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September 15, 2022

Remarks of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry African Ministerial Conference on the Environmen

Remarks of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry 
African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)

Dakar, Senegal
Thursday, September 15, 2022

As Prepared


It is a pleasure to be here again in Africa alongside so many of my friends and partners, especially as we all prepare to head to Egypt this fall for COP27. 

 It is an honor to join this year’s AMCEN, where I hope to offer a few thoughts but mostly hear from you. I would like to particularly thank our hosts here in Senegal: President Macky Sall, and your AMCEN President, Minister AbdouKarim Sall. Thank you for your leadership, on climate and so many other critical issues, not just regionally but internationally. 

 AMCEN is one of this continent’s premier organizations for action and implementation. You also recognize our challenges are too big for any one nation — or group of nations — to solve alone. We need to work together — as the private sector, civil society, governments, and tribal and indigenous groups, to win the battle here. Partnerships will be key, in Africa and beyond. 

 Senegal, then, is a fitting setting — you are world famous as the “Land of Teranga” for your legendary hospitality, generosity, and values. 

 You see it in this nation’s remarkable peace and stability. How you always cook a little extra in case a guest shows up. You even see it at Senegalese weddings —instead of individual invites, the whole town shows up.  

 In Senegal, you treat each other as part of one family — one community. 

 Climate change, similarly, is an issue that affects the entire world — as one community. 

 Here in Africa, you see the urgency of this moment. 17 of the world’s 20 most climate vulnerable countries are on this continent. 

 I was just visiting Nigeria and met with Minister Abdullahi, President Buhari, and others, and heard first-hand about devastating impacts of flooding and the challenges of the current power grid. 

 I know here in Senegal, coastal erosion — including along the famous Corniche — has accelerated.   

 This year has seen devastating floods in South Africa, Mozambique, and Uganda kill hundreds and displaced tens of thousands. Meanwhile, the Horn of Africa is in its 4thyear of drought, with more than 18 million suffering food insecurity as a result. 

 We’re seeing impacts in every country in the world: the worst drought in Chinese history has left the Yangtze River, the longest in Asia, nearly dry in places. We’ve seen unprecedented floods in Pakistan, and heatwaves in the United States. Temperatures 100 — 100! — degrees above normal in Antarctica. And every year we now lose ten million of our fellow human beings globally to extreme heat and air pollution. 

 The IPCC tells us none of us are moving fast enough to reduce emissions. But we can still secure a healthier, cleaner, safer planet for all of us. 

 To avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis — just the worst — we must hold total temperature rise within the1.5-degree limit. That means cutting emissions 45% this decade and reaching a net zero, pollution neutral world by mid-century. That’s not my judgment or President Biden’s. That’s simple physics and mathematics. 

 So we all need to be honest about where we find ourselves. It is true that 20 countries – including the United States — are now responsible for 80 percent of all emissions. It is also true that 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are responsible for only 0.55% of total emissions. 

 But we are all in this together. All of us are threatened by emissions — and Mother Nature does not care where those emissions come from. The challenge of the climate crisis comes from the crisis of emissions in every country — the cars we drive, how we cook our food, heat and cool our homes. 

 We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. How you decide to approach the future will have a profound impact, not just on Africa, but on our ability as a planet to solve this problem.  

 On mitigation, President Biden has brought unprecedented resources and ambition to this fight — he rejoined the Paris Agreement on Day One, set ambitious NDC target, and this summer, he signed the Inflation Reduction Act, the most important climate legislation in United States history. 

 And, in line with the Glasgow Climate Pact, we need others– especially the major economies — to step up and align their NDCs with the Paris temperature goal by COP 27. Without that, and without further efforts to decarbonize key sectors, there is simply no path to keeping 1.5 alive.  

 But while we act to mitigate warming, we must also act to adapt to a warmer world, now and in the future. Here in Africa and around the world, we need to adapt to a planet already 1.1 degrees warmer, with more warming to come. 

 The IPCC has identified devastating impacts of our current, 1.1-degree warmer world — but you don’t need to read about them, you are already living through them. Lower crop yields, especially here in West Africa. Collapse of small fisheries and coral reefs, including in the Red Sea. Unprecedented heat, floods, and supercharged storms in the Horn. 

 Adaptation must be at the core of our climate planning if we are to save lives and livelihoods from changes we can no longer avoid. 

 In Africa, with the world’s fastest growing populations and fastest growing economies, adaptation is lives saved – it’s jobs created – and it’s also common sense. Roads, bridges, and ports can only spur economic growth and reduce poverty next year if they are built to survive the storms of tomorrow. 

 So what is the United States doing about it? 

 First, the United States will always help when disaster strikes. 

 Last year, we provided $8.2 billion in humanitarian aid. In Africa, that included critical assistance to the people of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Mauritania in response to their unprecedented drought.  

 Second, we are working with multilateral development banks, or MDBs, to help climate-vulnerable people access risk-based insurance – in case disaster strikes. We need to increase access to disaster risk financing, and support theG7’s efforts to close the finance gap through the so-called “Global Shield,” protecting vulnerable people — in Africa, in the Caribbean, Central America, and the Pacific.  

 These insurance pools work. In 2019, in Senegal alone more than half a million people were insured through African Risk Capacity, or ARC. When drought hit, those payouts and pre-arranged relief helped avoid starvation. 

 Third, we must redouble our adaptation efforts before disasters to protect lives and investments. 

 This can literally mean the difference between life and death. According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, better early warning systems and adaptation can cut the number of people who need emergency assistance in half by 2030 — and, by 2050, from 200 million to just 10 million. Imagine that. 

 To invest in all of these strategies and supercharge adaptation efforts globally, at COP26 President Biden launched his President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, known as PREPARE.  

 PREPARE is a whole-of-government effort, mobilizing 18 U.S. Federal agencies to accelerate adaptation action and support, from forecasting to finance. 

 All told, we will help more than half a billion people in developing countries adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change this decade. And our PREPARE Action Plan — which we hope to release soon — lays out exactly how the United States will reach these goals. 

 First and foremost, the plan recognizes that knowledge is power.  

 PREPARE responds to the UN Secretary General’s call to ensure within the next 5 years “Early Warning for All” and increase access to climate information.  

 For example, 70% percent of Africans rely on rain-fed agriculture, yet most don’t have access to early warning systems or critical climate information. 

 Expect announcements at COP27 focused on closing that gap. 

 Second, we are helping our partners, including in Africa, build adaptation into all their priorities – whether infrastructure, food, health, or water systems.  

 Last month Secretary of State Blinken visited this region to launch the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, supporting adaptation and a just energy transition. 

 We fully support African-led partnerships, like the African Union’s Africa Adaptation Initiative. We will have more to say about our support for this Initiative at COP27.  

 Through PREPARE, we are also working with partners, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, to improve climate-resilient agriculture and water storage capacity. We see the difference that can make right now in ongoing drought in the Horn. 

 We are also well aware that many African countries, in addition to being climate-vulnerable, are considered fragile or conflict-affected.  There is a strong link between climate vulnerability and conflict.   

Climate change can exacerbate existing tensions, as well as lead to new ones. 

Conflict and uncertainty can also increase the vulnerability of communities and countries to climate change. 

We are working to address both sides of this coin.  Our PREPARE effort on adaptation can help build peace; and our peacebuilding efforts under our Global Fragility Act can improve the outcomes of climate adaptation efforts. 

 Finally, we all know we cannot reach our adaptation goals without sufficient funding.  

 The United States supports the Glasgow call for developed countries to collectively double their adaptation finance, and we are doing our part.  

As part of PREPARE, President Biden committed to work with our Congress to provide $3 billion annually for adaptation by 2024, the largest commitment in U.S. history. 

In Glasgow, we announced our intent to make our first-ever contribution to the Adaptation Fund. We will make good on this promise, contributing $25M of this multi-year $50M commitment this year. 

To further improve access to climate finance, especially for locally-led adaptation, the United States supports the Least Developed Countries Initiative for Effective Adaptation & Resilience, known as LIFE-AR. LIFE-AR countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia are demonstrating how to ensure that vulnerable people can access adaptation finance and make it as effective as possible. 

Through another PREPARE program, we are helping finance and planning ministries in Africa embed climate risk into budgets and unlock private finance.  


When it comes to private finance, the global financial sector is beginning to respond, mobilizing both the billions and the trillions you need.  

When it comes to just the clean energy transition, the IEA estimates we need to invest $4 trillion dollars, every year for decades. No government on earth — including the United States — has that kind of capital available. Only the private sector can access funding at that level. 

And the IFC, Blackrock, and insurers and reinsurers know you must be protected from climate risk to make investments. 

Governments are also working with the private sector to test innovative financial tools. The United States is supporting efforts to help cities like Durban in South Africa incentivize investments in climate-resilient infrastructure. 

 There will be more announcements to come this year, including at a high-level event we are co-hosting at COP27 with Egypt on Adaptation in Africa. 

 We also support the Glasgow mandate to do further work on the Paris Agreement’s Global Goal on Adaptation and will continue to share experiences at adaptation workshops, including at next month’s hosted by Egypt.  

 Finally, and importantly for this COP, we are committed to taking additional steps on loss and damage – this means getting the Santiago Network up and running; engaging in various initiatives that respond to specific concerns of vulnerable countries; and making clear that the Glasgow Dialogue will have an outcome on financial arrangements for loss and damage when they conclude in 2024.  

 My friends, I have been in this fight since even before AMCEN was created. I participated in the first Earth Day in 1970.  

 I know we can win this fight — if we fight it together.  

 The whole world could benefit if we acted a little more Senegalese — if we applied the values of Teranga and acted as one global community. 

 On behalf of all those who are counting on us — today, tomorrow, and for generations to come — let’s get the job done.

Thank you.