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John Kerry on the COP28 deal and what comes next

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The agreement reached this week by 198 countries to abandon fossil fuels is “the most important decision since the Paris agreement” in 2015, John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, said Friday.

The global deal reached in Dubai at the annual United Nations climate summit was the first time in nearly three decades that diplomats have grappled with climate change and been prepared to name its main culprit: combustion of coal, oil and gas.

After two weeks of hard-fought negotiations in which countries most vulnerable to climate disasters demanded a complete “phase-out” of fossil fuels, and major oil exporters led by Saudi Arabia refused to even consider such language, the governments reached a compromise.

The final agreement calls for “shifting away from fossil fuels” this decade in a “fair, orderly and equitable manner,” while tripling renewable energy like wind and solar.

“I think the transition allowed some parties to feel somewhat heard and that their concerns were being addressed, because there was a strong refusal from many sides not to accept a phase-out,” Mr. Kerry said . said in an interview Friday.

Many island nations have criticized the final agreement, saying it does not go far enough. But Mr Kerry said the willingness of countries – even those that are major oil exporters – to recognize that the fossil fuel era must one day end underlined the “urgency” of the deal.

“This agreement is the most important decision since the Paris agreement,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to the historic 2015 climate agreement. “It builds on the unanimity with which people said that we were going to move forward. We will abandon fossil fuels.

Not everyone is convinced. Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, said in an interview with Al Arabiya, a Saudi television channel, that the deal would not affect his country’s ability to sell its oil raw.

Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil leader who chaired the climate summit, known as COP28, told the Guardian in an interview that the UAE’s national oil company would also continue to invest in oil.

Mr. Kerry insisted that these statements did not point to flaws in the climate agreement.

“Can they sell their crude today, tomorrow, next week, next year? » said Mr. Kerry. “Of course.”

But, he added, “they are going to have to, like everyone else, abandon fossil fuels.”

“You can speak with bravado and say: Yes, we will continue to make investments,” Mr. Kerry said. “But if people do what they committed to doing, that effort will diminish over time. And there will be more and more investment in renewable and clean energy.

Mr Kerry said tackling climate change would require tackling the world’s ever-increasing thirst for oil and gas. Oil production in the United States is booming and the Biden administration faces a looming decision on whether to increase its exports of liquefied natural gas.

Mr. Kerry noted that the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed last year, committed to investing $370 billion in clean energy sources over 10 years. It also included incentives to encourage people to drive electric vehicles, install rooftop solar panels and boost renewable energy efforts across the country.

The transition to renewable energy “is not going to happen by magic because everyone stays there and does business as usual,” Mr. Kerry said. “The status quo must change. »

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