We’re still on a course leading to tragedy,’ Kerry tells U.N. delegates¬†

Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014

LIMA, Peru — Secretary of State John Kerry today addressed a crowded room of dignitaries, environmental activists and bleary-eyed negotiators gathered in this city to hash out a new international climate change deal and called for urgent action to avoid the most destructive impacts of rising temperatures.

Kerry touted to the international community a landmark climate deal with China as well as the Obama administration’s power plant rules and the United States’ newest target for cutting carbon 26 to 28 percent by 2025. America, he argued, is now leading the global response to climate change, wants to see an ambitious international agreement signed in Paris next year, and is counting on governments to rise above a decadeslong battle over who should take responsibility.

“It’s just not enough for one country or even a few countries to reduce emissions when other countries continue to fill the atmosphere with carbon pollution as they see fit,” Kerry said. “If even one or two of the major economies fail to respond to this threat … it will counteract much of the good work the rest of the world does.”

He acknowledged that the United States and other wealthy, industrialized nations have a special responsibility to set an example. In what some observers thought might be a swipe at Australia, he said bluntly that “if you’re a big developed nation and you’re not helping to lead, then you are part of the problem.”

But Kerry also noted that more than half of global emissions now come from developing nations, “so it is imperative that they act, too.”

Speaking in only the broadest terms to the fights between rich and poor countries that have plagued the latest round of negotiations, he said: “The fact is we simply don’t have time to go back and forth about whose responsibility it is to act. Pretty simple, folks. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”

The rare appearance of a top-level administration leader at a somewhat process-oriented Conference of the Parties, or COP, was designed to underscore U.S. commitment to a 2015 agreement, officials said. Kerry, a longtime advocate of acting to reduce global emissions, served as a delegate to the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and as a senator from Massachusetts attended key climate talks in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.

The agreement, to be signed in Paris next year, is expected to include emissions cuts from all countries starting in 2020. A key fight here is whether wealthy countries should also pledge specific long-term financial resources to help poor countries develop clean energy and adapt to climate impacts.

Kerry described his long history at U.N. climate meetings as no longer something to be proud of, describing nearly 20 years of unheeded warnings from the world’s top climate scientists.

“We’re still on a course leading to tragedy,” he said. The Paris agreement is not a “silver bullet” that will solve all the problems associated with rising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, he added. But, he said, it is an urgent piece of the solution.

“Today I call on all of you here in Lima … to demand resolve from your leaders,” Kerry said. “Speak out. Make climate change an issue that no public official can ignore for one more day, let alone one more election.”