The Government of the United States was quick to explain Wednesday that the much-publicized handshake between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Climate Envoy John Kerry in Sharm El-Sheikh was an unplanned event.
US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said during a press conference that those who saw the 25-second exchange realized that Nicolas Maduro interrupted what was an ongoing COP27 meeting to interact with Special Envoy Kerry, and that was very much an unplanned interaction, Price said while insisting Kerry had been taken by surprise.
Maduro had also greeted French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week. I understand that Maduro has done this to several world leaders. This interaction was certainly not planned, asserted Price, who insisted that the meeting was in no way planned.
The Venezuelan government is under severe US sanctions, although some rapprochement has been reported. On March 5, President Joseph Biden's advisor for Latin America Juan González met with Maduro in Caracas, albeit behind closed doors.
Biden continued to apply the sanctions on Venezuela imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump (2017-2021) and reiterated that he will only loosen the pressure if Maduro resumes the dialogue with the opposition, suspended since last year. The US and Venezuela have not had official diplomatic relations since 2019 when Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, something that Biden has maintained.
Meanwhile, in strictly COP27 activity, Kerry announced a new carbon credit plan known as The Energy Transition Accelerator, a partnership with the Bezos Earth Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation, with Microsoft also showing some interest. The strategy seeks to funnel private capital to help middle-income countries transition away from coal toward renewable energy.
Kerry said the goal was to have this up and running no later than COP28, next year in Dubai. The accelerator would allow companies to buy carbon credits, which would fund renewable energy projects in developing countries. Those companies would then be able to count the emissions cuts toward the reaching of their own net zero goals.
Chile and Nigeria have expressed early interest in taking part in the program, as well as Microsoft and Pepsi, according to a press release from the State Department.