Kerry on climate: ‘We have to work with China’ and other top polluters to avoid disaster

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Former Secretary of State John Kerry, now working as the Biden administration’s special envoy on climate, joins Yahoo News Senior Climate Editor Ben Adler for a candid one-on-one discussion about climate change. Kerry tells Yahoo News that the United States is committed to working with the nations we may have political differences with — including China and Russia — to meet climate goals and avoid catastrophic consequences. “Our president has tried very hard to separate climate from the other issues,” says Kerry, adding, “We can’t get bogged down by that because this is a universally felt, existential challenge to the planet.”

Video Transcript

BEN ADLER: Obviously, the single biggest emitter right now is China. And every expert that I've talked to says China is going to have to make bigger cuts than they've currently planned for the world to hit that target.

JOHN KERRY: If we're going to meet our goal. We have to work with China. We have to work with India. We even have to find a way, ultimately, if we can resolve the war in Ukraine, to work with Russia, because Russia is a huge emitter. And any one of these countries has an ability, if it doesn't move to change its energy base, to make it much harder for the rest of the world, if not impossible, to reach the goals we've set.

India, for instance, has a major goal. They're really working at this. They understand that they've got to try to find a way to reduce coal, but they're also fighting this question of keeping their folks employed and being able to keep their economy moving.

China has 1.4 billion people. They have the same feeling, that they can't suddenly unemploy their entire population and survive. So they're trying to mix it.

Now, China is the largest deployer of solar panels. In China, they have deployed far more renewable energy than we have or than Europe has. So yes, they're behind, and it's a problem. The coal is a problem. But that's why it's important we work with China, we reach out to China. And that's what we're trying to do.

And the president has tried very hard, our president has tried hard to separate climate from the other issues that are real, that we obviously have with China. But we can't get bogged down by that because this is a universally felt existential challenge to the planet. And it's important that the two largest economies in the world work to try to resolve it.