Skip to content

💬 "The US Perspective on COP26 and Beyond"

Planet A

Photo by Heather Mount / Unsplash

Host: Dan Jørgensen
Guests: David Livingston & Varun Sivaram | Senior Advisers to President Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry
Category: 💬 Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:25] DL: “Obviously COP26 is a really key accelerator for what we need to do this decade. If we have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the window for doing that […] is narrowing. And obviously the United States is very aligned with Denmark and the rest of Europe and other major partners and allies on the need to make COP26 a success. And what's gonna make it successful means both ambitious commitments, and also concrete action this decade. […] We're going to arrive in Glasgow, having taken a bunch of bold steps. […] The President's infrastructure package has $555 billion for the clean energy transition. That's the largest single investment in clean energy transition in American history. But now we need to translate that into an effective raising of ambition among all the major economies. […] What we all have to keep our eyes on is […] how much of global GDP is going to leave Glasgow aligned with that 1.5 degrees C trajectory?

[7:00] DL: “I think if you had said in late 2015, right after the Paris agreement had been signed, […] if you had said that only six years from then you would have a major fossil fuel producer, like the United Arab Emirates, committing to net zero by 2050. That you would have China agreeing to end all overseas investment in unabated coal power. That you would have India, with a target of 450 gigawatts, that's 450 nuclear plants worth of renewable energy in less than 10 years time by the end of this decade. And that it will be well on its way, in making progress towards that goal. That you would have new initiatives focused on transitioning coal to clean energy. That you would be deploying small modular reactors, advanced nuclear reactors as new clean baseload energy solutions, by the end of this decade […]. If you had said all these different things are going to be possible, not in the late 2020s, but […] in the year 2021 right after a global pandemic, I think the mood […] would have been ecstatic.”

[11:52] DL: “I think it begins with helping to translate the raising of climate ambition into economic opportunity and self interest on the part of all these different major economies. There's a limit to what countries are going to do that's not perceived as in their self interest. So how do we create both collective goals and individual goals that align what we need to do on climate, with countries’ understanding of their own economic self interest?”

[15:11] DL: “The United States is extremely interested in […] sectoral goals. […] In agriculture, which is oftentimes thought of as a […] intractable challenge in terms of emissions reduction, we're emphasizing the role that innovation can play in creating new solutions that will help to unlock greater ambition, and change the way that we think about some of the political trade offs in addressing climate change in the agricultural sector. So we're going to be launching at COP26 something called the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate […]. And it's all about mobilizing additional public investment in climate smart agriculture innovation, both for mitigation and for adaptation to make a more resilient agricultural sector in a changing climate […], but also, they could do it in a lower carbon way. […] We also want to bring in companies and universities and philanthropies and NGOs, civil society to work in unique flexible, bottom up public private partnerships to help deliver on specific innovation goals that we have in the agriculture sector, like electrifying tractors and farm equipment, smart photovoltaic systems over cropland that can do smart shading, as well as generate electricity for off grid farm operations, low carbon fertilizers, drought resistant crops for South Asia, East Africa.”

[23:56] VS: “An initiative that Secretary Kerry is going to launch at COP26 […] focuses on the sectors where these technology needs are concentrated, the hard to abate sectors. In sectors like power, we largely have the technologies we need to decarbonize power. One of the technologies we still have left to develop at scale is long duration energy storage. But we have cheap renewables. We already have cheap short duration energy storage, and we have cheap transmission technology. Going forward in other sectors, particularly long distance transportation, and heavy industry, so steel, cement, aluminum, shipping, trucking, aviation, chemicals in all of these sectors as well as direct air capture, Secretary Kerry is launching a coalition called the First Movers Coalition. A set of companies that will come together at COP 26 and say, we believe that innovation is so critical and concentrated in the sectors that we will make purchasing commitments for technologies that aren't at scale today. This decade, we will commit 10% of our steel consumption for example, for a major automaker, or 5% of our shipping will be done on zero emissions vessels running on zero emissions fuels. These fuels today exist at no commercial scale. Many of them will use green hydrogen, for example. They'll use captured carbon dioxide to make synthetic fuels. But in order for us to decarbonize that 50% that we don't really have the technologies available today, we have to create those early markets and invest in the research and development.”

[31:36] DL: “Obviously, we all need to be mobilizing additional finance towards climate and towards the energy transition. […] The US will arrive in Glasgow at President Biden having announced that he's doubling climate finance at the UN General Assembly shortly ago. But I also want to point out that that's a doubling of a doubling. […] And that's a quadrupling, not from Trump administration levels of climate finance. That's a quadrupling from where we left off in the Obama administration in terms of the US climate finance goal. Now, of course, that we all need to be doing more, that's evident and clear.  But a new report shows that we're going to arrive in Glasgow on a trajectory to reach that 100 billion target by 2023. And with significant likely growth in overall climate finance in the years after that. So what's the challenge now? The challenge now is making sure that this is not just a continuous back and forth about what can country budgets do on a year by year basis with all the fluctuations of political cycles. It's about broadening, and about diversifying, and about regularizing that climate finance into the fabric of the global economy. Public money and private money being mobilized, so that it becomes a feature and not some special annual element of our global economy.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 40 min | 🗓️ 10/31/2021
✅ Time saved: 38 min