John Kerry says US should help fight climate damage
Iver the past few months, weather-related disasters have engulfed many places around the world, with countries in the Global South, from Pakistan to Nigeria, being particularly hard hit. John Kerry thinks the United States should help.
Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy and former secretary of state, told TIME that the United States would engage in talks on how to address climate-related destruction at upcoming climate meetings in Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt, and said the United States was open to discussing “potential.” financial arrangements” for so-called loss and damage after years of avoiding the subject.
“I think it’s important for the developed world to recognize that many countries are now being very negatively impacted by the continued practice of how the developed world chooses to power its vehicles, heat its homes, light its businesses, to produce food. Much of the world is obviously frustrated,” Kerry said in an interview Oct. 26. “We have to find a way to get more capital flowing to developing countries.”
For decades, the issue of climate damage – known in climate circles as “loss and damage” – has remained a contentious topic in international climate negotiations. Vulnerable developing countries have insisted that they are liable for the damage caused by the emissions of their developed counterparts. Meanwhile, wealthy countries, including the United States and European countries, have historically attempted to shift discussions of climate-related losses toward technical support rather than financial obligations.
But the rising costs of extreme weather in the Global South combined with the economic challenges facing many developing countries have made the issue of financial support unavoidable. The floods in Pakistan, for example, left a third of the country under water at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. The monsoons killed nearly 2,000 people in India. And drought in East Africa has left millions at risk of starvation.
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The tenor of the discussion begins to change. While a deal may be a long way off, climate officials in developed countries now recognize that loss and damage is a pressing issue for many of the countries most vulnerable to climate change and that they need help. Kerry describes the “completely unjust cycle” in which developing countries, often already struggling economically, are hit by climate catastrophe and saddled with debt to rebuild. “To some extent, loss and damage has become a legitimate outlet for people to vent their frustration with the inefficiency and unfairness of the current allocation system,” he says. “It’s up to the developed world to stand up and be honest about this and help.” It is, according to Kerry, “a moral obligation”.
Kerry cited a new vision of the Bretton Woods institutions, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as a key step in this direction. The IMF, in particular, can reallocate hundreds of billions of dollars to better support developing countries. “They have the ability to put a lot more capital into circulation on this issue by being, frankly, a little more creative with the current rules and regulations,” Kerry says. “Our hope is that they will start doing that.”
Leaders of vulnerable countries, including a consortium known as G77+China which represents 134 developing countries, have demanded a “facility” to direct funds for losses to countries in the South. At last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, a push to include such a measure in the negotiated conference agreement was rejected by developed countries. But now Kerry says the United States is open to talks about funding casualties and damages at upcoming talks in Egypt. “We support a good dialogue in Sharm el-Sheikh, where we have a discussion about all aspects of it, including potential financial arrangements that people think are appropriate,” he said. “Clearly, the developed world needs to step up its efforts to address the impacts.”
Still, Kerry laid out several areas that he believes will present difficult negotiating challenges for the United States. On the one hand, he says liability calculations must reflect recent emissions from countries that have expanded their use of coal. (He didn’t name China, but the country has dramatically increased the use of coal since international climate talks began 30 years ago.) “People are going to have to really sit down and calculate,” he says. “How do you measure that? Framing is another major concern for the United States; in a call with reporters before our interview, Kerry dismissed the term “reparations” for climate damage. He also says that any provision that is “legally, statutorily required with some sort of legal process” is a non-starter.
Indeed, beyond formal negotiations on loss and damage, domestic politics in the United States remains a significant challenge to efforts to support countries in the Global South. “Our policy is not particularly helpful and conducive to doing what we should be doing,” Kerry says. Anything legally binding would require Senate approval, which would be slow if it ever happened. The administration has significant influence over funding, but it also requires congressional approval. Congress cut President Joe Biden’s first budget request of $2.5 billion for international climate assistance to $1.1 billion, and it’s unclear whether Congress will approve his subsequent request for 11 billions of dollars. If the Republicans take control of Congress in November, the outlook for the future becomes even bleaker. “Congress obviously could help, and I’d like to see Congress approve appropriate funds for the job,” Kerry says, adding that public sector investment will help catalyze private sector money.
Kerry said politicians and policymakers in the United States should recognize that these funds are “not a gift” but rather an “investment” that pays dividends not only in the communities where they are directed, but also in the states. -United. human beings, investment in health, in community development, in transition,” he says. “Volatility is not something people should take lightly. It’s very destructive to growth and development and to people’s well-being, and then it also becomes a threat multiplier.
It remains to be seen whether the more than 190 countries represented in Egypt in November will be able to reach a meaningful agreement on how best to support countries in the South in the face of climate challenges. But, for long-time observers of international climate politics, Northern countries’ embrace of efforts to remake the Bretton Woods system, rapidly scale up adaptation finance and even potentially offer financial support for loss and damage represents a remarkable change.
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