AMERICAN Secretary of State John Kerry said global warming is as big a threat as terrorism in a speech in Indonesia.
Speaking yesterday in the capital of Jakarta, the last stop on his three-nation Asia tour, Kerry called on the international community – nations and individuals – to do more now, as addressing climate change required a global solution.
The speech came against the backdrop of the eruption of the Mount Kelud volcano that disrupted air travel in the region and forced the cancellation of Mr Kerry's planned meeting today with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"We've seen here in Asia how extreme weather events can disrupt world trade," Mr Kerry said to an audience of Indonesian students and business leaders. "In today's globalised economy, the entire world feels it."
Mr Kerry's emphasis on the importance of individual responsibility coincides with his dilemma on whether to back TransCanada Corp's proposal for a $5.4bn (€4bn) pipeline to carry heavy crude from Canada to US refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Without more action to combat global warming, scientists predict extreme weather events such as last year's Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines will occur, Mr Kerry said. He likened climate change to global threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"The solution is energy policy. It's as simple as that," he said. "Governments and international financial institutions should stop incentivising the use of energy sources like coal and oil."
Climate change can also be an economic opportunity, Mr Kerry said, adding that investment in "the global energy market of the future" is expected to reach nearly $17trillion (€12.4tn) between now and 2035.
In order to boost investments in the sector, governments must encourage greater innovation in renewable energy technology and check the use of coal and oil as power sources for their immediate energy needs.
Mr Kerry said the world "must look further down the line", even as he acknowledged the challenges for developing countries such as Indonesia in developing alternate energy sources.
Mr Kerry arrived in Indonesia, southeast Asia's largest economy, on Saturday after a day-and-a-half in China, where he won agreement on five joint actions to reduce greenhouse gases, such as cutting vehicle emissions and improving energy efficiency of buildings.
A joint US-China statement was issued shortly before Mr Kerry's departure from Beijing, to signal that the world's two largest economies are committed to working together to mitigate their roles in acceleration of global warming.
"China agrees with the United States that it's time to pursue a cleaner path forward," he said. "Make no mistake: this is real progress."
China and the US are the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap solar heat. Scientists warn that rising temperatures threaten to intensify tropical cyclones such as last year's Typhoon Haiyan, which left as many as 10,000 people dead in the Philippines.
"Together, the US and China account for some 40pc of the carbon pollution that is released into the atmosphere," Mr Kerry told Chinese workers at the Cummins Inc and Beiqi Foton Motor Co joint venture, which produces clean diesel engines. "It is imperative for us to work together."
Mr Kerry will use the trip to Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands that is vulnerable to – and highly focused on – climate change, to focus attention on the issue, a US official said.