Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry delivers a policy speech in the Nash Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in west, London, on July 20, 2021.

Matt Dunham/The Associated Press

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry called on China to join America in urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions and described the international alliances that rebuilt Europe after World War II as a model for fighting against climate change.

Kerry challenged global leaders to accelerate the actions needed to curb rising temperatures and pull the world back from the edge of the abyss. “Allies, partners, competitors and even adversaries” must work together, he said during a speech at London’s Kew Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site where scientists are working to protect plants from global warming.

“The climate crisis is the test of our own times, and while it may be unfolding in slow motion, to some, this test is as acute and as existential as any previous one,” Kerry said. “Time is running out.”

Story continues below advertisement

Kerry described the next decade as decisive, saying countries around the world must speed up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if they are to meet their commitment to limit temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

While many countries have pledged to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says emissions must be cut by at least 40% by the end of the decade to keep temperatures in check.

Organizers of the next United Nations climate summit are calling the November event in Glasgow, Scotland “the world’s last best chance to get runaway climate change under control.” The primary goal of the meeting, known as COP26, is for countries to set “ambitious” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

To meet these targets, countries need to phase out the use of coal, reduce deforestation, accelerate the shift to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewable energy, according to the conference organizers.

China, the United States and India are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, meaning efforts to control climate change are likely to fail unless all three lead the way in slashing emissions.

Kerry referred to the often tense relationship between the U.S. and China but said the future depended on their co-operation. Both countries also need to raise their ambitions, he said.

“It is not a mystery that China and the U.S. have many differences. But on climate, co-operation is the only way to break free from the world’s current mutual suicide pact,” he said. “President Biden and President Xi have both stated unequivocally that each will co-operate on climate despite other consequential differences. America needs China to succeed in slashing emissions. China needs America to do the same.”

Story continues below advertisement

China’s output of climate-wrecking pollution surged in the last decade as its economy boomed, especially as it kept operating, building and financing new, dirty-burning coal-fired power plants.

The Rhodium Group analysis firm reported in May that China as of 2019 was pumping out more than 27% of all climate-damaging emissions globally. That’s more than the United States, which stood at 11%, and more than the rest of the developed world combined, Rhodium said.

The Trump administration and others in the United States pointed to China’s lead role in climate damage in justifying the rolling back of many emissions-cutting efforts in the U.S. China and other developing economies, meanwhile, say Western nations most responsible for the global-warming that occurred in the past are asking them to rein in their own development with little or no compensation.

Antony Froggatt, an energy policy consultant at the Chatham House think-tank in London, applauded Kerry’s speech for highlighting the urgent need for action – for all.

“There is an acceptance from one of the highest climate change officials in the world that climate change is here, it’s real, it’s having an impact, and its future impact will be equivalent to sort of a global warand therefore we need to do things now,” Froggatt said. “That isn’t just America, that isn’t just the EU. It is India. It is China. It is these major emitters that actually need to take action on the real short term and demonstrate that they are changing emissions levels.”

China finally launched its national carbon emissions trading scheme in mid-July after many delays. Here’s how the ETS will work for the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter. This report produced by Emma Jehle. Reuters

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies