Interview With John Dickerson of CBS

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

QUESTION: Good morning and welcome to Face the Nation. I’m John Dickerson.

Nearly 200 countries have signed on to a climate change agreement they hope will avert a global disaster. Each promised to slow carbon emissions towards a goal of preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial temperature levels. These targets are nonbinding and there is no enforcement mechanism to punish those who don’t keep their promise.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. delegation, compared the effort to moving the biggest battleship in the world. We spoke with him earlier from Paris and asked him about the lack of enforcement in the deal.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s possible that a country will slip, but to get an agreement with 186 nations signing on to a uniform system of required, mandatory reporting by which they can be held to a standard, and also to be able to have a very ambitious goal and have the flexibility that we have in this agreement to be able to meet those standards is essential. And so I think it’s a breakaway agreement which actually will change the paradigm by which countries are making judgments about this. The most important thing, John, that really happened today is that the business community of the entire world is receiving a message about countries now moving towards clean, alternative, renewable energy, and trying to reduce their carbon footprint. That is going to spur massive investment. And it’s technology – it’s American ingenuity and creativity that is really going to solve this problem. But people expect somewhere in the vicinity of $50 trillion to be spent over the course of the next 30, 40 years. That is going to be an enormous transformation of our economy, and all to the better because it will reduce our dependency on foreign fuel; it will increase our security; it will provide for our environment cleaner air, healthier – healthier people. There are just all kinds of pluses, and in the end it’s going to be a job creator.

QUESTION: What signal does this send to the coal, oil, and gas market?

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re going to continue to be pumping gas and using gas and oil for years to come. But what it does is it signals that there’s a transformation taking place, and people need to diversify, people need to look for cleaner ways of doing things. I mean, we commit a fair amount of money to the effort to find clean coal, and if we can burn coal in a clean way, then coal could conceivably have a future under those circumstances depending on the price. But more and more energy production is going to become price-dependent.

The President sees this as a critical, transformational issue for the American economy. It’s also critical for us because you can already see in the United States the negative impacts of climate change. The President went up to Alaska this year and showed the world our glacier, up in the Glacier National Park, that’s disappearing and will be altogether gone in a few years. That’s happening around the world.

QUESTION: One last question, Mr. Secretary. You spend a lot of time talking to Muslim nations and paying attention to America’s image in Muslim countries. What effect does it have that there is a conversation about banning Muslims from coming into America?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me be very direct. I believe that that kind of a ban is contrary to American values. It’s contrary to our Constitution. But I also think it’s a very dangerous foreign policy, because it says to those in Islam who are trying to exploit people and recruit foreign fighters and otherwise – it says look, look at America. Here they’ve got a guy running for president who is waging war against Islam. That’s their impression. It’s exploitable, whether he intended it or not. And it allows for recruitment. It allows for America to seem like it is indeed discriminatory against Islam, against Muslims, and it is highly discriminating against many Americans and others who are Muslim, and many people in the world who know that their religion has been hijacked and who want to recoup it.

So I think it’s got a huge downside in terms of American foreign policy, and I hear this from foreign ministers and others as I travel and engage with people in various countries.

QUESTION: Secretary John Kerry, thanks so much.