Today’s generation is facing its very own climate D-Day and must take immediate action in the war against global warming, according to US special presidency envoy for climate John Kerry.
The one-time US presidential candidate used a keynote address on the 79th anniversary of the allied landings in Normandy to make his case to an audience of industry leaders in Norway.
“Today is June 6th. D-day. One of the most singularly important moments of history,” Kerry told a shipping exhibition in Norway.
“A moment that calls to mind every single thing that defined the past half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century.”
He continued: “Seventy-nine years ago, on a 15 mile stretch of beach, allied soldiers, many of them teenagers, jumped out of landing craft and onto the stuff of Omaha beach.
“They were fighting for a set of values I would say to you are just as important today as they were then. They put their lives on the line to fight against fascism, tyranny and misinformation and the savage slaughter of innocent lives.
“At the moment they jumped into those boats, into a hail of gunfire, it was not clear who was going to win the war. It was not clear how long it would last. On that grey morning 79 years ago, it was not clear the truth would win."
'Today’s threat comes from all of us'
While Kerry said there were key differences between the fight against Nazi Germany and the battle to ease global warming, there are similarities.
“Make no mistake, just as that was a fight for the future as much as anything we have ever faced, what we are seeing now is the same,” he said.
Kerry said the world was now in a decisive decade and the price of failure could carry greater consequences than those faced during the D-Day landings if the right choices are not made.
“What is also clear right now is we can also win this fight, but it requires the same level of innovation and mobilisation that was required back then by those in the greatest generation,” he said.
Unlike the fight against Hitler's forces, the climate battle is not one against a single enemy, Kerry reasoned. “Today’s threat comes from all of us. It comes from the result of the things we do or avoid doing,” he said.
Shipping is the eighth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses and Kerry told the industry audience at Nor-Shipping in Lillestrom outside Oslo the threat came from our choices as individuals.
“The simple truth is the threat to our planet today comes from the emissions of burning fuels without capturing the emissions which are by products of that burning,” he said.
“That’s the whole thing, frankly,” he said, “It’s about physics, and maths, a little biology and chemistry. It’s not about ideology, not about politics. It really is not rocket science.”
Despite the suffering and deaths as a result of climate change, Kerry said the present generation had yet to summon the collective willpower to act decisively.
This is a fight against greed, selfishness, disinformation and lies.
“That’s what the generation before us were able to do. They rose to the occasion,” he said.
"This is the fight of our times. A fight against greed, selfishness, disinformation and outright lies and a fight for that cleaner, healthier and more prosperous and safer world.”
Turning his attention from one conflict to another, Kerry said every day without action took the planet further past the tipping point.
"Because of the damage already done by the emissions that have already been put into the atmosphere, even this past perilous year may prove to be a better year than any we are going to live in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Shipping has just enjoyed one of the most profitable periods in its history and Kerry said the private sector needed to bring its capital to the climate fight.
“No government can solve this problem all by itself, or even together because governments do not have enough money,” he said.
The greatest economic opportunity since the industrial revolution
Switching to the upcoming COP28 conference in Dubai, Kerry recalled previous global climate talks where action has failed to follow stated intentions.
“Here we are now, COP28,” he said. “I hate the idea [it's] Cop28 and we are so far behind and all of you should too.”
The conference has three mandated outcomes, meeting the challenge of adaptation, addressing loss and damage and a global stock take.
“We also, I think, need to have the pathway ahead laid out, so there is clarity in what we have to do," he said.
He said oil and gas needed to be part of the transition. “As of today there is no such thing as a clean gas on a viable commercial scale,” Kerry said noting there was a need to capture emissions as the maths around an all-renewable energy economy “just doesn’t work”.
Kerry said carbon capture is needed in order to have net zero by 2050 "unless we find something else that is going to break through".
Kerry concluded the scale of the challenge should not be a deterrent.
He said: “This represents the greatest economic opportunity the world has experienced since the industrial revolution.”