NAIROBI – US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has lamented the lack of progress of recent climate discussions in remarks to the press at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi. 

The first major climate summit to focus on Africa, the event has drawn together 30,000 delegates including 20 African leaders under the banner of fostering “green growth and climate finance”. 

Events are expected to reach a climax on Wednesday with a declaration establishing a common position for African nations in future global climate discussions such as COP28 in Dubai.

However, at an event where speeches were largely characterised by optimism and big ambition, John Kerry struck a more critical note as he spoke to journalists just before flying back out of Nairobi. 

“The implementation of Glasgow has not been as strong as it should have been,” said Kerry. 

“Mitigation was also not as focused on at Sharm El Sheikh as we felt it could have been,” he added. 

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“Some of the things that were promised in both places were not advanced at the pace that was promised.” 

In the two years that have passed since delegates pledged to ‘keep 1.5°C alive’ at COP26, global emissions have continued to increase year-on-year, reaching near-pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

There are hopes, however, that the next UN climate conference – COP28 in Dubai – could see a new emphasis on climate change mitigation, after climate adaptation and loss and damage payments became a focus at the previous two UN climate conferences. 

COP28 is set to witness the first-ever “Global Stocktake”, which will effectively be an inventory of all that the world has achieved in climate action policy, looking at both progress and gaps in order to “chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action”, according the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

“The global stocktake is an ambition exercise. It is an accountability exercise. It is an acceleration exercise,” UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell has previously said. “It is an exercise that is intended to make sure every party is holding up their end of the bargain, knows where they need to go next and how rapidly they need to move to fulfil the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Amid significant buzz around the prospects of the stocktake at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, John Kerry expressed hope that COP28 in Dubai will mark a chance to renew climate action.

“I have been surprised by the amount of spontaneous mentioning there has been regarding the Dubai COP at the end of November,” said Kerry. “I think there is real anticipation of this COP. 

“A lot of interested parties around the world – whether NGOs, activists or companies – are no longer going to be impressed by repetition of previously announced things, or by sidestepping some of the realities of where we clearly now find ourselves.”