Kerry Is Humble and Pledges Ambition In First International Appearance

Appearing virtually at the United Nations (UN) Climate Adaptation Summit, U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said he “regretted” America’s three-year absence from international climate talks and struck a tone of conciliation and cooperation in his first international meeting.  In the short remarks, he vowed that America is back and will work hard to raise climate ambitions and to raise funds for climate adaptation and resilience projects in the countries most harmed by the crisis, which also can least afford to deal with climate change.  And Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres said “We are waging war on nature and destroying our life support system, and nature is striking back,” and added that 2021 is the “make-it-or-break-it year.”

Why This Matters:  Tone is so important in diplomacy and after a significant absence, a lack of humility might have been seen as tone-deaf by many nations who pushed hard for continued progress after the U.S. walked out.  The summit was an important step too.  Several leaders made commitments to adaptation including the U.K. and German governments.  The key is funding for projects, including nature-based solutions that can help solve both the climate and the biodiversity crises at once.

Kerry’s Pledges

After explaining the genuine nature of Biden’s climate initiatives, Kerry offered up the following soft commitments — he will work to leverage US innovation on climate, promote better understanding and management of climate risks in developing nations and support collaborations between the private sector and the impacted communities.  He also promised to come to the next Climate Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting prepared to push for an “ambitious climate action in which all major emitter country raise their ambition significantly and in which we help protect those who are the most vulnerable.”

Adaptation Is Underfunded

Guterres called out the development banks and asked them to provide fuding to fill the $70 billion annual gap for addressing climate impacts by scaling up finance and allocating half of climate funds to adaptation programmes. Today countries only invest about one fifth of climate finance in adaptation – and analysis by Care International found that figure may have been overreported.  The U.K. promised to launch of a global coalition to address climate impacts, building on a previous joint initiative with Egypt.  The Germans pledged funding — an additional €100m for the Adaptation Fund specifically to support least developed countries.

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