The former US secretary of state John Kerry had stern words for attendees at an Australian conference, as well as to the rest of the world.
In his keynote address at the Global Table food and agriculture conference, Kerry warned that the world’s population risks marching off a cliff unless governments take immediate action against the climate emergency.
According to the Guardian, Kerry also took veiled jabs at the Australian government, particularly the lack of climate and supporting energy policy, and the country’s proposed Adani coalmine in the state of Queensland.
“We just can’t sit on our asses and leave the political process to neanderthals who don’t want to believe in the future,” Kerry told the audience in Melbourne. “We have a dearth of leadership, but this will turn.”
Kerry noted that it isn’t a choice between fighting the climate emergency, and securing jobs and industry growth targets.
“They are not separate. And anybody who persists in putting forward that notion that you have to make the choice – you can either have jobs plus prosperity or you can protect the environment and the future. That’s a lie.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of people running around trying to save the status quo – when the status quo is actually feeding a lot of jobs that don’t make sense.”
Kerry said the transition to carbon emission-neutral economies would, in fact, help create better jobs, with the fastest-growing job opportunities in the US being for solar and wind power technicians, noting that whilst the country has a growing solar workforce of 300,000 people, coal’s employment sector was declining, standing at just 50,000.
Two years ago, 75% of new energy brought online was renewable, he noted.
“We have to make better choices,” Kerry said.
He also cast doubt over further investment in coal-fired energy. “I got to tell you, we should not be moving to coal, we should not be encouraging coal, we should not be building infrastructure around coal,” he said, stirring loud applause from those in attendance.
Kerry said arguing the costs required to fight climate change were failing to see the impact of major weather events such as storms, and the associated disaster-recovery costs, which after 2017’s category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria and category 4 hurricane Harvey resulted in $265 billion in related costs.
“Wait and see what happens with Dorian,” Kerry said, likening the funding and the scale required to tackle the climate emergency to the Marshall plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.