John Kerry plans to stay in climate envoy role through late 2022, says climate action in Congress is ‘imperative’
“There’s no plan to do otherwise at this point in time, certainly,” Kerry told CNN Thursday. “I haven’t even thought about anything else right now.”
“We hope to go to Sharm el-Sheikh with a clear roadmap of what has been accomplished with respect to those promises made, and what has been done to raise the level of ambition and commitment from those who haven’t yet done that,” Kerry said. “That’s our current target, with this effort here. We’re currently gearing up to try to make sure that we can get done all the things I just described.”
Action from Congress ‘is absolutely imperative’
“We talked and shared a table last night at dinner and we had a nice conversation about it all,” Kerry told CNN, not going into details about what was discussed.
Manchin has said he’s supportive of clean energy tax credits. But amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Manchin — the chair of the Senate Energy Committee — has also called for more fossil fuel production in the US to help Europe move away from Russia’s natural gas.
“I think he is definitively concerned about doing some of the things he thinks ought to be done,” Kerry said. Whether that takes shape in a bill “is up to him and the folks he’s negotiating directly with” in the White House.
Speaking at the IEA on Wednesday, Manchin described what he considers an ideal US energy transition, including promoting carbon capture and sequestration for fossil fuels, passing clean energy manufacturing tax credits and providing more funding for advanced nuclear reactors.
“I’m a little bit skeptical of the electric vehicles that everyone’s moving to as rapidly as they are,” Manchin said. “I’m very much concerned about the supply chain. I am very much concerned about being totally relying on China to supply the necessary resources we need to have that transition happen.”
“It’s not going to be Build Back Better; it’s going to be something different,” Kerry said. “My hope is we’re going to pass it. I feel like there’s greater potential that we will do that than some people may believe. I trust that there’s some real possibility of getting climate legislation passed as part of something.”
He added that the US taking legislative action on the climate crisis is “absolutely imperative.”
“I don’t want to speculate what happens if we don’t,” Kerry told CNN. “I’m going to count on doing it, because we’ve got to do it.”
Helping Europe wean off Russian natural gas
Kerry said the natural gas announcement will mark “a beginning, it’s not the end of the process.”
But the US climate envoy said non-fossil fuel options — like electric heat pumps — have also been part of the conversation. Heat pumps are energy-efficient heating systems that can replace natural gas furnaces.
“There’s a lot of discussion going on right now about heat pumps specifically and about other things that we can do to assist Europe to minimize the impact of the loss of Russian gas and oil,” Kerry said. “Not all these plans have been carved in stone at this point. I think heat pumps are a very real alternative to the burning of fuel that takes place today.”
Kerry said he thinks it makes the most sense for Europe to manufacture their own heat pumps, and for the US to jump in and manufacture more if the demand grows.
“Europe makes terrific heat pumps,” Kerry said. “I would imagine the Europeans are hot to trot in their own market here; I don’t think they’re sitting around waiting for the US to necessarily do it. But where it might be necessary — yes, it makes sense for other markets to contribute the products where the demand exists.”
Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico recently told CNN he’s been having discussions with top economic officials in the White House about increasing the US production of heat pumps to send to Europe.
Heinrich said he met with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and White House American Rescue Plan coordinator Gene Sperling last week and pushed the idea of ramping up heat pump production.
“There’s certainly a lot of interest,” Heinrich told CNN of the meeting, adding Sperling and Deese “are both very aware of what we’re pushing, and seem receptive.”