JOHN Kerry has cast doubt on whether Rishi Sunak will "max out" new oil and gas opportunities in the North Sea as promised, as he insisted “unabated burning” of fossil fuels has to end across the world.

Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, said no new coal-fired power stations should be permitted anywhere in the world in a speech in Edinburgh on Thursday, adding Mother Nature was sending an “ever-more desperate” distress signal about the “coming catastrophe”.

He also hit out at climate change deniers, warning the world is now at a “precipice” where the “reckless abuse” of the environment could have “unleashed forces of nature way beyond our control”.

Speaking to the press after the speech, he was asked repeatedly what he thought of Sunak’s pledge to grant hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences in the UK.

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Although he said it was “not his job” to be commenting on other countries’ policies, he did say: “The UK has deployed a massive amount of wind power and the more that goes up it’s going to become competitive – if it isn’t already, which I believe it is – with fossil fuel.

“So, let’s see if they actually drill, let’s see what happens because I think that dynamic is shifting all over the world.”

Kerry added he felt many countries were not keeping promises they made on climate change at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

Describing coal as the “dirtiest fuel”, Kerry said there is “no rational reason” for contributing to the problem by burning it.

Calling for action, he said: “It should be obvious by now – we have better choices.”

He added it is time for countries across the world “to join together and take a more critical step – there should be no more permitting of any new unabated coal-fired power anywhere in the world”.

He continued: “Knowing what we know are the impacts and given the alternative options, there is just no rational reason for contributing more to the problem by turning to the world’s dirtiest fuel burned in the dirtiest way.

“Unless we, all of us, start doing more, faster, now, future generations will trade the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness for struggle in the pursuit of survival.”

The comments came as he delivered an address at the inaugural Scottish Global Dialogues in Edinburgh – a new annual series of lectures focused on the climate crisis.

Kerry, who was introduced by First Minister Humza Yousaf at the event, used his speech to condemn those “extremist political voices” and those with “vastly vested interests” who he said had “declared war on facts and science” when dealing with environmental issues.

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These groups would “choose a destructive status quo over the opportunity to build a clean energy economy”, he added.

Hitting out at those who “refuse to accept the facts behind the increasingly obvious damages of the climate crisis”, Kerry said that “without facts or economics on their side, they flatly deny what is happening to our planet and what we must do to save it.

As a result, he said: “Humanity is inexorably threatened by humanity itself.”

But while he said the Earth could be at “one of the most dangerous moments in human history”, he added it “may also be the greatest moment of opportunity for human advancement”.

With the Cop28 climate change summit due to take place in Dubai in November and December, he said: “In this moment we have a unique opportunity to significantly accelerate this transition to a clean energy economy.”

The latest climate talks will take place almost a decade on from the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 – where 200 nations vowed to try to keep global temperature rises to below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Kerry warned “we’re significantly off track” with efforts towards that target, noting emissions are currently rising, not falling.

Despite that, Kerry insisted there are “many more reasons for optimism” as he highlighted the growth in renewables and increased sales of electric vehicles.

However, he said the world is “now on the precipice of tipping points”, describing this as being “the point at which events can simply unfold of their own momentum, the point at which our reckless abuse of an ecosystem has unleashed forces of nature way beyond our control”.

Kerry said: “No-one can predict with certainty the exact pace and scope of this unravelling.

“But common sense tells us inaction doesn’t have a prayer of stopping what is happening.

“This is one of the most dangerous moments in human history.

“But it may also be the greatest moment of opportunity for human advancement. We have the chance now to write a future filled with choices that not only make life cleaner, healthier, fairer, and safer.”