On-The-Record Press Call by Special Envoy John Kerry and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy Previewing Day One of COP26
5:49 P.M. CET
MR. PATEL: Hi, everybody. Good afternoon, or good evening, depending on where you are in the world. Thank you so much for joining us on this call with National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Special Climate Envoy John Kerry. It’s a special day over Zoom for Massachusetts and Boston.
As we advised, this call will be on the record and it will be embargoed until 5:00 a.m. GMT and 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.
We will have a factsheet coming your way later this evening that we’ll make sure it goes out to everybody that this call was invited to. And we, of course, as usual, will have some time for a brief Q&A at the end.
But, first, let me turn it over to our first speaker, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: Well, thanks Vedant. And thanks, everybody, for joining in the call. I am here in Glasgow ahead of President Biden’s participation in the World Leader Summit. And I’m excited to be here.
I’m the first-ever U.S. National Climate Advisor, and that position was created because the American people resoundingly know that we need to meet the demands of this moment with action and jobs and justice. We have to take action on climate.
You know, one year ago, in November 2020, President Biden was elected with more votes than anyone in U.S. history. And he ran on a platform of taking bold climate action and growing a clean energy economy and advancing environmental justice.
And he came into office knowing that he has a mandate, as the U.S. President, and a responsibility as well, as a world leader, to tackle this climate crisis head on.
And on day one, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement and he restored U.S. leadership on tackling the climate crisis both at home and abroad.
And now, here in Glasgow, he’s renewing the United States’ commitment to take swift and decisive action, including through his Build Back Better framework.
It’s the largest investment to combat the climate crisis in American history. And it’s going to let us reduce emissions well over a gigaton — that’s 1 billion metric tons — in 2030.
As the President said: It’s a darn big deal. And I agree with him, only I would say: It’s a damn big deal.
You know, witnessing this bold framework come together has been one of the most significant and most engaging moments in my lifetime.
And together with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, this framework is going to put us on a decisive path to achieve our climate goals of reducing emissions 50 to 52 percent by 2030 and achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.
This is a message you’re going to see from the President over the next two days and from dozens of Cabinet officials who will be in Glasgow over the next two weeks.
The United States is back at the table. We’re back, hoping to rally the world to tackle the climate crisis. And we’re going to bring back jobs and economic prosperity to our workers and our families in the United States.
In addition to the historic legislation moving forward, President Biden will be coming to Glasgow with a strong footing because of his unprecedented efforts to mobilize the entire federal government in tackling the climate crisis through our first-ever National Climate Task Force. We have and will continue to use every agency and every tool at our disposal to marshal a climate response that isn’t about sacrifice; it’s about opportunity and possibility — to create millions of good-paying union jobs, give our kids clean air and clean drinking water, tackle racial injustice and economic inequality, and lead the world on new industries and innovations.
You know, since President Biden took office, we have already made tremendous progress across every sector of our economy: advancing wind and solar projects at a rapid pace; rallying automakers and autoworkers around electric vehicles; reducing super pollutants like HFCs and methane; providing communities with healthier living and working conditions; and accelerating innovation and new technologies, as well as climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices so we take advantage of natural solutions to help with adaptation and resilience.
And across all these efforts, we’re advancing environmental justice for the communities that have been most burdened by pollution and by racial and economic inequalities.
But in addition to the accomplishments, the President is going into COP and he’s going to have some new announcements.
Starting tomorrow, the United States is going to release its long-term strategy report which details all of the pathways we have available to us already to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It illustrates how, within three decades, the U.S. can meet our global climate commitments by decarbonizing the power sector, electrifying transportation and buildings, transforming industry, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and reinvigorating our natural lands.
It shows how our 2030 goal is going to lay that foundation for us to reach net zero.
It also fulfills a commitment made with China back in April that both of our countries would develop long-term strategies by COP26 to outline our steps we have to achieve net-zero emissions.
So, this is just one example of how we’re going to be maintaining our commitments. And I know that my good friend and Secretary, John Kerry, will preview some more of what’s to come. But I just want to close by saying that — I know you’ve heard this before, but you’ll hear it again: When President Biden thinks about climate, he thinks about jobs, and vice versa.
Our investments and policies will supercharge our economy, they’ll strengthen the fabric of our society, and improve quality of life. That’s what President Biden sees so clearly about how we can fulfill our global climate commitments and protect future generations so that we can really deliver benefits at home, starting right now.
So, we’re continuing to make good on that promise. And right now, I’ll turn it over to Secretary Kerry.
SECRETARY KERRY: Gina, thank you so much. And thanks for all your incredible work. From my perspective, you’ve helped put us in a good, strong position, which we needed to be post the withdrawal from the agreement and our return to it.
And a 50 to 52 percent reduction over the next 10 years helps the United States to be in compliance with the needs of keeping the Earth’s temperature increased to 1.5 degrees.
So, let me just say to everybody: I’m delighted to be with you here. I’m in Rome with President Biden and flying in tomorrow in the morning. And the President, as you know, will be there both Monday and Tuesday. And it is filled with a lot of different events that are taking place.
We’re going to have a very strong presentation overall by the United States in Glasgow, including more than about 10 Cabinet Secretaries and agency heads.
Obviously, Gina is already there. More than 50 members of Congress will be coming at one point or another on various codels. And other key administration senior officials are all part of the U.S. delegation. So, we will be in many high-level events throughout the two weeks.
I’d say it’s safe to say we have, really, four principal goals. We have a number of goals, but four principal goals. And the number one is to leave Glasgow having raised global ambition very significantly and to be more on track to keep a 1.5 degrees within reach — the limit on warming within the possibilities of reach.
And I think we have done that, frankly. We have — about 65 percent of global GDP is now committed to keep the 1.5 degrees. And when I came into the job in January, and we began our outreach to countries, there were only two or three entities — very few — who were on a track to try to hold 1.5 degrees. Now we have half of — more than half of the G20 and countries around the world that have come to the table in increasing their ambition.
And I think it’s important to note that through our global diplomacy — I just came back from Saudi Arabia, an oil- and gas-producing giant, where they announced a major change: agreeing to work towards net-zero emissions in 2060. And by 2030, half their power is going to come from renewable energy. They agreed to work on a clean hydrogen initiative with the United States and to significantly expand the ability to perhaps supply Europe and Africa and so forth.
Indonesia, likewise, is making strides on reducing the rate of deforestation. And now they’ve announced a new commitment, which is peaking emissions by 2030, getting net zero in 2060. We’re going to work with them in that, in a very close alliance, which is an important part of what we’ve been putting together.
In fact, each of the countries I’m listing — South Africa, similarly, they’re on a plan now to try to achieve the 1.5. If they do the things they say they’re going to do, they will.
In addition, Russia, another oil and gas giant, has made major new announcements — much more engaged in this considering what they’re going to do on methane, whether they join the pledge or not. But they’ve set a net-zero emissions target plan moving forward on a number of actions.
Mexico, which people thought was not possible to get, has now joined up. I spent a day in Mexico with them. They’re doing — they’re going to now submit a recalibrated, more ambitious NDC in the beginning of next year. And they’ve committed to deploy all major renewables — geothermal, hydro, and wind and solar — which they weren’t even willing to talk about literally even a few months ago.
India, which is the third-largest emitter in the world, has set forth an ambition of 450 gigawatts of renewable over the next 10 years. We have formed a partnership with them, and we’ll be working closely with them to get that deployment underway.
And all in all, the 65 percent of global GDP is a very important benchmark because, as I said, more than half of them are G20 countries. And we have Canada; you know, South Korea; Japan; South Africa; and the U.S., obviously; Canada; UK; EU — EU countries individually, like France, Germany, Britain, Italy.
So, we feel really strong about that. Obviously, if you have 65 percent in, you got 35 percent out, and that’s the challenge coming out of Glasgow — is can those countries step up? How fast will they step up? What will they pledge to do over the course of the next years?
That’s the second major goal out of COP for us, is to get countries committing to this critical decade. We think this is the decisive decade, decade of decision, decade of action, and it is critical that countries lay out long-term plans and we fight to keep the 1.5 degrees. The science tells us that with the track that we now have in the NDCs and (inaudible), if people meet them, that we lower the rise of temperature to a level where we’re at about 2.1 or so degrees, at least in modelling. And that’s a huge leap forward.
The third critical goal is finance — finance and adaptation. And we need to — we will be upping the adaptation efforts in Glasgow and obviously taking on the issue of loss. And by “taking on,” we will be acknowledging the need to deal with, appropriately, loss and damage.
And the finance has been greatly enhanced. We will have the most significant galvanizing of the private sector that has ever taken place. And we will have new commitments made by private sector entities that will be announced over the course of the week.
We built on the commitments of the six-largest American banks, which have committed to invest, over the course of the next 10 years, to accelerate this transition a minimum of $4.16 trillion. And there are asset managers outside of that grouping of our six major banks who have committed additional trillions. And that is in addition to the global efforts that have produced a bankers — banking alliance for Glasgow, a net — an asset-managers alliance and an asset-owners alliance. And you’ll be hearing from many of those people who will be in Glasgow who will be announcing what their commitments are going forward.
Now the issue is actually deploying those trillions of dollars, because they need to be for bankable, you know, investable deals. And we are now also galvanizing with the World Ba- — with the multi-development banks, as well as the private sector. And there will be announcements from philanthropy and private sectors that demonstrate the way in which concessional funding — first risk, blended financing — will become available so that we can actually leverage the creation of these new initiatives.
And then the final piece I’ll just go into now is to complete the Paris Rulebook. We’ve been negotiating on that for some period of time now. And we’re all pretty determined to try to get that done. I think that will be a measurement, also, of success.
There’ll be some key initiatives announced that are going to back up what I just said. I think you have some of them which had been embargoed, but you’re aware of the President’s emergency plan for adaptation and resilience and net-zero world, which leverages U.S. technical expertise, helping major emerging economies to be able to really get on a decarbonization pathway.
Many of these countries want to be good citizens and get the job done. They just can’t afford to close a plant today, and they don’t know what they’re going to replace it with. That’s our job. We’re going to come — many developed countries — to the table in a concerted and organized way to help them do that.
We’ve created something called the First Movers Coalition and Clean Energy Demand Initiative, which enlists major companies — big companies — United Airlines, DHL, Amazon, others — who have joined up in order to declare that they’re going to purchase, whether it’s electric vehicles in X amount or sustainable aviation fuel in X amount, or whether they’re going to do cement, or — you know, various key sectors of our industry are prepared to step up and declare so that they’re creating markets and accelerating the creation of those markets.
So, I think, you know, just — there are a number of other things: the net-zero world I mentioned, the plan to conserve global forests. And we will be finalizing the Rulebook — the transparency framework — creating a common system for parties to report their emissions and implementation, and finalizing the accounting rules for parties’ use of market mechanisms to ensure that parties are not double counting or, you know, that there are — you know, we’re making sure they’re really moving towards the reduction of (inaudible) NDC target.
So, that’s a quick synopsis.
I think — I would say in response to some comments I’ve heard: We had a major breakthrough today here in Rome because we now have consent from all the parties, I believe — at least when I left the center to come over here to do this. There is agreement that external coal will no longer be funded by anybody after this year. That’s a big step. Everybody knew that China had followed on. We’ve been working with China for months to urge that step. And now countries that everybody said will not join have joined. And I think G20 can be very pleased that it came out exactly where the G7 did. And that’s a big step forward.
So, why don’t I stop there and we’ll take questions.
MR. PATEL: Thanks so much, Mr. Secretary. Why don’t we — as I said, we’ll move over to Q&A and use the “raise hand” function on Zoom if you’ve got a question. And we’ll try to get through a few of them.
Why don’t we first go to Scott Detrow with NPR.
Q Hello from the press bus outside the G20. I’m hoping you could say a little more about the joint statement today. You said that it was a step forward, but I think the early read from a lot of experts is the opposite. This is really just restating what had been committed to already — that it did not quite raise the bar in the way that you’re saying the goal for COP is. What’s your read on this? And how much do you think this influences what happens over the coming weeks?
And, Administrator McCarthy, I’m also very curious what you’re — what you’re thinking about the Supreme Court challenge to the EPA regulating carbon. I mean, given how much the administration is banking on aggressive administrative action, how big a blow would that be if the Court does take this up — we all know how conservative it is now — and scales back the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, great. Let me just quickly say to you: I don’t know why you read that this is more of the same. We’ve never had all these countries adopting 1.5 degrees. And this document says keeping 1.5 degrees within reach will require meaningful, effective commitments and so forth. And everybody is buying into the notion we’re now working towards the 1.5.
It has, as I said, the unabated coal commitment. It has national recovery and resilience plans requirements. It has a global goal on adaptation and a commitment to scale up the adaptation finance.
You know, these general — these general statements and communiqués are — frankly, they’re important, because everybody is on board.
And I think — you know, I talked to Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Modi and others, and they feel this is a step forward. And people felt like there was, you know, strong commitments on certain things. They said they will strive to significantly reduce our collective greenhouse gas, including methane emissions. That’s never — people just haven’t been focused on methane.
So, I think this tracks a lot of the ambition that we’re going to express and want to express in Glasgow. And I think the fact that there’s a unified effort containing all of those things augurs well.
I mean, I’m on the inside of this, and nobody — I think, you know, very sensitive to whether we, you know, we had a setback or whether we’re moving forward. And I think you know I’ve been pretty honest about where I think we are: We have a long way to go in terms of getting the job done because we still have 35 percent that have got to step up further.
But we’re stepping forward in ways that are going to make it extremely difficult for people not to raise their ambition, each — you know, on an ongoing basis here.
Glasgow is the beginning of this decade race, if you will. This is, you know, the first time we’ve gathered since Paris, with the goal of really revamping ambition in a broad way. And that’s going to happen. Ambition is going to be — in a broad way, it’s going to be revamped.
And when you get major industrial nations — the largest economies of the world — more than half of them saying, “We’re on board to hit 1.5 degrees,” that is a giant step forward.
And it leaves me with optimism that we can still close the gap with some of these other countries. So, we’re working on that.
You know, we talked to Russia today. We’ve talked to other countries. We have ongoing discussions. We have two weeks to be working on this. And the process will go on.
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: Let me just add — the second part, Scott, of your question is that I think that we all know that power plant emissions of both toxics and carbon pollution is damaging to our families and communities. And it threatens our businesses and it threatens our workers. And the courts have repeatedly upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate dangerous power plant pollution.
And so, I do know that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did strike down the ACE rule. So, we’ll see what the Supreme Court might have in mind. But we’re confident that the Supreme Court will confirm what those have before them, which is EPA has not just the right but the authority and responsibility to keep our families and communities safe from pollution.
MR. PATEL: Thanks so much. Next, why don’t we go to Lisa Friedman with the New York Times.
Q Hi guys. Thank you very much for doing this today.
Two questions as well. You know, I understand what you’re saying about the G20 and the 1.5 degrees, Secretary Kerry, but the language on domestic coal out of the G20 is pretty weak — looks weaker than what I’ve seen in previous drafts. Can you explain what happened there?
And secondly, for either of you, you know, President Biden has asked major G20 energy-producing countries to boost production and is, you know, pressuring OPEC and partners to increase oil supply. How do you square that with what the IEA says — that countries have to pivot away from fossil fuels now — and what you’re about to ask countries to do here in Glasgow this week?
SECRETARY KERRY: Lisa, can I — give me the last part of that question. I got the first part on the coal, but what was the other?
Q Sure. Pardon me. Just asking you how the administration squares asking countries to boost energy production with the need to ask countries and companies to phase out of fossil fuels.
SECRETARY KERRY: Because it’s not inconsistent. It’s just not inconsistent, I got to tell you. If it were — if he were asking them to boost their production over five years, I’d quit. But he’s not. He’s asking them to boost production in this immediate moment.
But we’re all trying to facilitate the transition. And as the transition cuts in, there won’t be that need as you deploy the solar panels, as you deploy the transmission lines, as you build out the grid.
I mean, he’s been fighting for a year — not in Europe, quite — but he’s been fighting all year to get the legislation necessary to be able to move more rapidly, and that liberates us. That’s what frees us from this current paradigm.
But you can’t just shut down everybody’s economy across the planet and say, “Okay, we’re not going to use (inaudible)” or whatever. And it happens that you have a short-term demand because COVID created it. You didn’t have the filling of storage tanks, among other things. You’ve had extreme weather. You had weather, you know, problems that lasted a lot longer in Europe. In the spring, it was colder, so they had heating that was used for longer.
So there are real reasons why that demand has spiked up, including getting out of COVID and the economies beginning to resuscitate and the demand goes up.
So, yeah, you got to keep it going momentarily, but that’s what’s going to help pay for the transition. That’s what’s going to help effect this transition.
We are committed, in the United States, to be, you know, carbon-free from power — the power sector — by 2035. That’s not going to happen in 2025. But if we do the things correctly that we’re planning to do, and Gina and her team will be implementing, we’re going to get there. I don’t have any question about that. And the utilities are on board and so forth, and so are labor and others.
So, I just don’t think it’s inconsistent to say you’re going to have a temporary capacity to boost your — you know, keep the economy moving so that you have the revenues and the capacity, and people buy into the notion of what you have to achieve.
And if life is so miserable that you don’t, and the prices go up and other things happen, you’re going to lose — I think it becomes more challenging to get the job done.
So, I see no inconsistency in that. And whether — I mean, again, if it were a long-term thing, that would be bothersome, but it’s not.
And then the other question on the — did you ask about the coal?
MR. PATEL: Yes, sir. It was a question on — yeah.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I’m trying to pull up the final language here so that I have it in front of me. I want to get the latest.
Here it is: “We acknowledge the close link between climate and energy and commit to reduce emissions intensity…in the energy sector to meet the timeframes that align with” Paris.
And here it says: “This will also enable those countries to commit to phasing out investment in new unabated coal power…to do so as soon as possible. We commit to mobilize international and public-private finance to support…and we will put an end to the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power…by the end of 2021.”
I don’t know what’s weak about ending unabated coal power generation and finance by the end of ‘21. Those folks were not supporting that a little while ago. And right — you know — I think, you know, Bloomberg ran a thing saying, “G20 leaders have a chance to usher in the end of coal.” And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Two hundred and thirty million tons of emissions a year will be prevented as a result of that step.
MR. PATEL: Thanks so much.
Next, let’s go to Jen Dlouhy from Bloomberg.
Q I wanted to follow up, Secretary Kerry, on your comment that, at this summit, you “will be acknowledging the need to deal with, appropriately, loss and damage.” For a longtime the U.S. has been viewed as standing in the way of a real meaningful commitment to loss and damage. What does that mean? And what will that translate to in Glasgow?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the first thing it’ll translate to is standing up the Santiago Network in a real way so that there’s no longer just this idea hanging out there and this sort of unfulfilled commitment.
And, you know, I think, obviously, the United States remains concerned about not opening up some legali- — legal track with respect to liability, and we don’t intend to do that.
So, whatever we do will have to be within the framework. But we also know that there’s real loss and damage out there, that there are nation-states that are talking about where their people are going to move because the sea level is rising. There are areas where people can no longer live. And there are migrants moving around the planet as a consequence of the destruction of habitat. So, you can’t ignore that.
And I don’t think you can galvanize the kind of global action that you need to be able to accomplish our goals if we’re not being sensitive and thoughtful about people up and down the economic food chain and people who have done nothing, in most cases, to contribute to the problem.
Eighty percent of the emissions come from 20 economies. And that’s the meaning of the meeting here today.
So, I think it is important, finally — and I know President Biden feels very strongly that it’s important — you know, for the United States to be thoughtful and sensitive to the reality at the same time as we’re not creating some — you know, some unfulfillable obligation that people just aren’t able to manage.
MR. PATEL: Thanks. So, I think we’ve got time for one last question. So, for the last question, why don’t we go to Zeke Miller with the Associated Press.
Q Thank you for doing this. Just to the logistics of the next 48 hours or so, I’m hoping you might be able to preview what the President’s direct engagements and involvement would be with world leaders and other stakeholders over the — while he’s in Scotland. Who will he meet with? What we will he do? What will he say? When will he do those things? There’s really not been any details offered, so I was hoping you might be able to provide some clarity. And how are you looking to use the President at a summit like this to further U.S. aims?
ADVISOR MCCARTHY: I’m sorry. I thought Secretary Kerry would jump in there, but let me pick up.
You know, I — he is going to be giving a speech in front of all of the parties, and he’s going to outline the commitment of the U.S. and our strategies moving forward. He is going to have discussions with the principals to talk about ways in which we can move forward together.
Secretary Kerry, if you’re still there, you may want to embellish a little bit on that.
MR. PATEL: I see him on. Let me see if we can get him to unmute. One moment.
SECRETARY KERRY: Finally got the unmute, guys. We dropped completely, and I apologize. So I haven’t heard a word that anybody said for the last three minutes, and I apologize for that. What —
MR. PATEL: Zeke, do you want to ask your question again so the Secretary can hear it? And then we can wrap right after that.
SECRETARY KERRY: Do you have any of the schedule or —
SECRETARY KERRY: Hello? Can you hear me?
MR. PATEL: We can hear you, sir. We’re just trying to unmute the reporter real quick so he can ask his question one more time. One moment.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. Don’t you guys — don’t you have the President’s schedule there? Because I don’t have his schedule in front of me.
I mean, I know some of the things he’s doing but I don’t have —
Q Thank you, Secretary Kerry. No, we have not received any details on the President’s schedules or engagements or who he’ll be meeting with or (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, why don’t we — why don’t we get whoever it is on the phone. We’ll get them on the phone with you.
MR. PATEL: Okay, well, we can follow up with the President’s schedule when it’s — when it’s advised appropriately.
With that, thanks, everyone, for joining today. As we said at the beginning, this call is on the record, but is embargoed until 5:00 a.m. GMT and 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.
Thank you again, and looking forward to talking to you all soon.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, everybody. Sorry about the glitch at the end there.
6:24 P.M. CET