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U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry listens to a question from a reporter during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Rome March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry listens to a question from a reporter during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Rome March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  

With Ukraine in crisis, Kerry issues new guidance on global warming

Russia is occupying Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and threatening to shut off natural gas supplies to the region and possibly the rest of Europe.

What does U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry do? He issues a guidance document on global warming.

Kerry issued his first Policy Guidance as secretary of state last week, electing to guide U.S. diplomats on the Obama administration’s global warming agenda rather than addressing other topics, like conflicts in the Middle East or Eastern Europe.

“Leading the way toward progress on this issue is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State,” Kerry wrote. “That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State.”

“This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity,” Kerry added. “And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction.”

The ongoing Ukrainian crisis have U.S. federal lawmakers calling for the Obama administration to fast-track approvals of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to Europe to wean the continent off of Russian gas. But Kerry’s global warming guidance, instead, lays out five foreign policy goals:

“Lead by example through strong action at home and abroad… Conclude a new international climate change agreement… Implement the Global Climate Change Initiative… Enhance multilateral engagement… Expand bilateral engagement… Mobilize financial resources… Integrate climate change with other priorities,” according to Kerry.

“One thing’s for sure: there’s no time to lose,” Kerry added. “The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before.”

But more than 17 years without global warming and high economic costs have dampened the willingness of industrialized nations to address the issue. Europeans have been debating scaling back their future climate and green energy goals in the face of skyrocketing electricity costs and green taxes.

“Without further action on energy costs the competitiveness gap between Europe and the US is becoming unbridgeable,” said UK energy minister Michael Fallon. “Energy is one of the biggest costs for business, and a key factor in investment decisions. We have to recognise that energy costs are undermining our competitiveness; some energy-intensive sectors are struggling to compete internationally.”

One reason for such high energy costs is Europe’s reliance on high-cost natural gas, about one-third of which comes from Russia mainly through Ukrainian pipelines. The European Union is dragging its feet when it comes to boosting domestic natural gas supplies, and U.S. policymakers have seen this as an opportunity to boost exports and scale back Russian influence over Europe.

“I would begin drilling in every possible conceivable place within our territories in order to have production that we could supply Europe with if it’s interrupted from Ukraine,” Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul told “Fox News Sunday”.

But Kerry makes no mention in his guidance about using natural gas as a diplomatic tool, despite the environmental benefits of using gas over coal. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal when burned for power.

“Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy,” Kerry said. “We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity.  We need to elevate the environment in everything we do.”

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