John Kerry says private sector can win climate change battle


U.S. climate envoy John Kerry speaks during a joint China and US statement on a declaration enhancing climate action, at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Britain November 10, 2021.

Jeff J Mitchell | Pool | Reuters

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said on Wednesday that the private sector has the ability to find solutions to climate change by funding the trillions needed for a global clean energy transition.

Kerry said that no government in the world has enough money to solve the climate crisis or complete the energy transition, and that private investment in clean energy technology is therefore critical to combatting climate change.

“There are literally trillions of dollars under management,” Kerry said during an interview at the Reuters Next conference. “There’s a great deal of money chasing good projects and good deals. I believe the private sector has the ability to win this battle for us.”

Keeping global temperatures from surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming will require the world to slash greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half within the next decade and reach net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Earth has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and is set to experience a temperature rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

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Private sector breakthroughs in areas such as battery storage, green hydrogen and direct air carbon capture could be “game changers” for reaching net-zero emissions, Kerry said. He noted that current solar and wind technology, for instance, is cheaper than planet-warming coal power and can provide extraordinary amounts of energy to countries across the world.

The International Energy Agency on Wednesday said that while renewable power installations are set for a record year, renewable capacity growth in the next few years will not be enough to meet the IEA’s scenario for net-zero emissions by mid-century. Renewables are forecast to account for nearly 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026, the agency said.

Kerry also said the private sector is increasingly disclosing climate-related risks and opportunities, as well as reassessing investments that previously didn’t consider climate risk.

“This is doable. It doesn’t have to be frightening,” Kerry said of the fight against climate change. “We can have a better quality of life doing these things we have to do.”