US climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday he expects bold new action by Mexico and Brazil’s next government, raising hopes of achieving progress at this month’s global warming summit in Egypt.
Kerry also gave his firmest indication yet that the United States was willing to engage on compensating poor nations that have already been hit hard by climate change, set to be a major agenda item at the talks known as COP27.
In Brazil, where the Amazon plays a vital role counteracting the planet’s carbon emissions, leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva triumphed in Sunday’s elections against the far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of agribusiness in the rainforest.
Lula in his victory speech pledged to work toward zero deforestation.
“President-elect Lula is committed,” Kerry told reporters in Washington, pointing to Lula’s efforts as president in the century’s first decade on the environment.
“Now I hope we’ll be able to refine that program and move forward even more rapidly with the reforms that are necessary in order to try to save the Amazon,” Kerry said.
“Under the Bolsonaro government, regrettably, the level of deforestation increased in the Amazon and it is at perilous high levels today.”
Kerry insisted he was not “tone deaf” to economic concerns around the world including in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy, noting that many residents of the Amazon made a living on cattle or logging.
“We in the rest of the world are going to have to recognize that if we’re going to value this great forest, we have to help them to be able to preserve it,” he said.
Kerry, a former secretary of state and key architect of the 2015 Paris accord, has returned to his globe-trotting in his climate role, recently visiting Mexico as part of efforts to mobilize action ahead of COP27.
He said he expected more countries to raise their ambitions in coming days through their so-called Nationally Determined Contributions, plans they submit under the Paris agreement.
“We will have a major announcement, which President (Andres Manuel) Lopez Obrador has agreed to, with respect to what Mexico is now going to undertake,” Kerry said.
– ‘Upfront’ on loss and damage –
One year after the Glasgow summit, the summit in the Red Sea resort Sharm el-Sheikh will again draw world leaders including President Joe Biden, who this year sealed a landmark legislative package to fight climate change.
After successive UN meets focused both on reducing emissions and adapting to the impact, activists have stepped up a campaign for countries with historic responsibility for climate change to pay for losses and damage already being sustained.
Developing countries are bearing the brunt of some of the worst of climate change with Pakistan, which emits less than one percent of global carbon output, this year seeing one-third of its territory submerged by floods that killed more than 1,700 people.
After initially dismissing loss payments as politically unfeasible, Kerry in recent weeks has said the United States is willing to discuss the issue, although some green campaigners have voiced fear that wealthy countries will simply try to neutralize the topic through talks that go nowhere.
Kerry insisted the United States was willing to look at concrete measures and to speed up a two-year timeline set in Glasgow for assessing a way forward on the issue.
“We are anxious to see the loss and damage issue dealt with upfront and in a real way at COP,” Kerry said.
“We certainly support coming out with some kind of structure that provides for appropriate financial arrangements,” he said.
“We don’t feel that this has to be an issue that has to be pounded at people because we agree — as do almost all nations now — that much more has to happen, faster.”
But the rival Republican Party, if it wins control of Congress in elections next week, is expected to target climate assistance.
Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, played down a report that he could retire after the election, saying he was focused on COP.