23 February, 2022



February 22, 2022, Cairo – John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, delivered a special address on climate change at The American University in Cairo (AUC) yesterday, ahead of Egypt hosting the COP 27 UN Climate Change Conference later this November. Among the attendees were senior Egyptian government officials and dignitaries. U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan R. Cohen and AUC President Ahmad Dallal gave the welcome remarks.

Welcoming Kerry, AUC President Ahmad Dallal, said: “For more than a century, this campus, and Ewart Hall in particular, has hosted thought leaders from all over the world and has served as the venue for the discussion of pressing topics of the day.” Dallal added that climate change is the defining issue of our time. “Its impact is global in scope and unprecedented in scale.” Like the pandemic, he added, the challenges posed by climate change are a collective global experience with ramifications that cross boundaries.

“As Egypt prepares to host the COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference, AUC is eager to support this critical initiative. Our scientists have formed a Climate Change Initiative and we intend to collaborate with sister universities in Egypt and from around the world. Universities have a special role to play in finding solutions and creating partnerships to see them realized,” Dallal added.

In his special address, former U.S. senator and secretary of state Kerry said: “It’s an honor to be here and to speak from a stage where the great musician Louis Armstrong once played jazz. Just another example of how this institution has led the way for more than a century, including on climate as the first University in the region to track your carbon footprint at your Center for Applied Research on the Environment and Sustainability.”

Kerry discussed the challenges to secure a healthier, cleaner, safer and less polluted planet, while stressing on the need for countries to come together collectively and act now to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. He addressed both the urgency of climate change and the need to be honest “about the reality that, as caretakers, we are falling woefully short.” He shared many alarming facts and figures about the changing climate and its impact on people and the environment, yet he expressed that the upcoming months are filled with promise and challenge, “It is imperative we – all of us – do everything in our power to give life to the many commitments of COP26 in Glasgow.”

“It is particularly fitting to gather in Egypt, known as the mother of the world,” he added. Kerry’s address was preceded by his meeting yesterday with Egyptian Foreign Minister and COP 27 President Designate Sameh Shoukry, where they both officially launched the U.S.-Egypt Climate Working Group. “We stand ready to work with all parties and the Egyptian COP presidency to ensure that the Glasgow Sharm El-Sheikh Work Program on the Global Goal on Adaptation will accelerate effective action, and to fully operationalize the Santiago Network,” he said in his address.

Reflecting on Glasgow, Kerry mentioned that almost 200 nations came together and took unprecedented steps in the cause of the climate battle to limit the earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, agreeing that it would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 45% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “If we don’t, not only do we blow through that 1.5-degree limit, but we likely will not avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.” He also mentioned that Glasgow produced unprecedented private sector commitments to action. He added that it is up to all countries to make the most of the opportunity presented in Glasgow, with commitment being the key word to such success.

Kerry also addressed how the urgency for climate action is particularly obvious in Africa, where 17 of the world’s 20 most climate vulnerable countries are located. “Rising temperatures and less predictable rainfall have already changed growing and planting seasons.”

He also pointed out that together this year developed countries must make every effort to fulfill their collective goal to mobilize $100 billion annually to help developing countries reduce emissions and confront the impacts of climate change.

“We are redoubling our work to develop strong incentives, so all countries make the clean energy choice. That’s already happening here in Egypt, where renewable capacity is set to rise almost 70% in the next five years,” he added.

Calling for action, Kerry highlighted “Implementation…. PLUS.” He explained that nationally determined contributions – or NDCs – countries representing 65% of global gross domestic product have already signed up to targets that keep the promise of 1.5 degrees alive, “however they need to deliver on their commitments.” As for the part of PLUS, “the 35 percent of the world’s economy needs to do more to be in line with what science and survival tells us we must do.”

Stressing that “the world will not follow our advice; it will follow our example”, Kerry added that this is particularly true to the major economies of the world – the largest emitters, the United States included. “Just 20 countries account for 80 percent of global emissions. What those 20 countries do will largely determine the fate of the planet. So we have to share the burden, working together to ensure every one of those countries has an accelerated transition to net-zero.”

Kerry stressed: "It's up to all of us to decide what will be — through our action or inaction. That is what the fight to prevent climate devastation boils down to."

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