By David Gaffen
(Reuters) -The Ukraine crisis is going to be a “defining moment” for this century, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said on Monday, adding the stakes could not be higher, even if the world has to live with higher energy costs for a time.
The kickoff speaker at the annual CERAWEEK energy conference in Houston, Kerry called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “abhorrent” and said the Ukrainian people are exposing Russia’s government for “all that it is.”
His remarks follow Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor, and as the United States and allies consider even more punishing sanctions against Russia, including outright bans on imports of Russian oil and gas. Russia accounts for 4 million to 5 million barrels of oil exports daily, making it the world’s second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia.
Kerry told the industry conference that natural gas will play a key role in the transition to clean energy, a key concern for environmental advocates who want the United States to avoid locking in decades more fossil fuel production by expanding production and exports.
“Gas is going to be a key component in the energy transition,” he said, adding that gas, along with nuclear energy, will be needed by developing countries to power their growing economies.
But emissions from increased gas production cannot be unabated and should be accompanied by emissions-reducing technology and regulations, he said.
Kerry said the world will have to go on investing in energy transition technologies, including hydrogen, carbon capture and renewables, and noted that the Biden administration is pursuing an “all-of-the-above” approach, which includes a greater role for nuclear power.
He said it was not enough for companies to have a “net zero” goal for 2050, noting the detrimental effects of rising global temperatures already evident.
“You already see what’s happening with global temperatures up 1.2 degrees (Celsius)… you’re already seeing climate refugees,” Kerry said.
The U.S. climate envoy also took aim at groups that have sued to block new energy infrastructure projects like pipelines and transmission lines needed to move clean energy.
“We can send a rover to Mars, but we can’t send an electron to California from New York. We have to move forward and set transmission lines in various places and pipes,” he said.
(Reporting By David Gaffen; additional reporting by Valerie VolcoviciEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Marguerita Choy and Howard Goller)