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Kerry stresses "decade of decision" on global climate engagement

08 April 2021

The US' most senior climate official wants to see commitment and cooperation in tackling climate change, and views the 2020s as a "decade of decision" that will impact the planet's environment for far longer.

John Kerry, US presidential envoy for climate issues, said 7 April that choices made today will set a path for the gains to be made -- or missed -- as countries and companies aim to achieve goals like those in the Paris Agreement.

"We think these next 10 years -- between 2021 and 2030 -- is the decade of decision. If we don't do this adequately in the next 10 years, we're not going to be able to hold on to the possibility of a warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius," Kerry said.

The 1.5 degrees Celsius figure is the more ambitious end of the Paris accord's target range for limiting global warming compared with pre-industrial levels by the end of the 21st century.

Kerry was speaking alongside Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as a part of the multilateral agency's annual Spring Meetings. In a press conference on 7 April, Georgieva stressed that climate change is a key theme at this year's meetings.

Kerry likewise warned that, without action now, the US would not be in a position to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a target US President Joseph Biden has pledged to pursue. Other economies -- including some of the world's largest emitters, such as China and the European Union -- have formalized their own net-zero targets.

"All of this hangs in the balance," Kerry said.

The Biden administration has made climate engagement a central part of its policy priorities. Biden has tied recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic to a raft of environmentally-focused initiatives, including infrastructure investment, promotion of electric vehicles, and green jobs creation.

The climate-forward measures mark a stark contrast to those of former US President Donald Trump, who in 2017 withdrew the US from the Paris climate pact. Trump also declined to contribute $2 billion of the $3 billion the US pledged to the Green Climate Fund, which along with IMF and World Bank investments, is considered critical to supporting renewable energy projects, reforestation, and other carbon reduction measures.

The US is the world's second-largest emitter after China, according to IHS Markit data.

Georgieva, for her part, stressed the IMF's three-pronged approach to climate action: supporting a global price on carbon, helping fund green infrastructure projects, and reducing the costs of transition for workers employed in carbon-intensive industries like mining or steel production.

"It is doable—and not only that, it must be done," Georgieva said.

The IMF chief also called for "making the invisible, visible," by bringing greater transparency to financial and other players with stakes in climate-changing activities.

Georgieva and Kerry agreed on the necessity of using concessionary finance, or lending with generous terms that support socially-minded missions like those of the IMF. In addition to initiatives from governments and multilateral groups, the role of private-sector finance will help propel forward the transition to a lower-carbon global economy.

The event was moderated by Becky Anderson, a news anchor at CNN International, who noted a common "faith in capital markets," shared between Kerry and Georgieva, in how global private-sector finance can incentivize climate stewardship in the future on top of government policies.

As part of the meetings' focus this year on climate change, the IMF launched its Climate Change Indicators Dashboard, an online data visualization tool.

Article by William Fleeson, IHS Markit senior research analyst.

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