US climate envoy John Kerry is to participate in the Dublin Climate Dialogues next week. The initiative is an attempt to scale-up global ambition in addressing the climate crisis in advance of the critical COP26 global summit.
Leading thinkers, innovators, politicians, climate campaigners, scientists and energy experts – including representatives of the world's largest carbon-emitting countries – will be attending the virtual event hosted from University College Dublin on May 19th and 20th.
Supported by the Government, it will culminate in a declaration to be handed over to the UK government, which is hosting COP26 in Glasgow next November.
Mr Kerry, in the course of recent whistle-stop visits to key signatory countries under the Paris climate agreement, has sought support for more demanding targets on reducing emissions to keep the world within a 1.5-degree temperature rise above pre-industrialised levels; a key aim of the Paris pact.
He discussed a unified strategy with EU foreign ministers earlier this week to deal with China and other big-emitting nations – and is due to visit Europe next week in an attempt to progress this approach.
“We agreed to work extremely closely together, that we need to unify, particularly with respect to some of our conversations with China, with other countries where we are trying to move more rapidly to a mutuality of effort,” Mr Kerry told the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Former European Parliament president Pat Cox, who is chairing the conference, welcomed Mr Kerry's participation, and underlined the urgent need "to accelerate and deepen commitments".
“Since the signing of the Paris Accord over 36 gigatonnes of CO2 has been added to the atmosphere each year. In addition, the toxic effects arising from the burning of fossil fuels cost $2.9 trillion per year in lost productivity and account directly for 4.5 million premature deaths annually. We are not on track to meet the necessary 2-degree pathway, let alone a 1.5-degree pathway, to a sustainable global future,” he added.
With COP26 “a date with destiny”, Mr Cox said: “We think we can make a contribution to consciousness-raising among a wide community of interest...with a global audience, with global contributors.”
“We are very pleased to have President Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, making the opening political address at the Dublin Climate Dialogues...and wish to acknowledge with thanks the invaluable assistance given to us by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Minister Simon Coveney in securing Secretary Kerry’s participation,” Mr Cox said.
His engagement "is a mark and a measure of his personal commitment and that of the United States to drive and lead an ambitious agenda at COP26", he believed.
Speaking in advance of her appearance, climate scientist Prof Katharine Hayhoe, who is based at Texas Tech University, echoed the need to for greater urgency.
“No matter where we’re from, what language we speak, or how we vote, we all want a better future. We all need clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, enough food to eat and a safe place to live. Today, climate change stands between us and that future,” she added.
“Science doesn’t set a specific time or date by which we must fix it. Rather... every action matters. Every bit of warming matters. Every year matters. Every choice matters...We’ve pushed our choices off for too long. We’ve kicked the can down the road at our own expense, and we’re already paying the price of that delay,” Prof Hayhoe said.
“The time for meaningful action is not tomorrow, it’s today. We must cut carbon emissions, accelerate the transition to clean energy, eliminate our energy and food waste, and invest in nature-based solutions that grow ecosystems and economies as much as possible, as soon as possible,” she said.
Just as all were at risk from climate impacts, so too all would benefit from climate action, she predicted. “And that’s what gives me hope: the recognition that change is already underway, and that change will lead us to a better future. It just needs to happen faster, because later will be too late.”