US will not pay climate reparations to developing states, John Kerry says

Wednesday September 06 2023
US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry

US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry gestures during the second day of Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya on September 5, 2023. PHOTO | NMG


United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has said that the US will be damned if it pays any form of climate reparations to developing countries.

Despite his country being one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, he reiterated a statement he made at a congressional hearing in July this year that under no circumstances would his country be forced to pay climate reparations.

At a press conference with journalists on the sidelines of the African Climate Summit, he said that while he knew the US was one of the biggest polluters, all the world's economies were in the same predicament when it came to climate change.

Read: African leaders demand carbon emission ‘reparations’

His statement at the congress and when he spoke to heads of state contradicts his plans to be actively at the forefront of ensuring that a Loss and Damage mechanism is put in place.

Loss and Damage refers to the irreparable effects of climate change that can neither be adapted to nor mitigated.


During his presentation to world leaders, Kerry insisted that the Loss and Damage process should be completed in about a year and sympathised with people affected by climate-related loss and damage.

However, in response to a question from a Nation journalist, he said that his stance on Loss and Damage payments, a form of climate reparations, is that the facility, which was historically agreed at COP27, should not be designed in a "punitive" way.

All he wants is for the Loss and Damage Facility to be exempt from any kind of civil liability that developed countries have to pay for.

"This is not a unique position for the United States and many nations in the world. We have said we are not going to create a liability structure on the court," he said.

Read: Climate change adaptation should be Africa’s priority

"Changing the dynamics and everything we do in a very negative way. We are not going to do that," he added.

Kerry further said the US believes that there is loss and damage and that it is an important thing for responsible nations to try to help countries that have been affected.

"Since 1988, the US and other countries have taken enormous steps to respond to this reality. Mother Nature doesn't choose between the emissions of one country and those of another. What affects Mother Nature is the total emissions that go into the atmosphere," he said.

However, he said the US is proud to be the largest humanitarian donor in the world and has helped so many other countries not only with climate emergencies, but also with health.

Earlier at the conference, Kenya's President William Ruto suggested that African countries need to adopt a carbon tax, which would penalise companies for their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Read: Why Africa can be the lungs of the world

"It's clear that as a result of procrastination and doing what we shouldn't have done, more and more damage and injury is taking place. You have to be pretty blind not to see some responsibility," he said.

"The US president and his administration have not yet endorsed any carbon pricing mechanisms, but they have directed us to look at the most prominent and the most possible and to think about what the arguments are," he added.

Kerry said he personally supported and agreed with Ruto's idea on carbon pricing.