Climate envoy to Iowans: ‘There’s a growing sense of urgency’

John Kerry, President Biden's special envoy for climate, appealed to Iowans to push politicians to approve cuts in U.S. carbon emissions. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Moments before he closed a White House international climate summit on Earth Day, U.S. special envoy John Kerry urged Iowans to push Congress to approve new cuts in carbon emissions. 

“There’s a growing sense of urgency,” said Kerry, a former U.S. senator and former secretary of state who holds the newly created position of presidential envoy for climate in the Biden administration. He appeared at a climate event arranged by Iowa Interfaith Power & Light

Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry participates in a briefing Jan. 27, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chandler West)

“I don’t think everybody is responding adequately to that urgency yet, but it stepped up today,” Kerry said. “In the countries that stepped up, more than 50% committed to try to hold the (temperature increase to) 1.5 degrees centigrade,” a key goal of climate scientists looking to control global warming, he added. 

Among those attending the two-day White House summit were the heads of state of Russia, China, India, Germany and France, Kerry noted. Other dignitaries came from countries most likely to face flooding and other damage as the seas rise.

“We’re going to be able to reduce emissions, I think pretty significantly, pretty soon,” Kerry said.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday released aggressive targets for U.S. emissions reductions, Kerry said. Biden wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, compared with 2005 levels. 

The United States, long the top emitter of greenhouse gases, now ranks second to China. Biden made addressing climate issues a top campaign issue in his run against then-President Donald Trump, who eventually withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement and eased regulations on factories and other large emitters.

Biden rejoined the Paris pact.


Kerry urged Iowans to pressure politicians to act. 

“We’ve got to persuade the Senate and the House to do the right thing,” Kerry said. 

He said fears over hurting the economy by limiting emissions are misguided because the shift to renewable energy sources would create jobs, spur development and lower the number of new asthma and cancer cases. 

Also appearing at Wednesday’s virtual event were state Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, and Johnston middle school student Lilly Hill, a climate activist. 

Smith said he’s a conservationist who realizes that many efforts in that arena depend on addressing climate change. 

“The climate crisis that we have as it exists currently in our world is one that puts at risk any conservation effort that we have,” Smith said. “So, to not address climate first doesn’t put us position to adequately do things to conserve what exists right now.” 

Hill, who has organized events and a website for Johnston’s Climate Change Committee, said addressing climate challenges are part of an environmental ethic.

“I care a lot about the environment and I see it as our civic duty as citizens of the earth to protect it and care for the next future generations to come,” Hill said.