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John Kerry says climate denial and disinformation is ‘costly’ – and claims UK has ‘lost its global leadership’ on the issue

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US climate envoy John Kerry has told Sky News that climate denial and disinformation is “costly, very dangerous and wrong”.

Mr Kerry was responding to a question about a recent US Republican primary debate in which only one of the eight candidates explicitly stated that climate change is real, and candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said “the climate change agenda is a hoax and we have to declare independence from it”.

The former secretary of state said: “Unfortunately, we have people around the world who are proselytising lies and distortions and non-scientific information.

“The disinformation is a problem for us.

“It creates confusion… and it’s really costly, it’s very dangerous and it’s wrong.

“So the folks who stand up and say this is not happening… they’re just not living on the same planet… they’re not listening to the facts and they’re not fully briefed and informed or they’re just playing politics with it.

“Either way, it’s dangerous.”

Asked about the UK’s climate change committee and its assertion that this country has “lost its clear global leadership on climate change” in part by backtracking on fossil fuel commitments, approving a new coal mine and supporting new oil and gas in the North Sea, Mr Kerry said: “My understanding from UK officials is that they are promising to stay on track and on the target of their reductions.

John Kerry attending a press conference in Beijing, China, in July
Image:
John Kerry attending a press conference in Beijing, China, in July

“There will be drilling. We are drilling too (and) others are, because there’s a certain demand that is built into our economies right now.

“Do you have to continue to pump? Yes, you do. Do you need to explore and go out and lease new leaseholds? I doubt it if you’re doing the other things that you need to do.

“We have to resist this pressure that is coming from some interests, who want to continue business as usual. We do not have the time or space for business as usual.”

As climate-driven extreme weather events continue to unfold around the world, Special Envoy Kerry insisted that the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C was critical to keep hold of, even though figures like Bill Gates have said it is now out of reach.

“I’m convinced it’s a helpful goal because… every 10th of a degree that you go beyond that is extremely costly, extremely damaging, and perhaps even fully catastrophic.

“The key here is we have to strive. Now I know it’s hard.”

Mr Kerry continued: “We are not on track today to keep 1.5 alive. We’re not even on track to keep two degrees alive today. And that’s why we need to be pushing harder. We want to keep the prospect of being able to do it alive.

“That’s what we’re fighting for now.”

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Mr Kerry said that he is seeing a shift in the pace of progress ahead of the COP28 UN climate change summit in Dubai, even though there are concerns that the summit’s president is also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and that this could undermine the gathering and its negotiations.

He said: “The test will be in what is on the table to be negotiated and what they [the COP presidency] are fighting for, and right now, they’re fighting for the right things.

“Let’s wait and see, the proof will be in the pudding… this is a shared crisis and we all have to do our part, and that particularly includes the COP presidency.”

“Countries are now moving more effectively. I’m genuinely encouraged that now I see momentum building.

“Is it where it needs to be? No. Are we doing it fast enough yet? No. But there are signs that we can kick into higher gear and actually make things happen.”

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