Kerry Urges States, Cities to Offer Pledges in Run-up to End-of-Year Paris Negotiations

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By Dean Scott

March 12 — Secretary of State John Kerry March 12 urged U.S. states as well as private industry and local governments around the world to offer their own pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions ahead of December talks in Paris that are expected to conclude with a global climate accord.

Kerry said he is optimistic the accord, which is to be the first to include actions from developed and developing nations alike, would be an “absolutely vital first step” toward a global low-carbon energy path.

A deal concluded between more than 190 nations, which is to enter into force in 2020, would send a signal “that countries everywhere are moving in this direction” toward low-carbon energy sources, Kerry said.

“That’s when innovators and entrepreneurs and investors start to say, `this is the future,' ” Kerry said.

The secretary said the Paris accord “has to be a truly all-hands-on-deck effort” and urged “all of our partners—business and industry groups, mayors, governors, throughout the country and around the world—to announce their own targets, their commitments” in the months ahead. That bottom-up effort “can set an example and create a grassroots movement towards success” in Paris, Kerry said.

Pledges Should Have Impact 

Kerry said the November pledge by the world's two largest emitters, the U.S. and China, which were “long regarded as the leaders of opposing camps” in the talks provided momentum toward getting a global deal signed.

The U.S. pledged to its cut emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels; China vowed that its emissions would peak by 2030, or possibly sooner.

The European Union also has announced that it would ratchet up its emissions reduction targets under the Paris deal to cut greenhouse gases 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels.

“We now have strong commitments from the three largest emitters in the world,” Kerry said.

Other Global Action Said Needed 

But other global action is also needed, the secretary said, including eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels. “We’ll have to stop government money from going towards non-renewable energy sources, like coal and oil,” Kerry said.

“It makes no sense to be subsidizing that, which is why the United States has been helping to drive efforts in the G-20 and APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] to phase out wasteful fossil fuel subsidies,” he said.

The secretary also reaffirmed Obama administration efforts to end U.S. financial support for overseas coal-fired power plants that would increase emissions, a commitment the president included in his 2013 climate action plan.

The U.S. Export-Impact Bank and the Treasury Department have since issued guidelines largely prohibiting funding of such overseas projects.

Those actions are designed to steer global financial institutions away “from funding dirty power plants and putting public money into those things that we know are going to go in the wrong direction,” Kerry said.

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