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Kerry, Blinken host world’s largest carbon emitters in first forum since UN climate summit

<i>Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images/FILE</i><br/>John Kerry
Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images/FILE
John Kerry

By Ella Nilsen, CNN

US climate envoy John Kerry and Secretary of State Tony Blinken hosted their first major international climate meeting of the year on Thursday, attended by the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

The Major Economies Forum focused on next steps following November’s UN climate summit in Glasgow. Blinken opened the meeting by saying it had two main goals: Encouraging countries to meet their decarbonization goals already laid out last year and getting them to consider additional commitments to keep global warming limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a threshold scientists warn the planet should stay under.

“I was encouraged to hear the many ways countries are working to build on the progress made in Glasgow,” Kerry said in a statement after the meeting, noting that many countries underscored the importance of strengthening their goals to reduce emissions. “One thing is clear: we all must move faster in this decade to accelerate the transition from coal to renewables. I look forward to our next meeting and to our next leaders meeting, when we can hopefully take things to the next level.”

In addition to representatives from major economies — which produce the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions — other countries attended that have been most impacted by the climate crisis.

The global leaders discussed plans to reduce emissions of planet-warming methane, set a collective goal to generate electricity from zero-carbon sources and speed up the deployment of electric vehicles around the world, two senior administration officials said.

The event was a chance for Kerry to get some face time with climate ministers, albeit virtual. Kerry’s typically busy travel schedule has been stymied by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, driven by the Omicron variant. Kerry’s last two in-person trips to Europe and Jordan took place in December.

Participants included ministers and other high-ranking officials representing more than two dozen countries and entities, including the United Nations, UK and the European Union. It was also attended by some of the world’s other top emitters, including Russia, China, Brazil and India.

The senior administration officials said the forum was a chance for small and island nations to be heard. One of the topics discussed was the effort to raise $100 billion a year for smaller nations facing the brunt of climate change — a goal that has consistently been missed.

President Joe Biden will also hold a climate meeting for world leaders later this year, the officials said.

Though some progress was made at the November summit, it was seen by some climate advocates as a disappointment for failing to address fossil fuel emissions with the urgency scientists implore.

The agreement forged between nations contained an unprecedented mention of fossil fuels and their role in exacerbating the climate crisis. However, objections from multiple countries watered down the language; for instance, India forced a last-minute text change that resulted in an agreement that coal should be phased “down,” rather than being phased “out.”

The US and China forged an agreement to curb China’s methane emissions and ramp up its climate ambition, but multiple summit participants told CNN that they believed Kerry’s team was being prevented from joining pledges to phase out coal because of the difficult politics surrounding President Joe Biden’s massive climate and economic bill.

The summit also ended without a clear resolution on the issue of loss and damage — whether wealthy nations should create a dedicated climate fund for smaller, developing nations that are bearing the brunt of climate change.

Clarification: This story has been updated to better characterize climate advocacy groups’ sentiment on the results of COP26.

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