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John Kerry: COP26 is creating 'more climate ambition than the world has ever seen'

The US climate envoy says he's heading to the Glasgow summit as an "optimist."

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John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate, calls COP26 the "last, best chance" for solve the climate crisis.

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

With four days to go until the UN climate summit known as COP26, John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate, has already declared the conference a success -- at least when it comes to ambition.

"Glasgow has already summoned more climate ambition than the world has ever seen," said Kerry, speaking at an event at the London School of Economics on Thursday. "And in that regard, Glasgow has achieved success."

Kerry has already called COP26, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, the world's "last, best chance" to solve the climate crisis. The goal of the summit is to gather the world's leaders together to support the goal of ensuring temperature change remains "well below" the 2 degrees Celsius agreed to by UN signatories in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Kerry conceded that not all of the world's countries are fully aligned with what the science says they must do to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis, but added that more countries than ever before are stepping up. He had previously stated that he thought it was possible that countries may not be able to meet the target for cutting fossil fuel emissions at the summit, but said on Thursday that he's heading into Glasgow "an optimist."

The former US secretary of state spoke of how being in public life meant making hard decisions every day, where cost and benefit are often closely balanced. "This, my friends, is not a hard choice," he said. "Addressing the climate crisis is the only choice, and in every way, the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action."

Reiterating President Biden's commitment to helping developing countries meet climate targets with a $100 billion fund and increasing support sixfold by 2024, Kerry said it's important for wealthy countries to stand together with those in the most vulnerable nations. "They did not create this crisis, but they and their people are on the front lines," he said.

Without equitable, inclusive adaptation plans, said Kerry, it may be that 150 million people a year by 2030 need international humanitarian assistance as a result of climate-related disasters. If those plans are put in place, that number could be cut to 10 million by 2050 -- which, he conceded, is still "too many."

Kerry also spoke of his own roots as a climate activist back in the 1970s, and "having doors slammed in my face." He appealed to today's young climate activists to not let the fight stop after COP26.

"Glasgow is the new beginning of this decisive decade," he said. "The day after Glasgow, we need you to keep this fight going. And together my friends, let's get this done. It's doable."