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Kerry: U.S. to aid in climate control after a 4-year gap

by The Associated Press | January 26, 2021 at 4:39 a.m.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry arrives for the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The world must take decisive action to build resilience to the devastating effects of climate change, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told a global virtual summit Monday, pledging that President Joe Biden's new administration would play its role.

In a video message to the Climate Adaptation Summit hosted by the Dutch government, Kerry said, "We're proud to be back [in the Paris climate accord]. We come back, I want you to know, with humility, for the absence of the last four years, and we'll do everything in our power to make up for it."

Biden, in his first hours in office last week, signed an executive order returning the United States to the 2015 Paris climate accord, reversing its withdrawal by President Donald Trump, who ridiculed the science of human-caused climate change.

Kerry said the Biden administration is working to announce its own more ambitious target for cutting emissions soon.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzwAnV8wbcQ]

Outlining the new administration's plans to promote climate adaptation, Kerry said it will "leverage U.S. innovation and climate data" to better understand and manage climate-related risks; increase the flow of finance to adaptation and resilience initiatives, work with institutions to improve resilience planning and promote greater collaboration.

Kerry was among world leaders who converged -- virtually -- on the Netherlands for the summit seeking to galvanize more action and funding to adapt the planet and vulnerable communities to the effects of climate change.

The meeting comes after a year in which the Earth hit or neared record hot temperature levels.

"We saw the heat waves. We saw the fires. We saw the (melting) Arctic," top NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said this month about the effects of the warming.

"Adaptation is not an option, it is an urgent task for this generation and those to come," Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said in a video message.

The Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation last week called on governments and financiers around the globe to include funding for adaptation projects in their covid-19 recovery spending.

World Bank President David Malpass said the bank's financing for adaptation measures rose from 40% of its climate finance in 2016 to more than 50% in 2020, "and we've committed to making it half of our total climate finance for the next five years."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the necessity of the funding, saying that a recent U.N. report calculated adaptation costs in developing countries to be around $70 billion dollars a year, and that they are likely to rise as high as $500 billion in 2050.

"We've reached the point where it is an absolute fact that it's cheaper to invest in preventing damage, or minimizing it at least, than cleaning up," Kerry said.

Dutch Overseas Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Sigrid Kaag got the ball rolling by announcing that the summit's host nation will pump $24 million into an adaptation fund for the world's least-developed nations and $121 million into a program for sustainable farming in Africa's Sahel region.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon warned that if climate change is not reined in, it could create "hundreds of millions of climate refugees in Africa by the middle of the century." He said Africa "has no choice but to adapt and chart a climate-resilient future."

Wind turbines are seen on a dike near Urk, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. A group of scientists, including five Nobel laureates, called Friday for more action to adapt the world to the effects of climate change, drawing comparisons with the faltering response to the coronavirus crisis, ahead of a major online conference on climate adaptation starting Monday and hosted by the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Wind turbines are seen on a dike near Urk, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. A group of scientists, including five Nobel laureates, called Friday for more action to adapt the world to the effects of climate change, drawing comparisons with the faltering response to the coronavirus crisis, ahead of a major online conference on climate adaptation starting Monday and hosted by the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Wind turbines are seen on a dike near Urk, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. A group of scientists, including five Nobel laureates, called Friday for more action to adapt the world to the effects of climate change, drawing comparisons with the faltering response to the coronavirus crisis, ahead of a major online conference on climate adaptation starting Monday and hosted by the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Wind turbines are seen on a dike near Urk, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. A group of scientists, including five Nobel laureates, called Friday for more action to adapt the world to the effects of climate change, drawing comparisons with the faltering response to the coronavirus crisis, ahead of a major online conference on climate adaptation starting Monday and hosted by the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
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