Interview With Chris Wallace of FOX

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Paris, France
December 12, 2015

QUESTION: World leaders from almost 200 countries, erupting in applause after adopting the first global agreement to fight climate change. Among the deal’s key points, countries commit to lowering, then eliminating greenhouse gas pollution sometime after 2050. The goal is to keep global temperatures from rising another 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, between now and the end of the century. We spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry early this morning, in Paris.

Mr. Secretary, there are no sanctions in the new agreement. Given that there are none, how much can we count on any pledge that a country makes?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there’s mandatory reporting. There is a universal system by which every country – all 186, each of whom have submitted an independent plan, have to report on what they’re doing, what their emissions are, on their total carbon print. And that reporting will be used by one country to measure against another, and it will be a great way of exchanging information about technologies, about approaches. We’ll all learn from each other’s lessons.

I think it actually sends a very powerful message to the marketplace, but one of the reasons why there’s no enforcement mechanism is because the United States Congress would never accept one. So it has to be voluntary. And a lot of nations resent that, but we have accepted that because we believe it’s going to move the marketplace. And already you see countless new technologies, a lot of jobs being created, and I think it’s going to produce its own form of oversight.

QUESTION: But is there anything binding, sir, that would force a country like China – which is the world’s biggest polluter – to make specific reductions in carbon emissions?

SECRETARY KERRY: The answer is by virtue of the transparency mechanism, which is broad-based – President Obama was determined to try to get an agreement that would move the world in the right direction, and the President has taken enormous initiative in order to move us to engage with other countries, including China, and bring them to the table. Some countries, Chris, simply wouldn’t accept a mandatory mechanism – we among them. So the best we can do in an effort to try to begin to change people’s thinking is to do this mandatory reporting requirement. And the mandatory reporting requirement has to be updated every five years, and every five years it is mandatory that countries retool their reduction levels in order to meet the demands of meeting the curve of reduction to which they have committed. So that is a serious form of enforcement, if you will, of compliance. But there is no penalty for it, obviously, but if there had been a penalty, we wouldn’t have been able to get an agreement.

So we did the best we could to set the world on a new course towards energy independence, alternative, renewable energy, towards a lower carbon footprint, greater health, greater security. And frankly, the President, I think, deserves enormous credit for his outreach to China – putting the two largest emitters and the two largest economies together to set an example to the world. I very much doubt we would have had an agreement at all if President Obama hadn’t initiated the effort with China and undertaken his own Climate Action Plan in the United States, which has now seen the United States reduce our emissions more than any other country in the world. That gave us great credibility here and that’s part of what is driving people’s commitment to make this work.

QUESTION: A couple of times, Mr. Secretary, you’ve talked about Congress wouldn’t accept it. The last global climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, was a treaty; it was never ratified by Congress, but in this case, as with the Iran deal, it’s not a formal treaty and you’re cutting Congress out. Why?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Congress – Jim Inhofe today said this doesn’t need to be approved by the Congress because it doesn’t have mandatory targets for reduction, and it doesn’t have an enforcement-compliance mechanism. So, in fact, we did exactly what Congress said we had to do for them not to be able to – to need to endorse it. But it’s a plan that can work, and everybody in the world feels it will start us down the road. Is it going to get us to the final level? No. But what it will do is send the right message to the marketplace that 186 nations in the world came together to submit a plan – all of them – reducing their emissions, most of them already engaged in the effort to do so. That is going to change the marketplace and it’s also – and we’ve already seen the curve of emissions beginning to come down. If we can stay on that track, we have a chance to avoid the worst damage of climate change.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks for your time. Safe travels, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: Great. Thank you, sir. Good to be with you.