Midterms Can't Undo Biden's Climate Action, Promises John Kerry at COP27

The climate crisis is science, not a political exercise, says Kerry as US voters head to the polls.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read
Joe Biden and John Kerry

Biden and Kerry, seen here at last year's COP26, work closely together on climate.

Kevin LaMarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

No matter what happens in Tuesday's midterms, or in any subsequent elections, no one can undo the work the US has done to tackle the climate crisis during Joe Biden's tenure as president. That was the message from John Kerry, Biden's climate envoy, at the UN's COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

In a speech at the summit on Tuesday, Kerry emphasized that the motivation behind Biden's commitment to tackling the climate crisis is driven by the fact that human-induced climate change is affecting Americans and people in countries all around the world through extreme weather events. 

"This is not a President Biden-conjured-up political exercise," he said. "This is not an ideological exercise. Everything we are choosing to do is based on science."

As a major world power, a center of finance and business and the world's second highest emitter of greenhouse gases, the US has an important role to play in tackling climate change on a global scale. Biden has made the climate a priority, quadrupling President Barack Obama's financial pledges to assist the international effort, passing the Inflation Reduction Act (which includes provisions for addressing climate issues) at home and rejoining the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to ensuring the planet doesn't exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

But there are fears on the international stage that if the US swings to the right in the 2022 elections, and then in 2024 reelects Donald Trump or chooses another president who refuses to recognize the science of climate change, the US may falter on its climate action, halting or even reversing the progress it's already made.

Kerry reassured the international audience at COP27 that most of the work Biden has done so far is protected due to partnerships with the the private sector. "And the marketplace has made its decision to do what we need to to respond to a crisis," said Kerry.

Even when Trump was president and pulled out of the Paris Agreement, Kerry added, most states and big cities across the US remained committed to its principles. "They said, Donald Trump has pulled out, but we're still in," he said. "The American people stayed in."

More than 37 states in the US have renewable portfolio laws, and even during the Trump administration, 75% of the new electricity that came online came from renewables. "I believe that he obviously didn't know that was happening, that if he had he'd have tried to stop it," said Kerry.

COP27 coinciding with the midterm elections has meant that Biden had to skip the World Leader's Summit portion of the event on Monday and Tuesday. Instead, he will be in Egypt on Friday to take part in the global climate confab. Throughout the two-week summit, the US is making a number of funding and partnership commitments, and has agreed to work with other countries toward establishing financing to compensate victims of the "loss and damage" that's resulted from climate change.

"We developed countries, we the largest economy in the world, the second largest emitter, have a special responsibility to less-developed nations," said Kerry. "We need to do and will do what is necessary to help make sure that this is a just transition."