Special Envoy Kerry Barnstorms In Europe To Demonstrate U.S. Climate Commitment

Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry spent the last week in Europe to show the Biden administration’s commitment to bold climate action.  Kerry posted tweets from London, Brussels, and Paris, complete with photos of his numerous meetings with high-ranking officials at each stop.  He began by meeting with the COP26 President Alok Sharma, a member of Parliament who will chair the meeting later this year in Glasgow, and the U.K. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson popped in to surprise them.  Then Kerry headed to Brussels where he met with Frans Timmerman who leads the EU’s Green Deal and the EU President Ursula von der Leyen.  He went on to Paris for talks with French President Macron, as well as the French Foreign Minister, the French Finance Minister, and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris.

Why This Matters: Despite the pandemic, Kerry is conducting in-person (but safely masked) diplomacy with key global stakeholders on climate change in preparation for a summit here in the U.S on Earth Day.  The meetings appear to be designed to shape new, elevated commitments that can be worked out in advance of the Glasgow meeting around technology, innovation, and finance for projects in the developing world.

Kerry’s European Tour

In-person diplomacy is rare for the Biden administration so far, especially because the pandemic is not well under control even in Europe.  Kerry flew commercial on this trip but still managed to pack his visit with many meetings in each location.  The purpose of the trip was made clear in a statement per The Washington Post:

“What we’re trying to do is raise the ambition of many countries, of all countries,” the former U.S. Secretary of State said from Paris on Wednesday. “Because we’ve been absent for four years and there’s been an absence of any dialogue on climate — and these countries have all been basically dissed over these last four years — President Biden thought it was important for us to be able to conduct this essential personal diplomacy at this point in time.”

With just a little over a month until the Earth Day summit when President Biden will convene leaders from some of the world’s major economies, as part of a push to get the globe’s biggest polluters to commit to greater reductions, there is an urgency to ensure that its success.  The meeting is important to show that the Biden administration is “walking the walk” on global climate action and can help to push for greater accomplishment at the U.N. COP in Scotland this fall where all nations are expected to lay out their plans to begin drastically reducing emissions by the end of the decade.  The last COP in Madrid in 2019 ended without sufficient forward progress, and 2020’s meeting was pushed by a year.

The Europeans are already pushing ahead — the European Union has pledged to cut net greenhouse gas emissions at least 55 percent by 2030, compared with 1990, and the U.K. has promised to reduce its emissions by 68 percent by the end of the decade.

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