Kerry vows US will meet climate goal despite court setback

US climate envoy John Kerry vowed on Friday that the United States would meet targets it submitted to the United Nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite a Supreme Court ruling that limited the government’s powers.

“We are determined to achieve our goals. We can achieve our goals,” Kerry told AFP.

“But obviously it would help if we had a majority of the Supreme Court of the United States of America that really understood the gravity of the situation and was more willing to try to help rather than present an obstacle of one kind or another.” he said.

President Joe Biden, after defeating climate skeptic Donald Trump, in April last year said the United States would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, dramatically increasing its climate ambitions world’s largest economy.

He submitted the so-called nationally determined contribution to the U.N. climate body under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the landmark deal brokered by Kerry when he was secretary of state.

China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, on Friday called on all nations to adhere to the Paris pledges, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying of the United States, “it is not enough just to shout slogans.”

Kerry, who has worked with Chinese officials in his climate role despite rising tensions between Beijing and Washington, said he was “not surprised by the messages” from the Asian power.

“We’re going to show China exactly how we’re going to do the job,” Kerry said.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, called the Supreme Court decision “a setback to our fight against climate change.”

– Biden Proposes Drilling –

Despite Biden’s pledges to wean the United States off fossil fuels, the Interior Department on Friday released a five-year proposal that would allow offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, though it would still ban drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The proposal comes amid soaring natural gas prices and as Biden seeks to woo Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from swing-vote coal-producing West Virginia, to back a package that would also boost clean energy.

Environmentalists see the legislation as a last hope amid expectations that Trump’s GOP will make progress in November’s congressional elections.

The Supreme Court, ending a term in which three Trump-appointed justices pushed it sharply to the right, on Thursday struck down a key way the government could have tackled climate change without new legislation.

In a 6-3 decision called “devastating” by Biden, the high court said the Environmental Protection Agency did not have the authority to order sweeping cuts in emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“I’m confident — and our legal people are looking at it very carefully — that this decision leaves us plenty of room to be able to do a lot of things that we need to do,” Kerry said.

Asked about calls from some lawmakers in his Democratic Party for Biden to declare a climate emergency, Kerry said: “I think the president needs to evaluate every option available.”

– “Pin the Balloon” –

Coal accounts for about 20 percent of US electricity generation — still about on par with renewables. China, despite heavy investment in wind and solar power, has also continued to build coal capacity.

But Kerry said the market showed coal was not the future.

“No one is going to finance any new coal power in the United States — no banks, no private lenders. Coal is the dirtiest fuel in the world,” he said.

Scientists are warning that the world is far from on track to avoid the worst disasters of climate change, including intense heat waves, floods, droughts, rising sea levels and storms.

The Paris agreement set a goal of limiting end-of-century warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels — and preferably no more than 1.5 degrees — but the planet is already warming by almost 1.2 Celsius.

Ruth Greenspan Bell, a climate expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said it has been difficult for the United States to show leadership on climate while struggling internally over whether it is a priority.

“It’s like putting a pin in a balloon. There’s a little less air in the balloon than there was before,” he said of the court’s decision.

“Times call for a moonshine, but imagine trying to moonshine while simultaneously in a defensive crouch.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.