Special Guest Remarks at Ocean-climate Ambition Summit

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Ocean-climate Ambition Summit

Friends Of The Ocean & Climate

Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, Sweden: This is also the year when we welcome old friends back in the game. Last week, we were all pleased to hear that the United States will be rejoining the Paris Agreement. And it’s my great, great pleasure to introduce an old friend to the ocean, our special guest, the Honorable John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and a long-standing and passionate friend of ocean and climate action. Secretary Kerry, the floor is yours.

Secretary Kerry: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your generous introduction. I appreciate your great leadership and I begin by apologizing that we have been absent. I know you know that many of us are deeply upset about what happened over the last years, but it’s great to see that even in a virtual setting like this, you look at everyone gathered here and it underscores that stewardship of the ocean is not just the personal passion of a few nations or one nation. It’s a shared and mandatory responsibility for all of us. It’s about recognizing a simple proposition which I think we began to talk about at the first oceans conference that I had the privilege of hosting when I was secretary. And that proposition is that you cannot protect the oceans without solving climate change and you can’t solve climate change without protecting the oceans.

For far, far too long, an ocean meeting was an ocean meeting. And a climate negotiation was just that, a climate negotiation without people recognizing the interconnectedness and the majesty of the ecosystem. So, we need to say goodbye to silos. When you are meeting about the oceans, you are meeting about the climate. And it is critical for us to recognize that the level of protection that we give is going to depend on our capacity coming together in this kind of a meeting, which I want to emphasize, we do reenter with a genuine sense of humility because for four years, we’ve been absent from this vital dialogue, actually on the other side of it, I regret to say, as a nation. But not our people. Most of the states in the country have renewable portfolio laws. Most of the mayors in our country continue to abide by Paris.

But we do know that for all of our industrial capacity as a nation, close to 90 percent, about 88 I guess, of all emissions come from outside our borders too. So, the whole world has to come to this table together to solve this problem. I’m very proud we are back in the effort. I am pleased to say that we happily join together with you in this group of Friends of the Ocean. We look forward to being a new member and part of this effort going forward.

And, obviously, it is important to underscore as we do make this effort to go forward that even if every country on Earth, or other than us, moves separately, no one has the ability to solve this problem by themselves. China, which is 30% of all emissions, could go to zero tomorrow. It still doesn’t solve the problem.

So, we have to do this because they are so closely integrated, ocean and the climate generally. So, we have to do it not just for the future or marine life but literally for the future of all life. We know that the single best and most important way in which we can protect the oceans is by raising ambition. All nations need to raise ambition, but particularly, the major emitter countries. And that’s the single most important thing. It means getting to net-zero emissions as soon as we can because that’s the only way you create a global recovery that is both climate and ocean smart. All you have to do is to look at the impact of acidification as well as the warming of the ocean and together you have a catastrophic consequence on the rest of the world. It’s going to take a partnership. And it’s going to be up to all of us to decide whether or not we adopt the ocean policies and practices that we know are needed and whether or not in the end, we do it in time.

In the some thirty years or so that I have been working on this on all seven continents, I can regrettably have to say that mistakes have only grown. We have to get more ambitious to act against the rising carbon dioxide levels from emissions that increase the ocean acidity and devastate coral reefs and change fishing stocks and result in warming of the ocean as a whole which in its turn has a negative impact on most ocean life.

We have to get more ambitious to change the reality that a mere five percent of the ocean today, five percent only, has any form of protection. And frankly, sometimes, I’m not sure I am comfortable that it’s called “protection.” Because the reality is that really only about two percent is actually strongly protected.

So, solving climate change and saving the oceans is in fact the challenge of our time and I regret to say to everybody that if you need motivation, here’s the motivation. When we left Paris, we knew we weren’t promising the world and our citizens that we were holding the Earth’s temperature increase to 2 degrees centigrade let alone 1.5 – we knew that. It wasn’t that we hid it, it’s just that the best Paris could do was get every country to decide what it would do for itself.  No mandates, no penalties, no enforcement, and each country signed up, to the credit of 196 countries.

But, if every country that signed up to do something did what it said it would do, we are still rising to a temperature increase on planet Earth of about 3.7 to 4.5 degrees. Even if we do everything in Paris, we’re still at 3.7. The problem is we’re not only not doing everything in Paris, we see countries going up in their emissions. And that’s why we are talking about temperatures in the 4 point something. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exact about it because anything above 2 begins to be catastrophic, and certainly 3 and 3.7 are completely catastrophic.

So, we have to build our own kind of current. The current of politics, the current of reasonableness, the current of common sense in order to keep for future generations the majestic blue jewel that covers three quarters of our planet and sustains life around the equator from pole to pole. A lot of citizens don’t know that 51% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. As Friends of the Ocean, we refuse, I think all of us, to be the prisoners of history and instead we are going to turn the tide of history. We need to go to Glasgow and make it absolutely clear that oceans are as integral a part of the effort to resolve the problem of climate and climate is integral to resolve the problem of ocean as any other things that we will choose to do.

So, we all have a job to do in this turning. It can be done. It is the greatest marketplace the world has ever known. And in the discovery of direct air capture or new battery storage that gets you 25, 30 days or more, in the discovery of new hydrogen fuels and all of these things that we build out now in the United States to make us more climate friendly and capable of transferring energy from one part of the nation to the other and building out charging stations and transitioning to electric vehicles. That future is worth millions upon millions of jobs and a remarkable plus up for our economies that need to recover from COVID-19. We can turn this current and create our own current. We can do what we need to do to get the job done.

It’s a privilege to be with you and I’m glad that the United States under the leadership of Joe Biden is back in Paris and back at this table.

Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, Sweden: Thank you so much Secretary John Kerry for your inspiring and very important remarks. And welcome back to the Paris Agreement and we look forward to working together with you. And I think with your personal leadership, we will certainly make sure that the current will turn and that we will also include the ocean in the climate work.

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