There has been no shortage of hype and hate surrounding the United States’ role in these climate talks. President Obama was easily amongst the most anticipated and listened to speakers when the festivities began last Monday at Le Bourget, and, much in the same vein, many have been waiting for Secretary of State John Kerry to formally address the media here in week two as Foreign Ministers from around the world try to close out a deal. He did that yesterday here in Paris, holding the conference’s most tightly controlled presser to date early in the afternoon just before the new draft agreement was released.
There has been much lip service given in recent months by this administration about climate change, our country’s historic role in creating the problem, and, above all, a desire to rectify that. That being said, should you talk with representatives from many less-fortunate nations and civil society groups here on the inside of COP21, you will hear plenty of America bashing, especially when it comes to financing and the binding nature of carbon-cutting commitments. Simply put, many think the U.S. needs to do more.
No doubt with that in mind, Secretary Kerry, himself a veteran of numerous COPs, delivered a speech ripe with rhetoric as well as actual promises. Chief among them was a pledge to double the U.S.’s contribution to the Global Climate Fund, a mechanism that will help distribute cash to nations in throes of climate-induced peril. Originally, the U.S. had pledged $3 billion towards the estimated $100 billion needed. Now, according to Kerry, the U.S. will deliver $6 billion by 2020. “We will not leave the most vulnerable states amongst us to, quite literally, weather the storm,” he said.
And while he called for a “legally binding and transparent system” surrounding the method in which countries are held accountable to their respective promises on emissions cuts, he also said that the U.S. would not support a plan that forced countries to meet targets that were not of their own creation.“Every country on earth has its own set of national circumstances to consider: its own politics, its own economy, its own capabilities. We respect that,” he explained. He also pledged support for a system that would get more and more ambitious in the years ahead. “It has to be a system that endures,” opined Kerry, “It has to get stronger over time.”
Other notable quotes from the Secretary of State:
“Now, I know there are still a few who insist that climate change is one big hoax – even a political conspiracy. My friends, these people are so out of touch with science that they believe rising sea levels don’t matter, because in their view, the extra water is just going to spill out over the sides of a flat Earth. They’re wrong, obviously.”
“The solution to climate change is energy policy.”
“My friends, we would have no excuse at all, no excuse at all. And that is why we have to act within the next 36 to 48 hours. We need to get the job done.”
“If we send the right signals – if we make the right choices – the private sector will deliver. Why? Because clean energy is not only the solution to climate change. It’s also one of the greatest economic opportunities the world has ever known: By 2035, the demand for energy investment will reach nearly $50 trillion – and much of that will be in clean energy. Think of the business opportunities – the jobs that stand to be created – the millions that will be lifted out of poverty – in every corner of the globe because of this transformation. A market of some 4 to 5 billion people today growing to 9 billion over the course of the next 30, 40, 50 years.”