White House climate envoy John Kerry said the U.S. would “under no circumstances” pay reparations to other countries ravaged by climate change in testimony Thursday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s oversight subcommittee.
During the hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) directly asked Kerry whether the U.S. would pay reparations, to which Kerry responded in the negative.
“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Mast replied.
The exchange between Kerry and Mast marked a solicitous moment in a hearing that saw frequent fireworks between the former secretary of State and the panel’s other Republicans. Reps. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) and Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) made repeated references to Kerry’s family’s ownership of a private jet, prompting Kerry to say he does not own a private jet and flies commercially in the course of his duties.
Another Republican on the subcommittee, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), accused Kerry and world leaders who signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement of “grifting.”
Kerry testified before the subcommittee ahead of a scheduled visit to Beijing for another round of climate negotiations with Chinese officials. China is the world’s largest single emitter of carbon dioxide but has been classified as a developing nation by the United Nations, due to the relatively recent growth of its economy compared to other major emitters.
At last year’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt, the U.S. joined other nations in committing to a “loss and damages” fund for developing countries affected by climate change.
However, unlike a reparations program, that fund is not considered compensatory and does not involve specific countries conceding legal liability, a distinction that advocates for reparations have been quick to point out. The COP27 agreement does not specify who would pay into the loss-and-damages fund, and the U.S. and other Western powers heavily lobbied for excluding legal liability for historic emitters from the text.