U.S. climate envoy Kerry launches carbon offset plan

COP27 climate summit in Egypt
John Kerry, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate speaks as he attends the opening of the American Pavilion in the COP27 climate summit in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt November 8, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 9 (Reuters) - U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on Wednesday announced the creation of a carbon offset plan meant to help developing countries speed their transition away from fossil fuels.

Kerry launched the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA) with the intention of funding renewable energy projects and accelerating clean energy transitions in developing countries.

The United States will develop the program with the Bezos Earth Fund and Rockefeller Foundation, with input from the public and private sectors which would operate through 2030 and possibly be extended to 2035.

Kerry said Chile and Nigeria were among the developing countries to have shown early interest in the ETA, and that Bank of America, Microsoft, PepsiCo and Standard Chartered Bank had voiced interest in "informing the ETA's development".

"Our intention is to put the carbon market to work to deploy capital to speed the transition from dirty to clean power specifically, to retire unabated coal-fired power and accelerate the buildout of renewables," he said at the event launch on Wednesday. Kerry added that the carbon credits used in the program would be "high quality" and meet "strong safeguards".

The U.S. climate envoy acknowledged widespread criticism of voluntary carbon offset schemes raised by environmental groups and a task force created by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, which on Tuesday recommended that carbon credits be used sparingly by companies and governments to avoiding undermining their net-zero emission plans.

Kerry said Guterres was supportive of the U.S.-led carbon market initiative provided there were safeguards to it.

The two had met earlier on Wednesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

Environmental groups panned the initiative, saying that the scheme would delay real efforts to slash emissions.

"A voluntary carbon credit program won’t guarantee deep, real cuts in emissions - it’s tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs as the climate ship is going down," said Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

At the event launch, a protester interrupted Kerry saying: "You’re providing false solutions.”

Kerry responded that fossil fuel companies would not participate in the program.

Reporting by Sarah MacFarlane; writing by William James; editing by Janet Lawrence and Mark Heinrich

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