Nov 21, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Kerry, UN boss show more cards ahead of COP28

Photo illustration of John Kerry and António Guterres with abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Two pivotal figures in climate diplomacy are offering more information about what they want from COP28 and beyond.

Driving the news: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wants aggressive country plans that "plot a course for ending fossil fuels," he said Monday.

  • Other asks for these plans include "clear 2030 and 2035 targets" and alignment with long-shot Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C degrees, he said Monday.

Why it matters: The remarks signal what the UN boss hopes will follow the first "global stocktake" under the Paris agreement at COP28.

  • That's the formal process to gauge where the world stands in the fight against climate change — and how to course correct.

Quick take: He's planting another flag ahead of expected battles at COP28 over whether the summit should endorse a phaseout of fossil fuels.

Catch up fast: Guterres spoke at the rollout of UN projections that Earth will warm catastrophically beyond Paris targets under nations' current pledges.

  • These non-binding targets, called "nationally determined contributions," are central to the Paris Agreement's architecture.

What's next: He's heading to Antarctica in a pre-COP trip to see climate impacts up close as the UN tries to underscore the summit's stakes.

Meanwhile, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry revealed Monday that the U.S. will unveil a global strategy for advancing nuclear fusion at COP28, Axios' Alan Neuhauser reports.

State of play: It follows recent advances by the Energy Department and startups.

  • Kerry called it an "emerging climate solution" in a statement alongside his visit to Massachusetts startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems yesterday.

Reality check: In theory, fusion could mean almost limitless carbon-free power without the dangerous waste from traditional fission reactors.

  • But there's a long and uncertain scientific, technical and financial road to commercializing this long-elusive holy grail.

The intrigue: Guterres wants a path to ending fossil fuels. Kerry is more cautious and wants oil and gas companies to work toward capturing their emissions and heading toward net zero.

The bottom line: With nine days to go until COP28, we're learning more about what to expect — and where the fault lines lie.

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