MODERATOR: Thank you, and greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from the Middle East and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Special Envoy Kerry will discuss the U.S. Government’s top priorities for the upcoming COP27 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, as well as the Biden administration’s international climate efforts. Secretary Kerry will make brief opening remarks, then take questions from participating journalists on international climate issues.
We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic. We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly.
I will now turn it over to Special Envoy Kerry for his opening remarks. Sir, the floor is yours.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, Sam, thank you very much. Thank you to all of you for joining us here 11 days out or so from the beginning of Sharm el-Sheikh. Let me just say very quickly, this COP, COP27, we view as an implementation COP. And the purpose of it is to make sure the promises that were made in Glasgow are actually being pursued at the pace they need to be pursued in, but also that the folks who didn’t step up in Glasgow are, according to the Glasgow agreement, supposed to step up here and provide new NDCs, new indicators of what they are prepared to do.
So implementation plus keep the promises, get the commitments that haven’t been made but which are necessary. Why? Because the scientists, the IPCC, and all of the evidence are telling us that it is imperative we do everything in our power to keep the Earth’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade. If we don’t do that, we will bring much greater destruction on ourselves, on the planet, much more inhospitable, even unlivable conditions for living, for fishing, for survival of the oceans, for the being able to work outdoors in extreme heat areas of the world, the sea-level rise. I mean, there are so many consequences of not getting this job done that to some degree that’s overwhelming to some people and they sort of back off and think they can’t do anything.
The fact is we’re building new technologies. They’re being discovered. They’re being brought to scale. There’s an enormous amount of investment around the world in new practices, new ways of doing things. I personally feel confident that if we do the things we already know how to do and we bring online some of the new technologies, we can win this battle.
So Sharm el-Sheikh is the stepping stone to the next opportunity for all of us to get together and be able to measure where we are and what we need to do, get on track where we aren’t today.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, sir. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. Questions submitted in advance have been incorporated into the queue, and just to note that we did receive probably more submitted questions for this call than any call we’ve done in a long time, showing the global interest in this topic.
I will start with one of those pre-submitted questions from a colleague in Egypt, because Egypt is hosting the COP27, and this first pre-submitted question comes from Mohamed Maher from Egypt’s Almasry Alyoum newspaper. And Mohamed asks: “Mr. Secretary, you visited Egypt and the UAE many times, and COP27 will be in Egypt and COP28 in the UAE. Do you think choosing the two countries from the Middle East for the climate summit for two consecutive years bears a particular significance?”
Over to you, sir.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, I don’t know what the rationale was of the folks who actually make the decision at the United Nations. This is a United Nations-sponsored event. But personally, I’m glad that we will be in the region where most of the gas and oil of the world is produced – not all of it, but very large amounts of it – but also where there is a strong commitment. I mean, you look at the efforts being made in Egypt now and you look at the efforts being made in the UAE. They’re deeply engaged on the cutting edge of trying to help accelerate the transformation.
In Egypt we’re working on an agreement to be able to get the European development bank involved with funding for the deployment of renewables. And Egypt – the Government of Egypt – has made a commitment that it’s prepared to terminate 5 gigawatts of gas production in – for Egypt and transfer it to Europe, which will need additional gas, while they also deploy 10 gigawatts of renewable energy. That’s a good model for some of the kinds of things we can do country for country as we get creative about lowering emissions and deploying renewable energy.
In addition, the UAE has been on the cutting edge of a whole bunch of technology investments. And for a gas-producing country, gas and oil-producing country, I think it’s exceptional to have them willing to bring all of the – all of the institutions engaged in trying to work for a transformation to new energy right to their home, right to the heart of the production area, and talk about the future. I think that’s bold leadership. I think it’s very important.
So I am excited about the prospect that we will be where we are, and we’re very supportive of Egypt’s initial efforts here. The foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, President al-Sisi, are leading the effort obviously for Egypt, and we look forward to making sure we have a successful COP at Sharm.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question does come from the live queue, and it goes to Pearl Matibe from Power FM 98.7. Operator, please open the line.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much. Can you hear me?
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Yes, I can hear you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much, Special Envoy Kerry. I really do appreciate your availability today, and I am hearing the promise of commitment from the United States. I would like to just pose a question to you because there is – there has been some bitterness by some of the African leaders, and I would like to hear your response as to how you or your office might be – with your great, long experience in diplomacy and prior auspices as Secretary of State – how things can be smoothed over here.
I just want to quote you something that Senegalese President Macky Sall said last month when he was disappointed at attendance at an Africa summit. He said, quote, “I cannot help but note with some bitterness the absence of leaders from the industrial world.” He said this at the Adaptation Summit. Secretary Kerry – Special Envoy Kerry, he had thought that the meeting being held in Europe would make it easier for countries from the West to attend, and he said, quote, “They are the main polluters on this planet, and they are the ones who should be financing adaptation.”
What, perhaps, are you doing, Special Envoy Kerry, personally given that a lot of these leaders are going to be coming to the African Leaders Summit, and some of these climate issues might spill over into other topics that have nothing to do with climate change? Why do you believe that they are so upset and how can things be smoothed over here so that they’re not as aggravated as they are? Thank you so much.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, no, thank you. Thank you very much for the question, a very legitimate question, and I’m glad to get a chance to answer it because I think leaders of countries in Africa are 100 percent legitimate to be upset over the current allocation of funding. I’m upset over it. I think that the developed world has to take the lead in helping the developing world to be able to withstand the impacts of climate and to get ahead of the curve on the new energy future, and I’m all for it. I was just in Africa. I was in the DRC. I was in Nigeria. I was in Senegal, met with President Macky Sall, who is doing a great job of trying to advocate for the region.
And I think what’s important is that we’ve got to find new mechanisms of releasing the funding and new ways of providing concessionary funding to help countries to transition. I mean, I am more than well aware that the vast majority of the impact of what’s happening is coming from 20 countries – the 20 most developed nations in the world. And Sub-Saharan Africa, there are about 48 countries that are responsible who are only 0.55 percent of all the emissions in the world. Africa as a whole is only 3 percent of all the emissions, yet 17 of the most vulnerable countries in the world are in Africa.
So I share the frustration. 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 $12 billion allocated over five years, $3 billion this year in our budget.
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, recognizing that there are some special inequities and they deserve some special attention.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We do have quite a global interest in the call today, and so moving around the globe a little bit to some of the other places that you, sir, have visited, we had a question from Duy Linh Hang from Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre media outlet, and he asks: “Sir, you have visited Vietnam multiple times over the past year. What do these visits do to contribute to the cooperation between the two countries on climate? And what role does the U.S. expect Vietnam and other Asian countries to take in combating climate change?”
Over to you, sir.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Thank you very much. Well, Vietnam is a country that obviously I’ve worked in for a long time. I was deeply involved in the normalization process after the war. I was deeply involved in lifting the embargo. I’ve been deeply involved in helping to create trade and good relations between the United States and Vietnam. But right now we’re working very hard with Vietnam to get Vietnam to do what is sensible regarding the transition to energy.
Unfortunately, in Vietnam some forces are fighting to keep coal, and coal is doing most of the damage that we have today in the world in terms of the climate crisis. We need to move off of coal. It was decided last year by China, Korea, Japan, the United States, other developed countries, that there would be no more funding externally of coal-fired plants in the world. And we need to not bring online new coal at a time when we should be deploying renewable energy.
Solar and wind are by far cheaper than fossil fuel, and countries that don’t move faster are really going to get left behind economically. They’re going to be damaged because companies do not want to go to a country producing dirty energy because then they can’t meet their own goal of net zero by 2050. So companies are looking for clean energy producers in the world. I know Indonesia is now preparing to move to deploy more renewables and to begin to transition from coal. And this is the trend, this is the future, and we need more countries to embrace that future and make this transition happen.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much, sir. We do have quite a few journalists queued up in the question queue though, and we’ll try to get through a few more questions in the remaining time we have. Our next question does come from the live queue and it goes to Heba El Koudsy from the Asharq al-Awsat pan-Arab newspaper. Operator, please open the line.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you, Mr. Kerry, for doing this conference. I would like to ask you one of the crucial problems of the climate change is urging that each country that are contributed – contributing largely to the greenhouse gas emissions to provide additional climate fund for the developing countries that’s severely affected by the climate change. And some people call it some kind of climate justice or paying the climate debt to the developing country. Is there some kind of commitment or – from the rich countries to the poor and developing countries regarding that debt? Thank you.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, you said regarding their debt?
QUESTION: Yes, to pay their climate debt, or sometimes it’s reparations for the developing countries.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, no, reparations is not a word or a term that has been used in this context, but the agreement in Paris does say we have to make increased efforts to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of the climate crisis. Now, that’s in the Paris Agreement, and in Glasgow we reaffirmed that, and we have always said that it is imperative for the developed world to help the developing world to deal with the impacts of climate.
So we the United States are actually the largest humanitarian donor in the world. We give more – whether it’s vaccines or Ebola or AIDS or a new flood emergency in Pakistan, et cetera, we try to do as much as we can. But I think we should do more. President Biden believes we should do more, which is why he has created a program called PREPARE, the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience. And we are doubling the amount of money that we put into resilience and adaptation, as are other developed countries in the world. We agreed on this in Glasgow.
Now we have to go to the next level and get engaged in a serious dialogue about how the world is going to deal with loss and damage. And we are prepared to discuss in Sharm el-Sheikh fully all the ways in which we can try to be fair and gather the efforts of the world to help us address the concerns of a lot of countries in the world. So we’re very supportive of addressing loss and damage in the context of the process of the UN – of the COPs.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question is a pre-submitted question from Ahmed Kamal from Qatar’s Lusail Newspaper, and Ahmed asks: “Sir, what new commitments might be expected from the U.S. this year at COP, and what are your expectations regarding the commitments of other big countries such as China and India?”
Over to you, sir.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, the United States is going to make a number of announcements when we get there. I hope you’ll forgive me; I’m not going to make them today. But we want at the COP to make sure that everybody understands we’re doing the things necessary to keep 1.5 degrees alive. And we need to have the NDCs. Not just the developed countries but developing countries around the world need to step up and put in their NDCs, because everybody needs to do their part here.
We will drive additional financing to accelerate the transition worldwide. We will be working on multilateral development bank guidelines in order to make more money available for lending. We will be announcing different initiatives, including increased effort on the global methane pledge, additional funding for adaption and resilience from President Biden and the U.S.
And we just recently, as I think you know, prepared for the ratification of – the Senate just gave its consent to the Kigali agreement, which is a very significant effort to reduce chlorofluorocarbons. And we will be doing an adaption event in Egypt with the Egyptian Government – we’re co-hosting it – where we will make announcements on our support to Africa on adaptation.
And we are supporting the Secretary-General’s call to provide early warning systems for all countries that are threatened and to do this within five years. And we will produce – we’ve made a pledge of 50 million to the adaptation fund. That’s the administration. That’s the fund that works the process. And I think there will be finance announcements, adaptation announcements, water announcements, decarbonization, and various other energy biodiversity announcements that will be made. And we’re going to work with a number of UN entities regarding priority areas in order to advance the ball here.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We have time for one last question today. Sorry to all the other journalists waiting on the line and the many, many journalists who submitted pre-submitted questions, and hopefully we’ll be able to do this again in the future. But we have time for one last question today, and that goes to the live queue to Wael Badran from the United Arab Emirates Al Ittihad newspaper. Operator, please open the line.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, today for doing this. My question is at Sharm el-Sheikh COP27, as you describe, in the implementation conference, how would you describe COP28 in Abu Dhabi? And how do you evaluate the work done by UAE in tackling climate change? I believe you’re co-hosting COP28. And how willing is the conference in make
and institute in achieving sustainable development goals in Middle East region? Thank you.
SPECIAL ENVOY KERRY: Well, let me just say that it’s a little – first of all, I accept – I expect, and I don’t just expect, I know that the UAE will manage a very effective, very well-thought-through, and very comprehensive COP. I have no doubt about it. I have supported UAE to be able to become a host of the COP because I do think UAE is doing some extraordinary things on the front lines of technology and acting as a leader in the field, not just in the region but globally.
I believe, though, it’s a little bit early to be talking about specific targets and goals because we’re focused on COP27. We’re working with the Egyptians very closely. I haven’t had specific discussions with our friends in the UAE, and we work very closely with Dr. Sultan Al Jaber and with His Excellency the President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and so forth. We’re really synced up here. But the UAE wants to make sure that the Sharm el-Sheikh COP is successful first, and then we’ll get into the specifics of where we need to go afterwards.
Let me – can I just say to everybody in closing, if you don’t mind? I want to make a statement I didn’t make in the beginning. 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, not strengthening it where they can, and not being part of this effort.
And the scientists tell us that what is happening now – the increased extreme heat, the increased extreme weather, the fires, the floods, the warming of the ocean, the melting of the ice, the extraordinary way in which life is being affected badly by the climate crisis – what we’re seeing today is going to get worse unless we address this crisis in a unified, very forward-leaning way.
And the answer – and the truth is that the upside of doing that is so much bigger and better than the downside of not doing things over these next few years. You can’t avoid the scientific reality of what’s happening with increased emissions. We have to capture emissions. And people in every country in the world should be absolutely adamant about demanding that they get clean air, that their lakes and rivers and streams can have fish and not dry up, and that they’re going to be able to produce food in the places their families have produced food for centuries. I mean, these are things people all around the world care about, and we need much more effort to hold governments accountable to what is absolutely essential to protect life on the planet and to do justice to our citizens. And I hope everybody will view Sharm el-Sheikh as the moment where we have to do that.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, sir, for those remarks. That does conclude today’s call. I would like to thank Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating in this important call on this important topic. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and have a great day.
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