US announces new international fusion engagement plan at COP28

US announces new international fusion engagement plan at COP28

Dec 07, 2023

By Naomi Scott-Mearns, Membership Project Manager, Fusion Energy Insights

In a keynote speech entitled ‘An inclusive fusion energy future’ at COP28, John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, announced a new US international engagement plan on fusion energy on Tuesday 5th December.

So what happened, and why is it significant?

Panellists from the discussion after the Kerry announcement. © Ralf Kaiser


COP28 is currently happening in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) until 12th December 2023. COP – the Conference of Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – occurs annually to discuss action against climate change. It is focusing on the progress and goals of the Paris Agreement, which strives to keep global temperature rise within 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Simon Woodruff is representing Fusion Energy Insights at COP28. Soon we’ll be giving you his three key insights from this year’s conference.

A few weeks ago, the US primed us that it would be making an announcement on commercialising fusion energy at COP28.

What did the US say?

Mr. Kerry launched an international engagement plan to boost nuclear fusion and said that fusion can be a critical piece of our energy future. But, he said, “we cannot realise the grand ambition, at the pace we need it, doing it alone.”

The US engagement plan will work with 35 governments around the world to increase the speed of commercialisation of fusion energy and will focus on stimulating international partnerships in five main areas:

  • Research and development
  • Supply chain and marketplace
  • Regulation
  • Workforce
  • Education and engagement

Kerry said it’s a call to action, laying out the roadmap of collaboration.

He said that we are edging ever-closer to a fusion-powered reality, but also noted the big gap still to be crossed to move fusion to an everyday power source. He said that the timescale to commercial fusion power is uncertain, but the hope is that the US’ strategy will accelerate development of fusion “in response to a crisis” – that of climate change.

Kerry’s speech mentioned the multiple private companies that are developing different approaches to fusion energy and also mentioned different government fusion strategies, for example the US and UK major partnership to accelerate global fusion energy development (read the Fusion Energy Insights blog article on this major partnership here). The speech showed both the private and public engagement in fusion, and also highlighted that a key word was “engagement”.

John Kerry (centre) at COP28 © Kirsten Haupt, ITER

Why is the US’ announcement impressive?

COP28 brings nations together to tackle climate change and reduce emissions. As Kerry noted, “science is inherently international” and the US’ international fusion strategy takes the same approach: of nations working together to accelerate the development of commercial fusion energy.

Kerry is urging nations to come together to solve great challenges. He talks of the desire to “harness the power of fundamental physics and human ingenuity in response to a crisis.” He says the evidence is clear on how critical it is to make progress faster.

John Kerry: “I believe, based on friends I have and people I respect and evidence that I have read, that there is potential in fusion to revolutionise our world and to change all the options that are in front of us and provide the world with abundant and clean energy, without the harmful emissions of traditional energy sources… fusion, I believe, can be a critical piece of our energy future.”

The conference centre hosting the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28 © ITER

Why is it important?

The announcement at COP28 is significant because it firmly places fusion energy in the mix as an essential energy source to develop for a post-carbon world.

With many nations stepping up their national fusion programmes and investment efforts, there is now unprecedented levels of funding behind fusion.

Andrew Holland, CEO of the Fusion Industry Association (FIA), says: “The FIA welcomes the United States’ new international strategy for fusion because it will allow like-minded countries to work together to accelerate fusion commercialisation. China is rapidly increasing its efforts on fusion: it is time for the US to assemble its allies to make sure it wins the race to fusion energy.”

Fusion is an energy source primarily invested in by the world’s richest nations, but climate change is affecting all countries, therefore it is important that the development of fusion energy is available to all and that scientific advances and international fusion partnerships are inclusive. 2023 is predicted by scientists, with much certainty, to be the hottest year ever recorded. And as the goal of staying within 1.5C looks increasingly challenging, fusion energy is a necessary clean energy source to strive for development and commercialisation. Hence Kerry ended his speech at COP28 with: “This is a key moment.”

More details: International Partnerships in a New Era of Fusion Energy Development

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