Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

As Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry Will Be No Stranger to International Climate Negotiations

November 25, 2020

By Phil McKenna, see full story at Inside Climate News.

Two weeks before President Trump was elected President in November 2016, then Secretary of State John Kerry held court in a hotel room in Kigali, Rwanda, to help secure one of the most important and little-known international climate agreements in history.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, recalled Kerry’s forthright approach and mastery of the process.

“He would summon a minister in and say, ‘You are not giving the right answer here, what’s wrong?’ Zaelke said, noting how the ministers stopped opposing the deal and began speaking in support of the agreement immediately after meeting with Kerry.

“He used every diplomatic skill that a seasoned diplomat has, including his ties with the heads of government,” Zaelke said.  “If he had a reluctant minister, as was the case sometimes, he could call the Prime Minister or the President and get that extra support that was needed. Without Kerry, we wouldn’t have gotten this in Kigali, he was instrumental.”

The agreement, known as the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, has now begun to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, climate super-pollutants that would otherwise have caused as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius of additional global warming by 2050.

President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement on Tuesday that Kerry—a former secretary of state, senator and presidential candidate—would serve in the newly created role of special presidential envoy for climate underscored the importance the Biden administration will place on international negotiations to address climate change, as illustrated by Kerry’s work in Kigali.

“Even the United States, for all of our industrial strength, is responsible for only 13% of global emissions,” Kerry said during a joint appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, with Biden and other newly announced members of his national security team. “To end this crisis, the whole world must come together. You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one, and you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough.”

Kerry is likely to try to build on the success of the Kigali Amendment by taking swift action to work with other countries to reduce emissions from other sectors of the global economy, Zaelke said. 

One place he might look is the International Maritime Organization…

see full story at Inside Climate News.