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As the world waited and watched for a Russian invasion of Ukraine, White House climate envoy John Kerry expressed concern for the residents of the country and the “principles that are at risk.”
But he also raised concern about another potential impact of the invasion: it might distract countries from their efforts to combat climate change.
During an interview with the BBC dated Feb. 23, Kerry said, “I’m very concerned about Ukraine because of the people of Ukraine and because of the principles that are at risk in terms of international law and trying to change boundaries of international law by force. I thought we lived in a world that had said no to that kind of activity. And I hope diplomacy will win.”
He went on to raise concerns about the “massive emissions consequences to the war.”
“But equally importantly, you’re going to lose peoples’ focus. You’re going to lose certainly big country [sic] attention because they will be diverted. And I think you could have a damaging impact,” he continued.
Finally, Kerry said, “I hope President Putin will help us to stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate.”
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Kerry’s comments came shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday night that Russia would conduct a military operation in eastern Ukraine with the goal of demilitarizing the country. Putin claims he is fighting neo-Nazism in Ukraine, but there is no evidence that there is widespread support for such views in that country.
Despite his assertion that the military activity would take place in the eastern portions of the country, strikes have been conducted in western parts of the country. Additionally, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted on Thursday one of Russia’s aims is to install a pro-Russian government in Ukraine.
4. #Russia has 3 objectives over the next 72 hours
-encircle & cut off #Ukraine forces in the east
-deny Ukraine the ability to resupply via airports and the Black Sea
– Set the stage to install a pro-Russian interim government in #Kyiv (4of5)
U.S. officials estimate the invasion will lead to 50,000 injuries or deaths.
It is doubtful that Putin is an individual who actually cares about climate change, given that he manufactured a pretext to invade a sovereign country with apparently little regard for the human suffering that is to come.
Even if he does care about it, his decision to invade Ukraine would appear to show its potential impact on efforts to combat climate change is not something that’s on the top of his list concerns.