Climate Change Conference

John Kerry at COP22: “No one should make decisions based on solely ideology”

Il suo era uno dei discorso più attesi, dopo l’elezione di Donald Trump. Il segretario di stato John Kerry chiude la sua stagione, mentre gli Stati Uniti annunciano il nuovo piano contro il riscaldamento globale.

“The global community is more united than ever. No one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris”. The US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest speech on climate change, delivered at the climate change conference in Marrakech (COP22), has been greeted with a long, intense applause, as if it marked the end credits of an 8-season TV series. Kerry has started by thanking all the main actors who allowed the signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement in record time. The Paris Agreement is the first international deal on climate change that aims to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees and to cut emissions to zero by the end of the century.

The Paris Agreement and the election of Donald Trump

“I want to acknowledge that since this COP started, obviously, an election took place in my country. And I know it has left some here and elsewhere feeling uncertain about the future. I obviously understand that uncertainty. I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I have learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail”. Climate change is a crucial issue from an environmental and economic point of view. In the United States, the renewable energy industry has increased so much so that its employees outnumbered those of the fossil fuel industry in 2015. Renewable energy is so flourishing that blocking it seems quite impossible.

Climate change shouldn’t be a political issue. The Pentagon defines it as a “threat multiplier”. A 2015 report has pointed out climate-related security risks, including more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and an increase in the cost of agricultural products.

“Despite the real-life changes that are being done and the threat of more to come, it’s important to remind ourselves that we are not on a pre-ordained path to disaster. It’s not written in the stars. This is about choices – choices that we still have. This is a test of willpower, not capacity. It’s within our power to put the planet back on a better track. But doing that requires holding ourselves accountable to the hard truth. It requires holding ourselves accountable to facts, not opinion; to science, not theories that haven’t been proven and can’t be proven; and certainly not to political bromides and slogans”.

The United States’ new strategy for 2050

“It is not going to be governments alone, or even principally, that solve the climate challenge. It’s going to be innovators, workers, the private sector, and business leaders. But make no mistake, government leadership is absolutely essential”. This is ever more important in a world where one third of the global energy is produced from coal and the energy demand in many countries is on the rise. “We literally cannot use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for what we’ve done to take steps to address climate change, and then turn around and use the other hand to write a big fat check enabling the widespread development of the dirtiest source of fuel in an outdated way. It just doesn’t make sense. That’s suicide”.

On 16 November, the US delegation has published the new strategy for a low-carbon future – the Mid-century strategy for deep decarbonisation. According to the Paris Agreement, all countries must submit their long-term strategies to the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The deadline is 2020, this seems the reason why the end of Obama’s presidency pushed the United States to take action rapidly. In its strategy, the US pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2015 compared to 2005 levels.

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John Kerry gets on the airplane after his visit at COP22 di Marrakech © Mark Ralston/Getty Images

2016 will be the hottest year on record

While 2016 is set to become the hottest year on record, the question is not if an energy transition will be made, but if it will take place soon enough to prevent catastrophic consequences. “I went to Greenland to visit the incredible Jakobshavn glacier. Scientists pointed out to me the lines many meters above the water today that mark the glacier’s retreat which it has done more in the past 15 years than it did in the entire previous century. The total flow that comes off that glacier in a single year is enough water to meet the needs of New York City for two decades. I also went to Antarctica to meet with our scientists and to understand better what is taking place. And I talked with the scientists who are on the front lines, not people involved in day to day politics, but people who are making scientific judgment and doing extensive research. And they were crystal clear: The more they learn, the more alarmed they become about the speed with which these changes are happening”.

The heartfelt final standing ovation seemed to have put an end to this season of fight against climate change that had the US government leading the way – through international treaties, the Clean Power Plan, policies on renewable energies and international agreements. Goodbye, Secretary Kerry.

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