Remarks With Peruvian Foreign Minister Gonzalo Gutierrez and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change Ministerial

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Marriott East Side
New York City
September 21, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very, very much for joining us here at the Major Economies Forum. We’re deeply appreciative for so many ministers making the effort to be here. This is the first time we’ve had ministers like this at the Major Economies, so it’s significant. And I’m delighted to be here co-hosting with my friends, Foreign Minister of Peru Gonzalo Gutierrez, and of course, Laurent Fabius of France, and we’re very appreciative to all of you for taking part in this.

President Obama launched the Major Economies Forum in 2009, recognizing that the vast – not the vast majority – I mean, by far, almost all of the greenhouse gas emissions doing damage to the planet come from about 20 countries. And regrettably, the United States is number two. We’ve been surpassed by China now. But this is not good for anybody in the world, and we understand this.

So these are the economies that are in the best position to be able to address the global threat of climate change and whose partnership is absolutely essential in order to do so. Today, as I said, is the first time ever that foreign ministers have met under this forum, and it’s obviously not going to be the last because it’s increasingly clear that climate change has impacts not only on the environment but for our economies and for global security interests as well.

Today, we can see climate refugees. We see people fighting over water in some places. There are huge challenges to food security and challenges to the ecosystem, our fisheries and otherwise. The acidification of the ocean is a challenge for all of us.

And when you accrue all of this, while we are confronting ISIL and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola and other things, those are immediate. This also has an immediacy that people need to come to understand, but it has even greater longer-term consequences that can cost hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, lives, and the security of the world.

So that’s why we’ve invited all of you here today, and that’s why I’m so pleased that so many of you have recognized the urgency at hand and you’ve made it a priority to be here. I know this is obviously a very busy week for all of us, and there’s a long list of important issues for all of us to focus on while we’re here at the General Assembly, but the grave threat that climate change poses warrants a prominent position on that list. I can remember being in Rio at the Earth Summit in 1992. I can remember a voluntary commitment, which we all know didn’t work. I was in Kyoto. Many of you were there. We all understand the road we’ve traveled. But it hasn’t gotten the job done. So the Major Economies obviously understand that if we collectively elevate the important issue of global action to address this threat, we will succeed.

And unlike many of the challenges that we face, when it comes to climate change we know exactly what it takes to get the job done. There’s no mystery to this. The solution to climate change is energy policy. If we make the right choices about how we build buildings, how we transport people, what we do with respect to providing electricity and power to our countries, this problem gets solved. And every one of our countries has the technologies today to be able to do this. The policies aren’t complicated. It’s getting the political will to make the decisions to do what we know we have to do about it. It’s as simple as that, and that is true all over the world.

So that’s where our focus needs to be. We’re going to have a chance to finalize a program and approach to this at the Climate Conference in Paris next year. We’re grateful to France for its efforts already to help countries begin to target that. It’s only 16 months away, and as foreign ministers we have a key role in the coming months to raise the importance of this issue – excuse me – and to help all of our countries to focus on the targets that we need to put forward in order to deal with it.

So again, a profound thank you to all of you for being here. I turn now to Foreign Minister Gonzalo Gutierrez for his words of welcome.

FOREIGN MINISTER GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary of State, distinguished ministers and delegates. We in Peru welcome the timely initiative of the Secretary of State John Kerry to convene a foreign ministers meeting to discuss some of the global implications of climate change. Many of our countries are already experiencing unprecedented weather events that cause destruction and cripple communications, production, transport infrastructure, and above all, taking away precious human lives.

We in Peru are watching helplessly how the largest tropical glaciers on Earth continue melting away, depriving large coastal population and future agricultural developments of valuable water reserves. In the higher parts of the Andean region, unusual freezing temperatures are having a tragic impact on vulnerable population, food production, and different areas of the human life.

Response to these radical changes of nature is not always possible or efficient. This is why adaptation – we think it’s a key pillar in the climate change agenda, one that requires vast mobilization of cooperation, resources, and human qualification. Governments and business will have a chance this week to look closer at the opportunities to work together in innovative investment oriented towards low-carbon economies. We expect announcements that will bolster – booster confidence and ambition in the process that can lead to a substantial outcome in the COP 20 in Lima.

This, as a basis to conclude a new climate agreement in 2015 in Paris only – and let me stress only – if we are able to create a concrete basis for agreement in the Lima COP, there will be a solid basis for a comprehensive understanding in Paris. We expect significant announcements that major economies at this stage may do in order to expect a productive and significant outcome next year.

I thank you very much again for your invitation and I hope we all may have a very fruitful discussion today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Gonzalo, very much. And now, Laurent Fabius.

FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS: I will speak French. That’s for the earphones.

(Via interpreter) Dear John, thank you very much for this initiative of yours, which does not surprise us on your part since before you even were Secretary of State of the United States, you have always been interested in climate questions, the environment. You are an expert.

And I also tell my Peruvian colleague how happy I am to be sitting next to him, all the more since, as he said himself but in another way, the more the Lima results will be good, the less work we’ll have to do in Paris. If we end the thing in Lima, I invite all of you in Paris for two weeks – only in nightclubs. (Laughter.)

Two or three quick remarks. First remark: I think it’s the first time that foreign affair ministers gather in order to talk about this topic. And it’s not only because John is Secretary of State; it is not only because we all have the secret wish to take the job of our environment colleagues; it is much more, because we all understood that this question was a major question for the balance of the world. Of course, there are technical details in the discussions that we’re going to have, but before all, as my colleague said very well, it is a question of political will – political will. And we are here, we as foreign affair ministers, in order to try to express this political will. And I’m certain that we’ll make it number one.

Number two, in our work we keep talking about climate change, and sometimes we talk about global warming. As far as I’m concerned, I like to talk about climate disruption – climate disruption because it is not a question that is limited, it is a question that’s going to last 50 years, it is a question that is major and that is of today’s importance. So I think that if we want to succeed in Lima, in Paris, we must show two things: number one, that it is a question for right now; and then, that it is a question which needs solutions, of course, with some constraints, but also can give us some extremely positive fallout. And I think we have to be positive in the results; we have to have positive results around new growth, job creation, because this is how we’re going to convince people who are still reluctant.

Two last words. Today, a certain number of us have walked and marched in the streets of New York, and I’m told that there were other meetings in the world. I was there. I was with Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN. I was with Al Gore and other VIPs. And I think that it shows that people are now much more aware in all our countries of how important this topic is. And this coming week, at the initiative of Ban Ki-moon, is going to strengthen even more this new awareness. And I think in our countries we have to lean on this new awareness in order to obtain the results that are necessary in the Lima conference and in the Paris conference.

And lastly, in Warsaw – it was my first conference; I’m less of a veteran than some of you – I got in touch with different delegations. And I didn’t ask them what needs to be done in order to succeed. What I asked them was what should not be done. And I’ve had very interesting answers. One of the conclusions I drew was the following: If, in the past, we have had a few disappointments, it’s because we believed that at the very last minute, when the biggest political leaders were going to come, thanks to them, they’re going to solve all the problems.

No. Things must be prepared in a way that’s both ambitious and humble, ahead of time. That’s the reason why it’s so important to see each other right now. The UN week must be positive. In Lima, things must go forward, and then in many, many other meetings. So we have to be very ambitious and very modest. And my role, because France is going to chair the conference and the president of the republic has asked me to chair it as minister of foreign affairs, my role will be to listen to all of you and to try not really to push the French solutions. Let’s not be arrogant. But I’ll have the role of facilitator, so I’m very optimistic because I have all of your support. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Laurent, very, very much. We appreciate your words and leadership, and we very much look forward to the Paris conference, to Lima first and then to Paris, and really a year of decision.