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Kerry warns world will blow through critical climate change threshold unless global leaders step up

<i>Allison Dinner/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>US Climate Envoy John Kerry
allison dinner
Allison Dinner/Bloomberg/Getty Images
US Climate Envoy John Kerry

By Ella Nilsen, CNN

US Climate Envoy John Kerry warned Wednesday that world leaders will blow through a critical climate-change threshold unless they dramatically accelerate the transition to clean energy.

“Let me be absolutely clear: we’re heading to well over 2 degrees right now — 2.7, or something like that,” Kerry said, speaking at Foreign Policy magazine’s Climate Summit.

Scientists have warned that global warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is when society began burning fossil fuels for energy in earnest. The emissions from those fuels have trapped heat in the planet’s atmosphere for decades, leading to a rate of warming that scientists said last year was faster than they had previously imagined.

Earlier this year, scientists reported that global average temperature had reached 1.1 degrees Celsius — though that’s a conservative estimate.

Kerry added that if the commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow are implemented over the next eight or nine years, “the International Energy Agency tells us we would be at 1.8 degrees of warming by 2050, and that’s a huge step forward.”

But he warned that the world is not on that track yet.

“We’re way behind, and we’re not going to catch up” by the end of this year, Kerry said. “We could be deploying the renewable technology we have today much faster, to a much greater extent, and begin to bring down emissions — not withstanding Ukraine [and] the pressure people are feeling about the supply of oil and gas.”

Kerry’s major focus heading into COP27 this November, in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, is trying to convince countries to follow through on their Glasgow pledges, and to keep increasing their ambition.

That mission has also been complicated by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and resulting energy fallout in Europe. In the US, President Joe Biden has been urging oil and gas companies to produce more to fill a void left by Russian oil and gas.

And with the clock ticking, it’s still unclear whether a slim Democratic majority in Congress will produce a climate and clean energy bill to make massive investments in renewable energy and bolster domestic supply chains for renewables and other forms of clean energy in the US.

Democrats in Congress see Memorial Day as an unofficial deadline to have a deal by. But key swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is also convening bipartisan energy talks, leading to confusion over the path forward.

Kerry said that the private sector needs signals and investments from the government to speed the energy transition.

“They need signals from the government — a tax credit, an incentive,” Kerry said. “They need to know the demand is real and it’s going to be implemented. This is an exciting, transformational moment where we’re really at the brink of a new industrial revolution.”

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