“We feel an obligation to work overtime to try to make up the difference. We have a lot to do,” Kerry said at the event with the UK and Italian ambassadors.
Biden has promised to chart a path towards net-zero US emissions by 2050. Scientists have said that goal is in line with what is needed, while also stressing that global emissions need to drop by half by 2030 to prevent the most devastating impacts of global warming.
Kerry along with Biden’s domestic climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, are spearheading the administration’s climate agenda, coordinating regulations and domestic and international incentives aimed at speeding the deployment of clean energy and transitioning from fossil fuels.
Biden has also signed more than a dozen executive orders related to climate change, and has mobilised every federal agency to help shape the government’s response.
Those measures will form the backbone of Washington’s next emissions reduction goal for the year 2030, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), to be announced before a global climate leaders summit Biden will host on April 22. The next UN climate conference is in November in Glasgow.
Kerry did not say what the US target would be but said it would be a “very aggressive, strong NDC” that would “earn our way back” into legitimacy in the Paris process.
The former secretary of state also said that the United States intends to “bring China to the table” in climate change diplomacy, even if there are disagreements over human rights and trade with the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.
UK ambassador to the US Karen Pierce said climate was an issue where “China can be a helpful partner” but that “China, along with Russia, do sometimes behave as if everything is a competition.”
She said this should encourage closer US, EU and UK coordination: “The closer we all are together on climate, the more we show the rest of the world that they can join us and help reduce global warming.”
Despite the excitement over the US return to global negotiations, climate negotiators say the path forward will not be easy. Biden’s climate goals face political challenges in the US, opposition from fossil fuel companies and some concern among foreign leaders about US flip-flopping on climate policy.
Guterres welcomed the return of the US as restoring the “missing link that weakened the whole,” but warned the road ahead would not be easy.
“This is the race of our lifetimes,” he said. “We must go much faster, and much further.”
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