading, so this moment requires.
In World War II and its aftermath, leaders did what they had to do to get the job done. After the United States finally joined the War, Churchill didn’t lament in his nightly journal how reluctant that we’d been, or how long it had taken us; he wrote simply these words: “Today, we have won.” Roosevelt, like Churchill, had a deep antipathy toward the Soviet system and it wasn’t hard to imagine the looming possibility of a Cold War that would define the second half of the twentieth century. But they didn’t hesitate to form an alliance with the Soviets because there was no other way to prevail in the struggle, they both correctly identified at the time as existential.
Overnight, at home and around the world, distilleries were converted into producing fuel for jet planes and tanks. A Ford Motor Company, a plant in Michigan, turned out one B24 bomber every hour. We retooled our economy. We responded to a threat that policy makers didn’t just call existential but acted like it really was. How many people have you heard say “oh, climate change, an existential crisis”? But how many places are responding as if it is?
After the war, with refugees at record numbers, with a continent gripped by hunger and devastation, its critical infrastructure wiped out – the world acted once again as if the threat was existential. And instead of pulling each other apart, we pulled together with the Marshall Plan, the rebuilding of the order that has served us well since then.
That is precisely what we must do now: treat the climate crisis as the crisis it has become, and mount a response that is comparable to wartime mobilization, a massive opportunity to rebuild our economies after COVID-19, to “Build Better.” How many times have you heard that phrase after this pandemic?
That’s the mission everywhere that we are engaged in – for these last six months, and I promise you in these next 100 days.
Let me be clear, we are – I want to be very clear about this because there are countries that express concern about what they’re asked to do. The fact is that we are not saying that every country must, will, or can do the same thing – they can’t – but we are saying that every country can do enough and can do what is appropriate within its ability to help us keep on track to win this battle. Not because it’s one region, or one country against another, or competition, because we are literally all in this together.
And the biggest step of all this decade is scaling up the development of a global clean energy economy. Energy accounts for three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. How we power our homes, how we power our cars, and so forth.
By 2030, we have to speed up the deployment of the clean technologies that we already have – put them on super steroids and deploy, deploy, deploy. According to the International Energy Agency, that means:
- The equivalent of building the world’s biggest solar plant every day for the next decade.
- Ramping up renewable energy from wind and solar by four times what it is today to reach 1,000GW installed per year in 2030.
- It means ensuring that, in 2030, 60 percent of new car sales around the world are electric vehicles.
- And all this will fuel a clean energy investment boom, globally, reaching $4 trillion a year by 2030. That is the task ahead of us.
Second, we must also need to develop, demonstrate, and scale up emerging technologies during this decade so that they can play a major role in decarbonizing the global economy by 2050. Between now and 2030, the IEA says that:
- Governments are going to need to invest $90 billion in technology demonstration projects.
- We’ll need to rapidly scale up green hydrogen and clean fuels that can slash emissions from heavy industries –cement, concrete, aluminum, steel.
- We’ll also need to develop the equivalent of installing the largest carbon capture storage facility currently in operation, but we have to do that every 9 days through 2030.
- A raft of other technologies – spanning advanced renewables and nuclear, long-duration energy storage, smart grids, battery storage, direct air carbon capture – so many different things that could provide the saving grace. But they all need to be commercialized and scaled. And this is even more of a challenge.
And third, if we invest heavily in clean energy – and in energy efficiency that curbs rising global demand for energy – and then of course fossil fuels, the demand, will naturally drop. Starting now, the IEA tells us that we do not actually need a new investment in oil, coal, or gas production – because they’re simply not necessary to meet our energy needs given other technologies that are online and coming online.
By 2040, we should have entirely phased out all unabated coal and unabated oil plants and sharply reduced reliance on unabated natural gas generation.
The good news, my friends, is that the proof is all around us that we can do it. Clean energy technologies are already cheaper than fossil fuels – and we have a playbook to do the same thing across many other emerging clean technologies.
Over the last decade, the cost of solar power plummeted 90 percent. The cost of onshore wind plunged 70 percent. And today, solar and wind power are the cheapest source of new electricity generation in countries accounting for 77 percent of global GDP. Last year, China and the United States, the world’s two largest emitters, installed records amounts of renewable energy – despite the pandemic. And 90% of the new electricity in the world came from renewables sources. So we know we can do it.
Renewable energy technologies fell in cost as governments and private companies invested in research, development, and demonstration.
The U.S. Department of Energy launched the SunShot program in 2011 to drive down the cost of solar power by 75% in a decade. And thanks to advances in our country and around the world, solar hit that target three years early.
Learning from this experience, the Biden Administration is launching a series of “Earthshots” to drive down the costs of new technologies, marshalling the innovative capacity of researchers and companies. And if we meet these Earthshots by 2030, we will turbocharge the clean energy revolution.
Already, inspiring innovations are emerging from research laboratories and garnering private investment to enter commercial markets. Breakthroughs in solid-state batteries could enable electric vehicle driving range to actually be longer than traditional gasoline cars, with lightning-quick recharging times. The next generation of solar cells can produce more power from the sun at a fraction of the cost of today’s already inexpensive technology.
We’re on the march. We’re headed in the right direction. We just don’t know when we’re going to get where we need to.
Reaching global net-zero emissions represents the greatest market transformation – with the greatest economic promise – since the Industrial Revolution.
But the energy sector isn’t the only driver of global emissions. Other areas are critical as well, such as halting illegal deforestation to manage emissions from land use.
More and more countries are emboldening their commitments to climate action – and they’re reaping the benefits for their people and their economies.
At the Summit in April in Washington, but globally virtually, Canada raised its 2030 target from 30 percent to fully 40-45 percent by 2030. It is now working on its own roadmap for implementation. Japan stepped up to pledge a reduction in its emissions by 46-50 percent.
These powerful announcements built on the impressive pledges from the European Union to slash emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and the United Kingdom to cut its emissions by 68 percent in the timeframe.
Here in the UK, you have demonstrated how to align economic value with climate action, with a ten-point green industrial plan for the future, from offshore wind to clean hydrogen to jet fuel and more.
And countries like Germany have also made important contributions to bend the global cost curve of solar power and deploy renewables on a large scale.
What does all that add up to? Before and during the April Summit, countries representing 55 percent of global GDP announced 2030 commitments consistent with the global pace required to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
And momentum continues to build worldwide as we meet with various countries.
South Korea and South Africa are both on track to strengthen their own climate targets ahead of Glasgow.
Some of the world’s leading producers of oil and gas are already showing signs they’re ready to move too.
Russia just agreed with us on the importance of robust implementation of Paris’ temperature goals and the global pursuit of net zero emissions, which they’ve never embraced yet. After my visit to Moscow last week, we announced a joint commitment to make “significant efforts in this decade” to limit global warming.
Saudi Arabia likewise joined us in affirming the importance, “the importance of reducing emissions and taking adaptation actions during the 2020s to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”
And in a landmark regional dialogue of ten Middle East and North African countries in the United Arab Emirates – including multiple oil producers – countries unanimously agreed to “reducing emissions by 2030.”
Now yes, these are only words – and we’re clear-eyed about that. But they’re the start – they’re encouraging words. And in the next 100 days we can build on that.
The conversation is shifting from half measures to what it actually takes to get the job done.
For example, major players are mobilizing to “tap the brakes,” to cutting methane, a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas many times more destructive than carbon dioxide.
But here is the challenge: despite 55 percent of the world climbing on board for a 1.5 degree future, include many of the countries I just mentioned, despite that, there is still so much more that needs to be done.
Mother Nature does not pick and choose which country’s emissions are warming the planet. Before she engulfs us in droughts or fires or floods, Mother Nature doesn’t differentiate between greenhouse gases from Europe or from the U.S. or from China. Mother Nature only feels the impact and tracks emissions into the atmosphere writ large. And what matters to our collective fate is the total of all those gases and the emissions track we are on together.
That brings us inexorably to the world’s relationship with China.
To those who say we should avoid engaging with China on climate change because of our differences, I say there is simply no way – mathematical or ideological – to solve the climate crisis without the full cooperation and leadership of a country that today leads the world with 28% of global emissions. The International Energy Agency has laid out the reductions that are needed at a global scale, and their statistics imply that if China sticks with its current plan and does not peak its emissions until 2030, then the entire rest of the world would have to go to zero – zero! – by 2040 or even 2035. It knocks at least a decade off the timeline for the rest of the world to decarbonize. And that, my friends, sets a goal that currently is impossible to achieve. So, it’s imperative that we – the United States, the second biggest emitter – and China – and the rest of the world – are all pulling together in the same direction in this critical effort.
In a remarkably short time, China has produced unprecedented economic growth. But a foundational building block of that growth has been a staggering amount of fossil fuel use. And as a large country, an economic leader, and now the largest driver of climate change, China absolutely can help lead the world to success by peaking and starting to reduce emissions early during this critical decade of 2020 to 2030. And I say that simply because it is factual scientifically. The truth is there’s no alternative because without sufficient reduction by China – together with the rest of us – the goal of 1.5 degrees is essentially impossible. China’s partnership and leadership on this issue of extraordinary international consequence is essential.
Even as China continues to build and fund coal-fired power plants at a troubling pace, it is important to note that China has generally exceeded its international climate commitments in what it does at home.
As it builds out the details of their 14th five-year plan, experts all around the world are convinced that they can find greater opportunities to accelerate reductions in emissions without losing or slowing down their economy and without being asked to do something that’s unfair. I am convinced they can overperform with higher commitments to renewable energy to displace a great deal of coal.
More attention could be paid to methane emissions, a faster transition to electric vehicles, stronger building codes, industrial processes offer huge possibilities to show leadership in building clean energy economies.
President Xi announced to the UN last year that China would “scale up” its NDC and we hope that will include sector-specific, near-term actions in their 14th five-year plan enabling earlier peaking and the possibility of rapid reductions afterwards.
Now obviously, it is not a mystery that China and the U.S. have many differences. But on climate, cooperation –it is the only way to break free from the world’s current mutual suicide pact.
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, and China needs America to do its part and do the same. The best opportunity that we have to secure a reasonable climate future is for China and the United States to work together. The best way to do so is to lay out specific, ambitious, near-term reduction goals, and back them up with serious policy and work together to set an example to the world of where we need to go and how we can get there.
India, the world’s 3rd largest emitting nation, has set an impressive target of building 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. That target is really critical to the world’s quest to hold 1.5 degrees, because without a rapid clean energy transition, India’s emissions will surpass the United States by 2040.
That’s why in a meeting with Prime Minister Modi we were able to agree on a new partnership with India – the U.S.-India Agenda 2030 Partnership, which President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched at the Summit. And it will take specific actions to deploy that renewable energy. We’re working to mobilize billions of new cash – fresh investment in India’s burgeoning clean energy.
Still, some argue that India did not create today’s predicament, therefore why should it have to share in the solution? Well I just explained that the process doesn’t allow for individualization of where the emissions come from. But more importantly, the solutions to climate change are the greatest economic opportunity we’ve seen on this planet since the industrial revolution. And the fact is the consequences of the climate crisis will not be reserved for those countries most responsible for the problem. That’s just the reality.
So we simply cannot keep 1.5 degrees within reach without every one of the world’s major economies acting – without bringing the remaining 45 percent onboard into the task.
We also need to heed the needs and aspirations of all those who are particularly vulnerable nations. This process must be fair, and it cannot just the developed world that has the ability to respond. The fact is that 20 economies equal about 75-80 percent of all the emissions. So some countries are right when they point the finger and say “wait a minute, we’re suffering the impacts but we didn’t create this.” It’s a fundamental matter of equity and fairness that we respond to those for whom the climate crisis is imminently existential. To that end President Biden has pledged to triple our support for adaptation efforts by 2024. And we are working with our partners to further strengthen our collective support for the Paris finance agreements and commitments by the time we reach Glasgow.
To the world’s emerging economies, for whom development is justly your foremost priority, let me just say we will help you chart your own pathways to prosperity. Pathways not on the polluting practices of the past, but on the clean, sustainable technologies of the future.
And to the major economies – let us be frank: the onus is on us. We are the largest emitters of the past, and the largest emitters today, we play the largest role in pulling the world back from the brink of climate disaster.
And we all have further to go.
But we can do so knowing that it comes with opportunity. That’s what the private sector is telling us today – increasingly moving to sustainable investment.
They are committing trillions of dollars now to make climate change central to investment strategy.
Meanwhile, in spite of the havoc wreaked by COVID-19, the world did see the unprecedented growth in renewable energy that we were able to produce in 2020.
So think about it my friends, the highest valued automobile company in the world – Tesla. It only makes electric vehicles.
Mitsubishi is building the world’s largest zero emission steel plant – in Austria.
They know climate action is a golden opportunity. And all the world can share in it.
But it won’t happen on its own. It’s not automatic. It’s not preordained.
250 companies, for instance, account for a third of global emissions – and yet 41 of them haven’t set goals for reducing emissions.
So we must match, we have to match policy to potential. In two days we meet at the Ministerial level to prepare for the G20 in October. We will meet in Italy, the co-presidency of the COP. Success at this week’s gathering of the world’s biggest emitters can help smooth the road for success when all the world gathers together in Glasgow this November.
So the world will be watching what they do.
We need the G20 to lead, in word and deed, so that all the world can lead in Glasgow.
My friends, there is still time to put a safer 1.5 degree Centigrade future back within reach.
But only if every major economy commits to meaningful reductions by 2030, that is the only way to put the world on a credible track to global net zero by midcentury.
At or before COP26, we need to see the major economies of the world – not just be ambitious or set ambitious targets, but we got to have clear plans for how we’re going to get there over the next decade. By 2023, we need those same economies to put out road maps for how they’re going to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Commitments have to be backed up by concrete national action plans. The time for talking has long since past. We need to match suitable investment – both from public and private sector – we need to really rethink the multi-developmental banks process – how we de-risk, how we allocate capital, and how we will grow our ways out of this.
We can – and must – achieve this together, especially knowing the triumph or tragedy of the two alternative worlds that await our choices. I believe we will get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but it is not clear to me yet that we will get there in time.
It’s what we’ve always done when the know that the world needs it most. We can come together.
But it’s up to us to prove to ourselves and to the generation protesting in the streets – that we are prepared to do it again. That we are the problem-solvers, not just dreamers, not talkers; we’re the doers, not the deniers.
That our words about ambition will be matched by ambitious actions.
My friends, Glasgow is the place, and 2021 is the time. And we can in a little more than a hundred days, save the next hundred years. Thank you.