Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview aired Sunday ahead of the U.N. climate summit that it won’t be an easy road to turning the climate crisis on its head and that “we have a lot of work to do.”
“This is not tomorrow’s problem. This is today’s problem, and I think there’s a much greater consciousness of that. So we have our work cut out for us even between now and the next 24 hours when we get to Glasgow,” Blinken told host Margaret Brennan on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Blinken, along with President Joe Biden, is among more than 100 world leaders attending the COP26 climate summit that is starting Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland, to negotiate a coordinated response to climate change. The leaders are expected to discuss plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels, among other climate ambitions.
Blinken painted a rosy picture of the United States’ commitments to address the crisis, such as Biden’s pledge to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. But he also acknowledged that these are “voluntary commitments” and “we are not there yet, we have a lot of work to do.”
“If the world does not take steps now, between now and the end of this decade, to do what’s necessary to keep us to 1.5 degrees Celsius, then no matter what our commitments are for 2050, we’re not going to get there,” he said.
In a declaration just ahead of the COP26 conference, G-20 leaders ended their Rome summit with an agreement to take action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Blinken also recognized the phasing out of fossil fuels as a potential challenge in the fight against the climate crisis. He said the United States is pressing for an agreement “to make sure that countries don’t finance coal projects internationally,” and that “you’re going to see us start to turn this” once those countries take practical steps to reach that goal.
“This is one of the biggest drivers of emissions around the world. Ending financing for those projects will take a serious dent in terms of dealing with climate change,” he said.
Blinken called specifically on China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, to “step up and do the right thing” in ending the financing of coal projects. He stressed that their own people would benefit from this commitment as well as the international community — “to the extent that China cares about how it’s seen in the world.”
“This is not a favor to anyone. This is profoundly in the interests of their own people, and it’s in the interest of people around the world,” Blinken said.