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  • Transcriber:

  • Christiana Figueres: Today, February 19, 2021,

  • at the beginning of a crucial year and a crucial decade

  • for confronting the climate crisis,

  • the United States rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement

  • after four years of absence.

  • Unanimously adopted by 195 nations,

  • the Paris Agreement came into force in 2016,

  • establishing targets and mechanisms

  • to lead the global economy to a zero-emissions future.

  • It was one of the most extraordinary examples of multilateralism ever,

  • and one which I had the privilege to coordinate.

  • One year later, the United States withdrew.

  • The Biden-Harris administration is now bringing the United States back

  • and has expressed strong commitment to responsible climate action.

  • The two men you are about to see both played essential roles

  • in birthing the Paris Agreement in 2015.

  • Former Vice President Al Gore, a lifelong climate expert,

  • made key contributions to the diplomatic process.

  • John Kerry was the US Secretary of State

  • and head of the US delegation.

  • With his granddaughter sitting on his lap,

  • he signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of the United States.

  • He is now the US Special Envoy for Climate.

  • TED Countdown has invited Al Gore to interview John Kerry

  • as he begins his new role.

  • Over to both of them.

  • Al Gore: Well, thank you, Christiana,

  • and John Kerry, thank you so much for doing this interview.

  • I have to say on a personal basis,

  • I was just absolutely thrilled when President Biden,

  • then president-elect,

  • announced you were going to be taking on this incredibly important role.

  • And thank you for doing it.

  • Let me just start by welcoming you to TED Countdown and asking you,

  • how are you feeling as you step back into the middle of this issue

  • that has been close to your heart for so long?

  • John Kerry: Well, I feel safer being here with you.

  • I honestly, I feel very energized, very focused.

  • I think it's a privilege to be able to take on this task.

  • And as you know better than anybody,

  • it's going to take everybody coming together.

  • There's going to have to be a massive movement of people

  • to do what we have to do.

  • So I feel privileged to be part of it,

  • and I'm honored to be here with you on this important day.

  • AG: Well, it's been a privilege

  • to be able to work with a dear friend for so long on this crisis.

  • And, of course, on this historic day,

  • when the United States now formally and legally rejoins

  • the Paris Agreement,

  • we have to acknowledge

  • that the world is lagging behind the pace of change needed

  • to successfully confront the climate crisis,

  • because even if all countries kept the commitments

  • made under the Paris Agreement --

  • and I watched you sign it, you had your grandchild with you --

  • I was there at the U.N, that was an inspiring moment,

  • you signed on behalf of the United States,

  • but even if all of those pledges were kept

  • they're not strong enough to keep the global temperature increase

  • well below two degrees or below 1.5 degrees,

  • and emissions are still rising.

  • So what needs to happen here in the US and globally

  • in order to accelerate the pace of change?

  • JK: Well, Al, you're absolutely correct.

  • It's a very significant day, a day that never had to happen,

  • America returning to this agreement.

  • It is so sad that our previous president, without any scientific basis,

  • without any legitimate economic rationale,

  • decided to pull America out.

  • And it hurt us and it hurt the world.

  • Now we have an opportunity to try to make that up.

  • And I approach that job with a lot of humility

  • for the agony of the last four years of not moving faster.

  • But we have to simply up our ambition on a global basis.

  • United States is 15 percent of all the emissions.

  • China is 30 percent.

  • EU is somewhere around 14, 11, depends who you talk to.

  • And India is about seven.

  • So you add all those together, just four entities,

  • and you've got well over 60 percent of all the emissions in the world.

  • And yet none of those nations

  • are at this moment doing enough

  • to be able to get done what has to be done,

  • let alone many others, at lower levels of emission.

  • It's going to take all of us.

  • Even if tomorrow China went to zero,

  • or the United States went to zero,

  • you know full well, Al, we're still not going to get there.

  • We all have to be reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • We have to do it much more rapidly.

  • So the meeting in Glasgow rises in its importance.

  • You and I, we've been to these meetings

  • since way back in the beginning of the '90s with Rio

  • and even before, some of them parliamentary meetings.

  • And we're at this most critical moment

  • where we have a capacity to define the decade of the '20s,

  • which will really make or break us

  • in our ability to get to a 2050 net zero carbon economy.

  • And so we all have to raise our ambition.

  • That means coal has got to phase down faster.

  • It means we've got to deploy renewables,

  • all forms of alternative, renewable, sustainable energy.

  • We've got to push the curve of discovery intensely.

  • Whether we get to hydrogen economy or battery storage

  • or any number of technologies,

  • we are going to have to have an all-of-the-above approach

  • to getting where we need to go

  • to meet the target in this next 10 years.

  • And I think Glasgow has to not only have countries come and raise ambition,

  • but those countries are going to have to define

  • in real terms,

  • what their road map is for the next 10 years,

  • then the next 30 years,

  • so that we're really talking a reality

  • that we've never been able to completely assemble

  • at any of these meetings thus far.

  • AG: Well, hearing you talk, John,

  • just highlights how painful it's been for the US to be absent

  • from the international effort for the last four years,

  • and again, it makes me so happy President Biden has brought us back

  • into the Paris Agreement.

  • After this four year hiatus,

  • how are you personally, as our Climate Envoy,

  • planning to approach re-entry into the conversation?

  • I know you've already started it,

  • but is there anything tricky about that?

  • Or I guess everything is tricky about it, but how are you planning to do it?

  • JK: Well, I'm planning, first of all, to do it with humility,

  • because I think it's not appropriate for the United States to leap back in

  • and start telling everybody what has to happen.

  • We have to listen.

  • We have to work very, very closely with other countries,

  • many of whom have been carrying the load for the last four years

  • in the absence of the United States.

  • I don't think we come in, Al, I want to emphasize this --

  • I don't believe we come to the table with our heads hanging down

  • on behalf of many of our own efforts,

  • because, as you know, President Obama worked very hard

  • and we all did, together with you and others,

  • to get the Paris Agreement.

  • And we also have 38 states in America

  • that have passed renewable portfolio laws.

  • And during the four years of Trump being out,

  • the governors of those 38 states, Republican and Democrat alike,

  • continued to push forward and we're still in movement.

  • And more than a thousand mayors,

  • the mayors of our biggest cities in America,

  • all have forged ahead.

  • So it's not a totally, abjectly miserable story by the United States.

  • I think we can come back and earn our credibility

  • by stepping up in the next month or two

  • with a strong national determined contribution.

  • We're going to have a summit on April, 22.

  • That summit will bring together the major emitting nations of the world again.

  • And because, as you recall in Paris,

  • a number of nations felt left out of the conversation.

  • The island states, some of the poorer nations, Bangladesh, others.

  • And so we're going to bring those stakeholders to the table,

  • as well as the big emitters and developed countries,

  • so that they can be heard from the get-go.

  • And as we head on into Glasgow,

  • hopefully we'll be building a bigger momentum

  • and we'll have a larger consensus.

  • And that's our goal --

  • have the summit, raise ambition,

  • announce our national determined contribution,

  • begin to break ground on entirely new initiatives,

  • build towards the biodiversity convention in China,

  • even though we're not a party, we want to be helpful,

  • and then go into the G7, the G20, the UNGA,

  • the meeting of the United Nations in the fall,

  • reconvene and reenergize, going for the last six weeks into Glasgow.

  • In my judgment, Glasgow, and you'd know this full well,

  • I think Glasgow is the last, best hope we have

  • for our nations to really set us on that path.

  • And so, you know, one key is, as I said, raising ambition.

  • The other is defining how you're going to get there,

  • and then the third is finance.

  • We've got to bring an unprecedented global finance plan to the table.

  • And I think we're already working with private sector entities.

  • I believe there's a way to do that in a very exciting way.

  • AG: Well, that's encouraging,

  • and I'm going to come back to that in just a moment.

  • But I'm glad you made those points about state and local governments

  • actually moving forward during the last four years.

  • A lot of US private companies have as well.

  • And already I'm extremely encouraged by the suite of executive actions

  • that President Biden has already taken

  • during his first weeks in office.

  • And there's more to come.

  • There's also a push for legislative action

  • to invest in the fantastic new opportunities

  • in clean energy, electric vehicles and more.

  • Yet you and I have both seen the difficulties

  • of this approach in the past.

  • How can we use all of this activity

  • to well and truly convince the world

  • that America is genuinely back to being part of the solution?

  • I know we are.

  • You know we are,

  • but we've got to really restore that confidence.

  • I think your appointment went a long way to doing that.

  • But what else can we do to gain back the world's confidence?

  • JK: Well, we have to be honest and forthright and direct

  • about the things that we're prepared to do.

  • And they have to be things we're really going to do.

  • We just held a meeting a few days ago with all of the domestic entities

  • that President Biden has ordered to come to the table

  • and be part of this effort.

  • This is an all-of-government effort now.

  • So we will have the Energy Department, the Homeland Security Department,

  • the Defense Department, the Treasury.

  • I mean, Janet Yellen was there talking about how she's going to work

  • and we're going to work together to try to mobilize some of the finance.

  • So I think, you know,

  • we're not going to convince anybody by just saying it.

  • Nor should we.

  • We have to do it.

  • And I think the actions that we put together

  • shortly after President Biden achieves the COVID legislation here,

  • he will almost immediately introduce the rebuild effort,

  • the infrastructure components,

  • and those will be very much engaged in building out America's grid capacity,

  • doing things that we should have done years ago

  • to facilitate the transmission of electricity

  • from one part of the country to another,

  • whether it's renewable or otherwise.

  • We just don't have that ability now.

  • We have a queue of backed up projects

  • sitting in one of our regulatory agencies

  • which have got to be broken free.

  • And by creating this all-of-government effort, Al,

  • our hope is we're really going to be able to do that.

  • The other thing that we're doing is I'm reaching out, very rapidly,

  • to colleagues all around the world.

  • We've had meetings already, discussions with India,

  • with Latin American countries,

  • with European countries,

  • with the European Commission and others.

  • And we're going to try to build as much energy and momentum as possible

  • towards these various benchmarks that I've talked about.

  • And I mean, the proof will be in the pudding.

  • We're going to have to show people that we've got a strong NDC,

  • we're actually implementing, we're passing legislation,

  • and we're moving forward in a collegiate manner

  • with other countries around the world.

  • For instance, I've talked to Australia, we had a very good conversation.