U.S. climate envoy John Kerry warned that a war in Ukraine could hamper global climate efforts and increase emissions.
In multiple media interviews this week, the top White House climate official said a negative impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be that it sidelines efforts to curb emissions worldwide. Kerry, a former secretary of state during the Obama administration, noted that there would be “massive emissions consequences to the war” in comments to the BBC on Monday.
“Equally, importantly you’re going to lose people’s focus,” Kerry said in the interview. “You’re going to lose certainly big country attention because they will be diverted and I think it could have a damaging impact.”
“Hopefully (Russian President Vladimir Putin) would realize that in the northern part of his country, they used to live on 66% of a nation that was over frozen land,” he continued. “Now, it’s thawing.”
Kerry added that he hoped Putin would focus on climate change.
Late on Wednesday, the Russian government announced a “a special military operation” in a separatist region of Ukraine. But throughout the day Thursday, Russian troops have fired rockets into several Ukrainian regions and have moved into key parts of the country.
“Secretary Kerry strongly condemns the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” a State Department spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday. “On Monday prior to the attack, he was asked about the climate implications of a potential future conflict.”
The price of oil, meanwhile, skyrocketed in response to the invasion Thursday morning, hitting more than seven-year highs.
“I am concerned in terms of the climate efforts that a war is the last thing you need with respect to a united effort to try to deal with the climate challenge,” Kerry told Reuters in a separate interview on Monday.
“Obviously we hope that we can compartmentalize, but it’s just made that much more difficult without any question,” he continued.
Earlier in the day, Kerry addressed a crowd at American University Cairo in Egypt, acknowledging the threat of violence in Ukraine, but saying climate change was another major threat to world stability.
“We know that climate impacts threaten global security,” Kerry remarked during the speech in Cairo, Egypt. “I was just in Germany for the annual Munich Security Conference, where speaker after speaker acknowledged the ‘threat multiplier’ effect of the climate crisis.”
On Sunday, Kerry said the Ukraine crisis will be solved “one way or another,” but that the climate crisis “remains existential” in comments to GZERO Media.
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