Politics of Poverty

Is Kerry signaling what the US will do at COP21?

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Indigenous women marched for food security and climate justice in the streets of Lima, Peru in 2013. The next UN COP on climate change will take place in Lima in December. Photo: Percy Ramírez/Oxfam America

The Secretary of State looks in the right direction, but needs to turn sights on climate adaptation.

Today in John Kerry’s remarks at the Atlantic Council on international action on climate change, the Secretary of State outlined the case for economic growth and opportunity as linked to clean energy investment.

He’s absolutely right. In the absence of an unprecedented change in the global use of fossil fuels, Oxfam commissioned research that found the world is on track for a 4–6ºC temperature rise by the end of the 21st century. This is an even higher temperature rise than the worst-case scenario outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and will have devastating consequences for the world’s developing economies.

And the current rate of capital expenditure is still moving in the wrong direction: the next decade will see over $6 trillion allocated to developing the fossil fuel industry. Secretary Kerry also called for phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies and deep investments in renewable energy. This is exciting and possible but requires capital investment in the near-term in rapidly developing economies.

In meeting this challenge, the US should follow-through on shifting subsidies away from dirty energy and in providing further commitments to climate finance for developing countries. The US must be prepared to come to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21, in Paris and demonstrate a willingness to meet past climate finance commitments and to commit to a new post-2020 target for investment in low carbon technologies and adaptation needs in developing economies.

Secretary Kerry’s speech sets the right tone as we head towards an agreement at COP21. But rhetoric alone won’t deliver what we need in Paris.

Without signaling a continued commitment to climate adaptation, a deal in Paris is likely out of reach.

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