U.S. envoy Kerry says climate change measures must be stepped up

MILAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global steps to tackle climate change must be ramped up and the world needs to more aggressively reduce its reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry said on Thursday, as he put on display the new green stance of President Joe Biden’s administration.

FILE PHOTO: John Kerry, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's special presidential envoy for climate appointee, speaks as President-elect Biden announces his national security nominees and appointees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“Failure at the COP in Glasgow is not an option,” Kerry, referring to an international climate conference scheduled for November in Scotland, said at an online event of the B20 - the G20’s forum of business leaders - being held in Milan.

In his first appearance as Biden’s climate envoy - a newly created, high-level position - Kerry said the United States is re-entering global climate talks with “humility” after it “walked away from the table for four wasted years” under former President Donald Trump, who withdrew the country from the Paris climate agreement.

Biden, who has touted the need to make greater use of clean-energy sources, signed an order on his first day in office on Wednesday recommitting the United States to the agreement. American participation in the accord is now due to resume on Feb. 19.

The United States is the world’s second-biggest emitter, after China, of so-called greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for climate change. Achieving net-zero global carbon emissions by 2050 is a goal of the Paris accord, which was negotiated during the presidency of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

Kerry, who served as U.S. secretary of state under Obama, said the world needs to cut its use of coal and other fossil fuels and called out countries that continue to finance coal plants abroad or build new ones domestically.

“Some countries are funding coal-fired power plants. ... Some are increasing coal-fired capacity. ... I’ll be blunt - we must move from the dirtier options much faster,” Kerry said.

Countries must phase out coal five times more quickly than the current rate, increase tree cover five times more quickly, accelerate renewable energy deployment six times more quickly and transition to electric vehicles 22 times more quickly, Kerry added.

Kerry called on the private sector to aid governments to achieve more rapid decarbonization.

“In this decade through 2030, the world will need more than $1 trillion in annual investment in clean power systems to speed the energy transition,” Kerry said.

Kerry called upon the world get on “to the road to defeating climate change and leaving our kids a world that is prosperous, healthy and secure.”

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Giulia Segreti and Will Dunham