John Kerry, President Biden's special envoy for climate, said the group is focused on the U.N.'s COP27 conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. He said Egypt, which is chairing the summit, has already begun its preparations and set ambitious goals.
Kerry said other world tensions, including the ongoing Ukraine crisis, "will not change the reality of what is happening every day with respect to our climate,'' and called the issue an "international threat for all of us.''
He said the climate issue is not about politics.
"There is no ideology in this. This is not anything to do with some of the issues'' of concern for the U.S. administration, Kerry said at a news conference in the capital of Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Neither official took questions from reporters.
Kerry, who also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, was referring to conflicts in the Middle East.
Shoukry said they discussed priorities and goals of the Egyptian-chaired COP27, including making funds available to developing counties to implement the Paris 2015 agreement on climate change. He did not further elaborate.
"The test ahead of us is not just a political and diplomatic challenge to tame mother nature - it is a test pitting human nature against itself,'' he said.
In the news briefing, Kerry said they aim to implement all promises made in last year's U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. In the 2021 summit, almost 200 nations accepted a compromise deal, which outside experts said showed progress, but not success.
That deal didn't achieve any of the three U.N. goals: Pledges that would cut world carbon dioxide emissions by about half, $100 billion in yearly climate aid from rich countries to poor ones, with half that money going to help the developing world adapt to the harms of a warming world.
"Our goal this year, in addition to fulfilling all promises made in Glasgow, is to include more countries to the 1.5 degree-efforts,'' he said.
Keeping global warming from going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) was the most ambitious goal in the 2015 Paris accord. The planet has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to preindustrial times.
Also on Monday, the Council of Europe warned in a statement that a lack of at-scale funding for "resilient and just energy transitions'' in developing countries is an obstacle for green and sustainable development.
The European Union urged rich countries to meet the collective commitment to mobilize $100 billion per year in 2022 as financial aid to poor countries, according to the statement.
Kerry also said the U.S. was working with Egypt on its own transition to a clean energy future.
In June, Kerry announced an increase in U.S. funding to help Egypt convert to solar energy and move away from fossil fuels, a major source of energy in the country of over 100 million people.
In recent years, El-Sissi's government has taken steps to convert to renewables, seizing the advantage of the country's optimal solar and wind conditions for energy harvesting.
Kerry addresses the world from AUC
In a speech on Monday afternoon at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Kerry said that there are eight months till COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh that are full of promise and challenge, and that it is imperative to do everything to “give life to the many commitments of COP26 in Glasgow.”
“You are preparing to host delegates and stakeholders from around the world for what is, with no exaggeration, a continuation of one of the most important conversations in the history of human beings,” he said in Cairo, adding that it is particularly fitting to gather in Egypt, which is known as “the mother of the world”.
Recounting the contributions of ancient Egyptians to the world, Kerry said that Egypt – as the host of COP27 in November – can help the world take the next critical steps to saving civilisations.
Kerry stressed in his speech the importance of building on what was achieved in Glasgow COP26.
“Almost 200 nations came together and took unprecedented steps in the cause of the climate battle. They resolved to pursue efforts to limit the earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – and agreed that would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 45 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050," he said.
“With a 1.5-degree temperature rise, we may lose much of the world’s coral reefs, small fisheries, and crustaceans, including here in the Red Sea, home to some of the world’s richest marine biodiversity. With a 2-degree temperature rise, we risk losing all coral reefs and collapse of the entire ocean ecosystem. At 1.5 degrees, our staple crops – corn, rice, and wheat – will be unpredictable and unstable, especially in places like the Nile River delta and sub-Saharan Africa,” Kerry warned.
Kerry praised the decisions of private sector companies worldwide, saying that Glasgow produced unprecedented private sector commitments to action, recounting a few examples of what global companies are currently doing.
Speaking about the transition to a green economy, Kerry said that it cannot be achieved without meaningful progress in securing more direct climate finance, including for adaptation, or without aligning trillions of dollars for both mitigation and adaptation through stronger national policies.
“Seventeen of the world’s 20 most climate vulnerable countries can be found on this continent,” he said about Africa and the need for climate finance, adding that rising temperatures and less predictable rainfall have already changed growing and planting seasons on the continent.
Egypt gets 95 percent of its water from the Nile, and experts warn of a nationwide freshwater shortage by 2025, Kerry said.
“Roads, bridges, and ports can only spur economic growth and reduce poverty next year if they are built to survive the storms of tomorrow,” he said, adding that in Africa, with the world’s fastest growing populations and fastest growing economies, adaptation creates jobs and saves lives.
“Together this year developed countries must make every effort to fulfil our collective goal to mobilise $100 billion annually to help developing countries reduce emissions and confront the impacts of climate change,” Kerry announced.
“We stand ready to work with all parties and the Egyptian COP presidency to ensure that the Glasgow Sharm El-Sheikh Work Program on the Global Goal on Adaptation will accelerate effective action,” he added.
* This story has been edited by Ahram Online