Remarks at the EcoPartnerships Event

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse
Beijing, China
June 6, 2016

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) (In progress) – EcoPartners Ceremony 2016 now begins. On behalf of all the representatives, I’d like to extend our warm welcome to State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Secretary Kerry, and all our other distinguished guests. Now, the floor is yours, State Councilor Yang. (Applause.)

STATE COUNCILOR YANG: (Via interpreter) Distinguished Secretary of State Kerry, ladies and gentlemen, friends, it is my great pleasure to be together again with Secretary Kerry to jointly witness that the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships is embracing new partners. With the personal push of President Xi Jinping and President Obama, the China-U.S. climate change cooperation have achieved fruitful results. The two countries have issued three climate change joint announcements and have adopted ambitious actions to deal with climate change, which have played an important role for the reaching of the Paris agreement. And our two countries are now jointly pushing for the agreement to come into effect at an early date.

The China-U.S. EcoPartnerships is a key content of China-U.S. climate change cooperation. Since its implementation over the last seven years, it has achieved fruitful results and benefited many sides, including today’s six pairs of new partners. The two sides have already forged 42 partnerships, among which 11 have smoothly graduated here. Let me express the heartwarming congratulations to all the new old partners and the graduates of this program, and sincere gratitude to government department enterprises and research agencies of the two countries.

The Chinese Government is committed to promoting eco-civilization development and promoting the development of green and circular low-carbon development – development. The Chinese Government is actively tackling climate change. The 13th Five Year Plan has made it clear that over the next five years, China will strive to achieve a 15 percent and an 18 percent reduction respectively in terms of unit GDP energy consumption and CO2 emissions. We are full of confidence in realizing these goals.

The Earth is mankind’s common home. China and the U.S. have great potential in terms of cooperation in the field of eco and green development, and there is a great space of cooperation in this respect. Such cooperation is thanks to the present generation, but its benefit will last for ages. We are willing to work in cooperation with the U.S. to earnestly implement the agreements of the two presidents, innovate modalities of cooperation, expand areas of cooperation so that such cooperation can more – and benefit the peoples of the two countries and all people in a better way.

Just now, while we entered this room, we saw the photo exhibition of the China-U.S. EcoPartnerships, and I want to solemnly introduce to you this photo exhibition. It’s highly meaningful, and after watching it, it makes people feel very excited. The photo exhibitions include cities of China and cities of the U.S., which I am familiar. It also includes universities of both countries that I’m familiar with. Moreover, the cities, the universities, and the research institutes have all joined their collaborations in making fruitful results of such partnerships, in my view. This signing ceremony, while short in time, carries a great significance.

(In English.) All this shows that China and the United States has a broad vista for cooperation in many areas. And thank you very much for your stellar performance and I hope that the new marriages will be as good as the old ones. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, for your warm remarks, and Secretary Kerry, please. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and to all of you, welcome to this EcoPartnerships signing ceremony. I think the state councilor would join me in expressing our appreciation for your patience. I know we were very late, but because you’re all part of an EcoPartnership and deeply committed to dealing with global climate change, you’ll be happy that we were really late because we had a really good meeting that kept going, and we covered the waterfront of the issues with respect to climate change. And there’s enormous progress being made between China and the United States. So forgive us, but on the other hand, maybe you’ll feel good about it just a little bit.

This is the fourth Strategic and Economic Dialogue that State Councilor Yang Jiechi and I have participated in. And I’m always pleased to be with him, but I would say to you that if it weren’t for his early investment in my outreach almost a few weeks after I became Secretary of State, I don’t think we’d be where we are today. He’s been a critical partner in helping to push this along, and initially, to get doubters – of which there were many – to believe that this was a worthy effort for China and the United States to partner on.

From my own delegation, I want to thank Cathy Novelli, my under secretary of state for economic growth and energy and the environment; Jonathan Pershing, who is here, our special envoy for climate change. And Jonathan has only been with me for a few months now, but he was the deputy previously to Todd Stern for a period of time before he was stolen to go to the Energy Department, then I stole him back from the Energy Department. He brings a huge amount of experience to the table and I’m delighted that he’s part of our team now.

I also want to thank Ambassador Max Baucus. He and I spent 28 years together in the United States Senate. And given what the Senate’s doing these days, I think we’re both very happy to be doing what we’re doing. (Laughter.) I want to thank every one of you EcoPartners who are here. Thank you for being part of this. I join with the state councilor in admiring not just the posters themselves, obviously, but the diversity and the boldness of the efforts that are represented there, whether it’s in water treatment or in training state and local officials, or any number of really important initiatives – biofuel, important new ways to reduce our carbon footprint, that’s the challenge for all of us.

And I will tell you something that I am absolutely convinced – and I said this in Paris when we passed the agreement in Paris – the agreement, we all know, does not succeed in holding the rise of temperature to 2 degrees Centigrade, which is our goal. It doesn’t do that. What it does is send a signal to the marketplace all around the world that 195 countries have all agreed, within the capacities of each of those countries, to move in the same direction. And by putting that message out there that we are all committed and serious, and with a legally binding review process after the five years – which requires adjustment by countries to meet their targets – companies all around the world can invest with certainty that this is a game-changing transformation that is taking place on a global basis.

And how fast it takes place, I believe, will not be decided by government – though it could be, but it won’t be under the circumstances – it will be decided by the private sector. Someone is going to discover battery storage that changes the whole question of energy production and transmission, or we’re going to find a new method of clean technology for one burning of one fuel or another. I don't know what it’s going to be. I know that the world is moving fast enough that young people today are going to wind up working in companies that haven’t yet been formed that are going to follow an idea that hasn’t yet been conceived of – no question in my mind.

So the joint initiatives that we’re working on are really essential steps. And I just want to say about – a word about the urgency. I get a little bit repetitive on this, but I believe deeply in my head and in my heart that you can’t say it enough, the urgency of this cannot be stressed enough. Last – what – March – April, actually, last April turns out to have been the hottest April in all of recorded history. The month before it, last March, was the hottest March in all of recorded history. Go back through the entire year to the first time, to my knowledge, every single month within a year was the hottest month in recorded history, obviously making the last year the hottest month – year.

But worse, the 10 years, the last decade, is the hottest decade recorded in human history. And the decade before that is the second hottest and the decade before that is the third hottest. And if you are under the age of 30 today, which is a majority of the population in most countries in the world – if you’re under 30, you have never lived in a month that was cooler than on average – was cooler than an average of any month of the last century.

So the warning bells are just going crazy. They’re screaming at us. And we have a responsibility that in public life nobody of good conscience should avoid the responsibility that we face. That’s where the EcoPartnerships program comes in, because to win the fight, we’re not going to be able to rely just on this high-level exchange between China and the United States. We’re going to have to make tangible gains at every single level of the economic and environment and social and health food chains out there.

So our EcoPartners are helping us to harness tremendous energy and ingenuity of civil society. And they are inspiring the brightest minds to focus on climate, on clean energy, on the environment, on sharing best practices, on fostering innovation, and on ultimately making progress towards a sustainable future – sustainable.

So one of our collaborators here developed a toolkit of energy and climate policies that Chongqing Province is going to use to transition to a low-carbon economy. Another of you has helped to launch a groundbreaking vehicle emissions trading scheme in one of China’s largest cities, where the transportation sector now accounts for fully 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Those are just two highlights. Our EcoPartners operate in virtually every region of the United States and of China. And enthusiasm, I think, is growing because more and more people are coming to understand the urgency that I just described to you.

So I’m really pleased to join here today with State Councilor in welcoming our newest class of very smart, imaginative thinkers and doers on this critical issue. And I don't know what it is that one of you are going to ultimately break through on, but we are counting on you to really help us win this historic fight that literally we cannot afford to fail on.

So thank you very much for your efforts. We look forward to this signing and we look forward to the continued work together. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Secretary Kerry, for your wonderful remarks. Now, we would like to invite State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Secretary Kerry to witness the signing of the new batch of pairs of EcoPartners.

(The agreements were signed.)

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Let’s congratulate them on their cooperation. Now may we invite State Councilor and Secretary Kerry to take a group photo with the representatives of the companies that have just signed the partnership.