Ex-US secretary of state John Kerry launches star-studded coalition to spearhead fight against climate change

Former United States senator and secretary of state John Kerry said he and other coalition members intend to hold town meetings across the country starting in January.
Former United States senator and secretary of state John Kerry said he and other coalition members intend to hold town meetings across the country starting in January. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Former United States senator and secretary of state John Kerry has formed a new bipartisan coalition of world leaders, military brass and Hollywood celebrities to push for public action to combat climate change.

The name, World War Zero, is supposed to evoke both the national security threat posed by the earth's warming and the type of wartime mobilisation that Mr Kerry argued would be needed to stop the rise in carbon emissions before 2050. The star-studded group is supposed to win over those sceptical of the policies that would be needed to accomplish that.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are part of the effort. Moderate Republican lawmakers like Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, and Mr John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, are on the list.

Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting and Ashton Kutcher round out the roster of more than 60 founding members. Their goal is to hold more than 10 million "climate conversations" in the coming year with Americans across the political spectrum.

With a starting budget of US$500,000 (S$683,900), Mr Kerry said, he and other coalition members intend to hold town meetings across the country starting in January. Members will head to battleground states key to the 2020 election, military bases where climate discussions are rare, and economically depressed areas that members say could benefit from clean energy jobs.

The launch of the new group on Sunday (Dec 1) comes as diplomats gather in Madrid on Monday for global climate negotiations aimed at strengthening the 2015 Paris Agreement, from which President Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw next year.

Ms Sarah Matthews, a spokesman for Mr Trump's re-election campaign, said in a statement that the administration "continues to advance realistic solutions to reduce emissions while unleashing American energy like never before".

Asked to comment on the new bipartisan group, she also criticised efforts to force the US to cut emissions, arguing "the largest emitters like China and India won't do the same".