John Kerry says US will not pay climate reparations

Presidential climate envoy John Kerry has nixed the idea that the United States will contribute to “climate reparations” – a financial fund for poorer countries bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

At the Cop27 climate summit last November, countries reached a milestone agreement to establish a so-called loss and damage fund, where wealthy nations – who have historically created most greenhouse gas emissions – compensate those who are suffering from climate disasters which they did little to cause.

Mr Kerry was asked about whether the US would contribute to climate reparations at a hearing before a House of Representatives foreign affairs oversight subcommittee on Thursday at the US Capitol.

“No, under no circumstances,” Mr Kerry said.

“Very good, I’m glad to hear you say that,” Florida Republican Brian Mast, chairman of the committee, replied.

While the creation of the loss and damage fund was heralded as a momentous moment for climate justice, there are many questions around how much rich countries will pay into it, and how the money should be distributed.

Climate advocates reacted with dismay to Mr Kerry’s testimony.

“This is like a millionaire crashing their Ferrari into your house and then refusing to pay for the building to be fixed,” Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, said in an email.

“It is a completely unacceptable statement from a so-called climate envoy from the world’s largest fossil fuel producer. It shows utter disregard for the international climate negotiations not to mention the people in desperate need for loss and damage funding.

“No one has caused climate vulnerable people more loss and more damage from their years of burning fossil fuels than the US and now they say they won’t clean up their own mess.”

Illari Noriega, Christian Aid’s Climate Policy Lead, called the US announced “simply outrageous”.

“They are failing the poorest people in the world in need of help after their homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by floods, droughts and storms,” she said.

A swollen River Beas following heavy rains in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India, on July 9, 2023. Heavy rain fall has triggered landslides, damaged houses and caused loss of lives. Poorer countries facing worsening climate disasters are calling for greater financial support from rich nations

“The US is becoming a rogue nation on climate change. Contributing to the Loss and Damage Fund is the least the US can do to rebalance the climate injustice they are responsible for.”

Mr Kerry appeared on Capitol hill shortly before flying to Beijing for bilateral talks on the climate crisis with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua.

The talks come after plans by the world’s two largest emitters to cooperate – at least on the climate crisis, if not on other major issues such as trade – stalled over the past year.

Mr Kerry strongly defended the need for the US to engage with China on the climate crisis even in the face of major differences.

Republican lawmakers cited China’s dismal human rights record and its refusal to make more ambitious cuts on emissions.

“They’re not an honest broker when it comes to addressing emissions. They fire a coal plant up pretty much every day, if not week,” said Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr Kerry conceded that he was not going to be able to immediately persuade China to move the needle on emissions reductions.

“Let me just be frank with you, that’s not going to happen in this visit,” he said.

“But the Chinese government understands this is a growing issue of concern,” he added.

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