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Shift to renewables to avoid energy being ‘weaponised’, John Kerry urges

John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate speaks during the Net Zero Delivery Summit at the Mansion House, London (Yui Mok/PA)
John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate speaks during the Net Zero Delivery Summit at the Mansion House, London (Yui Mok/PA)

John Kerry has warned that the trillions poured into fossil fuel subsidies is the “definition of insanity” as he urged more efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

The US special presidential envoy on climate told the Net Zero Delivery Summit in London that energy could continue to be “weaponised” as it had been by Russia, and capital was needed to move faster to clean, secure technology.

The summit organised by the City of London Corporation in association with the Cop26 UK presidency comes halfway between the Glasgow climate summit last November and the next round of major UN talks, Cop27, in Egypt.

It is looking at delivering on measures to cut emissions to net zero and how the finance sector can mobilise capital to tackle the climate crisis.

Mr Kerry urged financial leaders to invest in the new future that he said was going to be driven by the “new energy economy”.

“The spoils are going to go to the people who get in early and get in with these investments and make these things happen,” he said.

He said the world could win the battle to limit temperature rises and avoid the worst consequences of climate change but more had to be done.

Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm, Whitelee Windfarm on the outskirts of Glasgow (Danny Lawson/PA)
Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm, Whitelee Windfarm on the outskirts of Glasgow (Danny Lawson/PA)

He said: “It’s absolutely critical that we recognise that we can’t allow energy to be weaponised in the way President (Vladimir) Putin has tried to weaponise it.

“He can’t control the sun, and the wind, and he can’t control these new technologies that are coming online.

“I think if any lesson has been learned by Europe as a result of this disgraceful, horrendous, unprovoked, illegal war that is taking place, the lesson is we have to move faster to de-weaponise energy anywhere in the world.”

But he warned: “We are not where we need to be, we’re not moving fast enough”.

He warned coal use, emissions and fossil fuel subsidies all rose in 2021, and highlighted how 2.5 trillion US dollars over the last four or five years had “gone into subsidising the very problem that we are trying to solve.

“That’s the definition of insanity”.

He said there were too many big companies and people with high levels of control over employment, deployment of capital and decisions who were not yet buying into action – and continuing to benefit from fossil fuels.

“They’re sitting on the side lines, they’re kind of waiting to see, and they’re also loving the revenue that’s coming into them from the status quo.

“That’s a very powerful force of amelioration of big decisions and allowing people to stall a little bit.

“Our enemy in this battle is the status quo.

“Our enemy in this battle are vested interests that don’t want to move fast enough to change.”

But he said there were some fossil fuel companies that had embraced the change and were going to be clean energy companies, and urged: “We have a choice.

“We can stay stuck in the status quo or we can transition, we can break the mould, we can secure a cleaner, safer, healthier planet.”

He added that it would cost far more in taxes, capital and disruption if the world did not move fast enough on climate action than if it did.

Mr Kerry told the conference that he was optimistic about dealing with the climate crisis, but added: “The only issue I have, the only challenge I have to my confidence and optimism, is I’m not yet convinced that we are all acting fast enough and doing what we need to avoid the worst consequences.”