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March 26, 2021

Special Envoy Kerry's Remarks at the Ministerial on Climate Action

As prepared

Thank you very much to our co-hosts.

In December of 2015, we all left Paris committed to limiting earth’s temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius – and with the high aspiration of holding it to 1.5.

That was 6 years ago.

Since then, scientists have only doubled down on the imperative of the 1.5-degree limit if we are to avoid catastrophic impacts.

And if we didn’t hear the science screaming at us, we only had to open our eyes.  Climate predictions have routinely come true, but bigger and faster than predicted.   We continue to be surprised by the pace and intensity of warming.  Last year communities registering more than 50 degrees Celsius–130 or more Fahrenheit– not to mention extreme weather all around us.

Crops destroyed.  Forests burning.  Lives lost.

And still the emissions continue to rise.

Once-in-a-century floods every year, mudslides wipe out villages, freak winter freezes in warm climates.

And still the excuses grow.

As we convene today, it is more urgent than ever that we all use this decade to significantly reduce emissions.

That we stop just saying this is an existential or catastrophic crisis, and start leading like we know it.

That we listen to the economists who warn us it is far less expensive to respond to the crisis now than it is to wait.

Our collective mission for Glasgow should be to do everything possible to keep a 1.5-degree Celsius limit on temperature rise within reach–to keep it “on the table.”

First, as many countries as possible, and especially the major economies, should be driving toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, ideally by 2050 or before, and developing specific net zero strategies to show concretely how they are going to get there.

Second, we need to take the necessary action in this critical decade to significantly reduce emissions.

The scientists tell us it just doesn’t work to issue a mid-century goal without reducing sufficiently between now and 2030–because without that, and without a miracle, it’s as highly improbable as it is highly implausible that you could ever get to 2050 net zero in a way any country would ever choose.

Our words must be backed up by near-term action, including the transition away from unabated coal.

Will all of us do this in the exact same way, with the same mix of policies, at the same pace?


We have never expected all countries to take the same steps in the same timeframe–not in Paris–and not now.  There will be a continuum of effort, in line with different national circumstances.

But we do expect everyone to do enough–and that means doing what it takes to respond to the science, to answer the Earth’s warning to us.

For our part, we are working hard to deliver.  President Biden is committed to a whole-of-government response to achieve net zero emissions no later than 2050.

We are developing an ambitious NDC, which we will announce soon.

We are updating our mid-century strategy to be a net zero strategy.

We will significantly increase climate finance levels over time, starting in our FY22 budget request.

Financing for adaptation and resilience for vulnerable countries and communities will be an important part of this effort.

We will also be working with the private sector to find ways to promote capital flows that are consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Of course, we will all have challenges–and we should be honest about them, individually and collectively.

But what should excite all of us is the opportunity to cooperate on a thoughtful, accelerated transition to clean energy–with help to those who need it from those who can help, including my country.

We all stand on the edge of the most exciting economic transformation since the industrial revolution which will make all of us healthier, more prosperous, and more secure.

My friends, this should not be a year to wring our hands and point fingers.  This must be the year to point the way to a cleaner future and to join hands in a cooperative journey to get there–for all of us and all our people.

We can get this job done.

Let’s go do it.