As the Obama administration enters its final months, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to use effective soft power to promote the United States and worthwhile global causes. While we wait to hear who President-Elect Trump will select for this key cabinet position, enjoy these recent speeches Secretary Kerry has made in the past month:
Remarks at the Women’s Foreign Policy Group Conference – November 29, 2016
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very, very much, Karen. “Under the weather” is a polite word for the crud. (Laughter.) Anyway, thank you, Karen, for a wonderful introduction. And it’s with great pride that I accept the nomination. (Laughter.) Shh. It’s a little dangerous right now. (Laughter.)
I am suffering from a bunch of grandchildren, all of whom are sniveling at the same time and sneezing and coughing, and you can’t love them less, right? So I got it, whatever it is. And literally a few hours ago I didn’t have much voice, but I wanted to come very, very much. And I’m genuinely honored to be able to be here. It’s great to be surrounded by so many familiar faces. And I’m happy to see that all of you survived Thanksgiving and family. (Laughter.) Best holiday of the year by far; I love it. No pressure, no presents – you just eat, sleep, and enjoy family, which is very, very special.
I am really pleased to have a chance to share my thoughts with all of you right now, because this is an extraordinary moment in history, and frankly I wish I could stay and answer a lot of questions, because it’s much more, I think, productive to do the give and take rather than just me giving and not being certain that I’m landing where all of you would like to spend the time. And there’s so much to talk about; there’s so much happening right now – not just in our country, but in the world.
It’s a time of extraordinary opportunity, and obviously there’s great uncertainty in the body politic of our nation as to whether or not everybody has the same sense of how to take advantage of those opportunities and the readiness and willingness to do so. So we’re going to have one hell of a debate over the course of the next few years, I assure you. And I can promise you this: After coming back in the 1960s and being involved in that period of time, I am not going to go quietly into the night. (Applause.)
Now, back in the year 2000, when Secretary Madeleine Albright was nearing the end of her tenure in office, she spoke at this same event. And she pointed out that she was the first secretary of state in history who was fully qualified to join this esteemed organization. (Laughter.) Now, in the years since then, you’ve heard from Dr. Albright’s successors – Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton. So by 2013, when I was sworn in, I could only hope that my appointment would kindle a dream across this nation – (laughter) – that even a little boy might grow up to be able to be secretary of state. (Laughter.)
And of course, you know that it wasn’t always this way. Let’s emphasize that.
If you walk down the hallway – it’s called Mahogany Row – outside my office – my office; the office I am privileged to borrow for these four years, and just an amazing job, one of the greatest jobs, I think, in public life. But if you went down that hall, you will see portrait after portrait of guys with whiskers. (Laughter.) And in 1953, when Secretary Acheson left office, he began his farewell address with the salutation “Gentlemen of the Department.” And until the early 1970s, a woman Foreign Service officer had to literally choose between keeping her job and getting married because she wasn’t allowed to do both.
So for a long time, my friends, we were blind, but now we can see. (Laughter.)
Today, the President’s national security advisor is a woman. So is our ambassador to the United Nations. Women fill one of the two deputy secretary jobs in the State Department. Two of the four – six under secretaries – four of the six under secretaries are women and two of the deputies are women. But you know as well as I do this is about a lot more than just counting. It’s not about counting. Equality and quality go hand in hand. And the numbers really improve automatically if you recruit, appoint, and promote the best without bigotry or the patronizing assumptions that stereotypes produce and have produced too often in our country.
I was introduced to that battle by my wonderful mother, who was a crusader. I remember speaking on the Mall in 1971 at the anti-war demonstration that drew a million people. And my mom actually climbed up a tree and – to listen, believe it or not. And I think there was so much pot in the air that when she arrived at dinner – shh, we can’t — (laughter).
The bottom line is that thanks to many of you in this room, the State Department’s glass ceiling has been removed. Others have not, as we bitterly know. But it’s up to us still to ensure that it doesn’t come back, because nothing is certain. And that’s why I am so pleased to be here to join with you in celebrating the Women Foreign Policy Group’s 21st year. As an organization, you are now officially old enough to drink. (Laughter.) And at least some of you may be saying to yourself it couldn’t have happened at a better time. I don’t know. (Laughter and applause.) Now, I suspect that that is true whether your loyalties are with the party going into the White House or the one heading out.
In our era, leading effectively and opposing responsibly are both very complicated, sobering propositions, and that gives us a lot to talk about here today.
As a recovering politician, who has been in public life now for a long time, I have won elections and mostly – and lost a few. And believe me, winning is better. (Laughter.) But the health of a democracy is not measured by the outcome of particular balloting, believe it or not. It’s whether everyone concerned is actually willing to respect the rights and the freedoms of other people. It’s about whether we have the maturity to place the needs of the country above partisan concerns. Now, that sounds like pabulum, but believe me, in this day and age, that is at the center of the debate when we look at what the Congress does and doesn’t do over these last years. It is a very different Congress than the one that I was privileged to be part of in the 1980s and ’90s and the early 2000s. And you could watch that transition take place.
So it is a test of whether or not we have the wisdom to see clearly what the needs of our country are and not just push people aside because they have a different point of view or because they support somebody expressing a different point of view that comes out of the fact that they see their lives as mightily disrupted and as even filled with fear. And a lot of people on both sides of the aisle see their lives in America today as filled with fear, and not just in America, by the way. I see it all over the world and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
But by those standards, I am confident that the United States – with its checks and its balances, with a free and independent press, with a vigorous and a visionary civil society – is going to find a positive way forward. There may be lurches; it may be sort of a roller coaster ride. But we have this capacity to renew ourselves in America, and I have a great confidence in our ability to do that.
Now that is why, at the State Department, we are doing everything we can to help our incoming colleagues prepare for the future challenges. This is an imposing task for the simple reason that our world – our world is a lot more complicated than it used to be.
And during the Cold War, when a lot of us grew up – I certainly did during that period of time – the globe was divided between the “red, white and blue” and the “just plain red” on the other side. It was bipolar, very simple – them and us; East, West. I mean, it was really a time also when, because of economic development in the post-Marshall Plan, Cold War period, America was the only economic force, fundamentally. We could make decisions that were bad decisions and we could still win. That’s not true today. A lot of other people share that economic power. A lot of other people feel stifled by some of the post-Cold War structure that they think favors certain countries over others, and we have to be sensitive to that. Diplomacy and public life are about not having a tin ear, being able to hear what other people say and what they see. It’s seeing through their lens, not just ours.
Back in the Cold War period, there was no bigger event than a summit between the leaders – between Washington and Moscow. Today, power is far more dispersed. It’s less hierarchical, and change is as likely to be driven from the bottom as it is to be driven from the top. So for better and often for worse, non-state actors have assumed a very prominent role on the global stage. Most of the dying – and it took place in great numbers during the course of the last century – took place with state-on-state conflict. But today, that’s not true. One of the great accomplishments of the world order and the structure that we created is, in fact, that we don’t see nations declaring war on each other. We do see proxies; we see surrogate warfare. But that’s an advance, believe it or not. And it opens up the opportunity to be able to lead to greater stability, if we can break through this sectarian, religious extremism, tribal, and in some cases misled proxy-ism that is pulling people in the wrong direction.
In addition to that, my friends, technology is revolutionizing the workplace and widening the gap between people who are trained in 21st century skills and now those who are not. I just saw earlier today the statistic that 85 percent of job loss in the United States is due to technology, not trade. So we’re running around, hearing people battle a dragon called trade, when in fact it’s not the fundamental problem. It’s the structure that we have underneath the trade that doesn’t provide the social safety network to provide the education, the ongoing education, the job training, the skills, the Social Security, the wages that people deserve for the work that they’re doing that is delivering more and more to the top 1 percent. That inequity is at the bottom of this, not the fact that we trade. You tell me how the economy of the United States is going to grow if 95 percent of the world’s customers live in another country but we’re going to start knee-jerkingly just closing off some of that because we’re blaming other people for things that people are unwilling to address more directly and more honestly.
Here in the United States, we saw our nation attacked on 9/11 and our armed forces fight at great cost in Afghanistan and Iraq – $3 trillion worth. In recent years, we have witnessed the rise of Daesh and again experienced the tragedy of terrorist murders close to home. And we’re confronted as well by the specter of cyber warfare and by the unwelcome return of a vicious sectarian violence and a national – a rise of nationalism, a rise even of extreme nationalism.
So it’s little wonder that some Americans want to turn inward and search for ways to fence off our own safety and our prosperity from that of the international community. Read history – and all of you do – and you know that’s always been a natural instinct in our country going back to its founding – George Washington, Jefferson, the great debates of that period. But it is folly to think that we can build a brighter future by hiding from the real world or by severing our connections to it. No politician, no prime minister, no president, no monarch can by edict or by parliamentary decree or otherwise shut off globalization because people want it. I travel around the world and I see this when I go to Africa, when I go to South Asia, South Central Asia, Asia. You see people who are poor – the poorest – but they’ve got a smartphone. They can see what people are getting, which also means they can see what they’re not getting all over the world. So that changes aspirations. It changes governance itself.
So international challenges, my friends, have to be confronted with honesty, with determination and with confidence, not with slogans and with little pithy tweets or whatever that pretend to somehow deal with the complexity of this age. And if we don’t do that, we will fail to be able to lead because we will not be taken seriously. Now, that is the approach that – being taken seriously is the approach that our country has always taken when we are at our best.
Back when some of us were kids and our planet was emerging from the darkness of World War II, America switched on a light called the Marshall Plan. Between 1948 and 1951, the United States invested between $12 and $13 billion in the recovery of Europe – very unpopular at the time. Imagine the fight of trying to say, hey, we just got bombed in Pearl Harbor a few years ago, but we’re going to help Japan rebuild. We’re going to help Germany that declared war and engaged in those extraordinary acts during that war. But $12, $13 billion may not sound to – a lot to any of you today, but guess what? It’s the equivalent of about $120 billion in today’s dollars or, if you were to calculate it as a percentage of today’s economy, it would be roughly $720 billion.
Now, that is a lot of money. It’s also one of the smartest things we ever did. Germany, Japan are the strongest allies, best friends you could hope to have, and they are strong democracies and they are pillars of the global order and structure that we adhere to today. By enabling Europe to repair infrastructure, to resume manufacturing, to reconnect farms to markets, the Marshall Plan fostered the longest sustained period of economic growth in history. And with the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions, it created the foundation for the international system that has shaped our world for the past three-quarters of a century. It underlined and cemented America’s position as a global leader.
It is remarkable that when an emergency arises almost anywhere in the world, whether it’s because of the sins of man or an act of God, many countries think about responding but only one country is expected to. That expectation should be a source of pride to all Americans because it’s a – it’s not a burden. It’s really an opportunity. And it’s a mantle that we continue to justify by our actions. Let me be precise. The fact is that the United States today – you hear people complain and they say what’s our foreign policy and we haven’t done this or we haven’t done that – well, it’s easy to complain about Libya or Yemen or Syria, where things are pretty complicated, but the United States today, bottom line – and I’ll defend this anywhere because the facts underscore it – we are more deeply engaged on more important issues in more parts of the globe than ever before in our history and with very substantial consequences.
On this side of the Atlantic, we have helped Colombia move closer to end the world’s longest-running civil conflict. We supported it again and again in many different ways. We’re leading the demining project and we have supported the negotiations with a special envoy, Bernie Aronson, who worked hand in hand as we did in the State Department with President Santos to help bring about that peace. We have supported reforms in Central America to reduce pressure for illegal immigration with a $1 billion program to help Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador. We’ve strengthened our standing in the hemisphere by resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba and making a commitment, underlined this past week in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death, to support greater openness and freedom for the people of Cuba.
Across the ocean, we’ve been steadfast in backing a democratic Ukraine, and those who complain should look at the reality that our sanctions, our engagement, our support for Ukraine actually prevented Russia from thinking it had an easy path just to march to Kyiv. And they have paid an enormous price over the course of this year as a result of those sanctions. We’ve strengthened the defense of our allies with a forward assurance program, $3.4 billion, to the frontline states of NATO, to our Baltics, to Central Europe. We’ve made clear that Great Britain’s anticipated departure from the EU does not in any way weaken our bonds to a strong Europe or our special relationship with the UK. We continue to work with Russia on issues where our interests can coincide, but we would also like Moscow to do more to earn relief from the economic sanctions that have contributed to the country’s longest recession in almost two decades. I might emphasize that we’ve heard a lot of self-congratulations coming out of Russia in recent times, but guess what? The ruble has declined precipitously, capital has fled, unemployment has climbed – all because of self-inflicted wounds. They’re in their X-whatever month of recession and continuing to recede.
In Asia, we’re standing with our allies in opposition to threats posed by a belligerent North Korea. We’ve determinedly moved forward with THAAD in order to defend the United States of America not because we want to put it out there – we have to put it out there. And we keep pushing China, asking China to join with us in putting greater pressure on North Korea. We’ve deepened our Strategic Dialogue with India. We’ve enhanced cooperation with Vietnam. We’ve seen democratic gains in Burma, where a freely elected parliament has been seated for the first time.
All the while, our vital relationship with China continues to feature breakthroughs in some areas – climate change. When I first came into office, within a month, I sat down with our climate team and I said when we go to China, we have to get China to change. Because we all remember the bitter outcome of Copenhagen where everything crashed and we were unable to move forward, China leading the G-22 against us. So we put together a plan, I called the state councilor, and I said, look, we got to create a working group, we’ve got to work at this, we’ve got to find common ground, we can lead the world in order to create a climate agreement. Went to China, they agreed, we worked for a year. At the end of the year, we not only had a working group; we were able to have our two presidents stand up, announce their intended emissions reductions, China and the United States in partnership on climate change, and that set the tone for us to be able to go to Paris and have 190 countries sign the most far-reaching climate agreement ever achieved. That’s what we were able to do. (Applause.)
In Africa, we have worked with friends and partners to combat hunger, to increase connectivity, to fight back against violent extremist groups who have kidnapped and enslaved young girls. We’ve managed to get some of those young girls returned. We’ve managed to put Boko Haram on the defensive, al-Shabaab on the defensive, and we are working diligently to bring new power to Africa, distributive power.
In the troubled region of the Middle East, we’ve allocated more funds than any other country in order to provide for the record number of refugees. And no one has expended as much time as I have to try to move the process forward, obviously, with respect to Syria, with respect to Israel, Palestine. But the old saying is real: You can lead a horse to water, you can’t make him drink. If they’re not prepared to take the risks – everybody knows what has to be done – but if they’re not ready, then there’s no way to force-feed it. There are, however, other things that we can do that may try to save the possibilities of a two-state solution, and we have to think about that.
We’ve worked with the UN and other partners on behalf of peace in Yemen and stability in Libya. And I predict that in the next days, we may be in a position to be able to move the process forward in both places. We also continue to explore every opportunity to halt the carnage in Syria and I assure you we’re not going to give up. I’m not going to give up until – I’m not even going to give up – the day I leave, I will continue to try to find ways to move forward, but we’re going to continue to press this. Why? Because the people of that country and especially Aleppo are in desperate need. This is the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II, and every day, the violence just begets more violence. It is morally despicable to bomb hospitals, deny food to the starving, and we will continue because the path to peace and a peaceful transition is open only if the parties agree to walk down it, and we need to continue to push them in that direction.
Now, it’s perhaps the most thorny conundrum I have encountered in the course of a lifetime of dealing with foreign policy issues because it is really almost – I mean, there are maybe six wars going on in the same place, each with different demands, each with different objectives. I mean, you have Saudi Arabia and Iran at loggerheads together with members of the GCC in the region. You have Kurd on Kurd. You have Kurd on Turk. You have Turkish aspirations with respect to Syria. You have Hizballah from Lebanon engaged on behalf of sectarianism and is dangerous. You have Iran, obviously, with its influences in the region. So you have Iran and Assad versus the opposition. You have Shia versus Sunni. And you have different Arab countries like Egypt, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, in slightly different positions from some of the other Arab countries that are more willing, and non-Arab, to support extremists in the region. And you have Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia with a different set of aspirations with respect to outcomes.
That’s a mishmash, believe me. And in the end, I’m very hopeful still that there is a commonality of interest in moving forward around peace that could let the Syrian people decide their future and provide for a unified state, which the Russians, Iranians, and United States and the Arab countries have all said we share as a common goal. So there is a common outcome that we’d like to see but different interests that need to protected – be protected as you try to move in that direction.
As horrific as the civil war has been, I want you to just imagine the danger and the toll that would exist had we not forged an agreement with the Russians and Lavrov and my conversations to agree to remove 1,300 tons of chemical weapons and precursors from the battlefield. If we hadn’t done that before Daesh came alive – the Daesh that we already know has used some precursor chemicals mixed with chlorine as a gas – would have available to them some very serious weapons of mass destruction. So that was providential.
And consider where we would be if Iran’s nuclear program was still going ahead full steam in the middle of all of this. Remember that before the negotiations began on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran had already developed enough – the ability to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear device in just two months, and they had enough highly enriched uranium to build 10 to 12 bombs. That’s where we were – two months away from a bomb.
But under our agreement, Iran agreed to actually reverse that direction altogether. It has shipped 98 percent of its enriched uranium out of the country, shut down two-thirds of its centrifuges, filled the core of a plutonium reactor with concrete so it can never be used again, and abided by a state-of-the-art verification regime. Now, I know that some people have said that Iran is such a huge threat that we shouldn’t have attempted to do that, that we should have passed up the best chance we had for the international community to come together and block each and every one of Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon. But I’ve got to tell you something, folks: That argument just doesn’t compute under any reasonable standard of common sense. The Iran agreement has made the world safer, including our allies and our friends in the Middle East.
And the world is also safer because we and our allies have been taking the fight to Daesh/ISIL. Think back to the summer of 2014. Daesh terrorists were rampaging across Syria and Iraq. You remember the television images of black flags and Toyotas and convoys just marching, driving down the road, and Baghdad was threatened, and they were plundering cities and murdering and torturing the innocent people. They were killing Yezidis because they are Yezidis. They killed women because they’re women. They killed young girls. They beheaded people in public. They killed Jews because they were Jews. They killed Christians because they were Christians. That’s genocide. That’s what they were doing.
And we sent our bombers in, without even yet having a coalition, in order to stop that onslaught, and we succeeded. And then we rebuilt the Iraqi Army and then we put 67 countries together in a coalition. And we heard the dire predictions that Baghdad was about to fall and the young people from every corner of the globe were going to flock to Daesh’s black flag. And indeed, we saw the internet put to use, as people came to be foreign fighters in that country. But this 68-member coalition that we put together has eliminated, is eliminating, Daesh’s leaders. It is choking their finances. It’s disrupting their supply lines. We’re hammering their oil facilities. We’re stifling their recruitment of new fighters. The numbers are down. They don’t hold as much territory. In fact, they haven’t held or found one new piece of territory since May of last year that they have been able to hold. We are going to defeat Daesh and we’ve put ourselves on the road to do this. (Applause.)
We have liberated partners on the ground in Kobani, Tikrit, Fallujah, Ramadi. We’re closing in on Mosul. We’re beginning to isolate al-Raqqa. And Mosul, as you know, is the so-called spiritual capital of their so-called caliphate. We are also beginning to tighten the noose around the head of its administrative network, which is in Raqqa, Syria.
And the struggle ahead, like the fighting we see today, is going to be hard. It’s going to be bloody. But I am absolutely confident about our ability to reduce Daesh as we did al-Qaida by the way in Afghanistan and as we have now in Libya and are elsewhere. This is a constant fight. It’s a challenge, and I’ll speak in a moment about that challenge. But I am confident that our success is going to make an enormous dent in Daesh’s credibility and in its effort to portray itself as a winner. And it’s partly the narrative that has helped to bring these recruits to it over the course of the last years. The loss of Mosul and al-Raqqa is not going to put an immediate end to them as an insurgency, but it’s going to change the whole dynamic of the region. And as you know, they’re pursuing an international presence and they have an identity that they’ve cultivated; a narrative, if you will. And now it’s much tarnished, but it will remain a threat for a period of time. But we can have confidence in our ability globally to change things. Now that depends on some other things, and I want to get to that in a moment.
It is the insurgency that makes it so important that we establish a long-term way of dealing with this. No one hears much about the attacks that don’t happen. But by sharing information as we are now as never before, our coalition is actually helping to deter and break up plots before anyone gets hurt. And there are many instances of this that historically will become evident as time goes on.
The bottom line is, as I said, this is a fight you can be confident – which people were not confident about six months, nine months, a year ago – but now you can be confident that we are going to fight back effectively and win this challenge.
We are also going to prevail – and this is very important – without altering the nature of our societies, without succumbing to bigotry, and without betraying the democratic values the terrorists have vowed to destroy. Now, there are aspect of promises made in the course of this campaign that may challenge some of that and we’re going to have to be very vigilant as a nation to make sure we don’t go backwards on any of those principles and values.
I also believe our diplomacy is making a profound difference on global issues, including climate change.
I mentioned that last December, 190 countries came together in Paris to set ambitious targets for the emission reductions of greenhouse gases. That was unthinkable a few years ago – just a very few years ago. That kind of agreement usually takes several years to bring into force after being agreed to. We did it in ten months, folks. But the Paris accord is only part of the strategy. We also reached an agreement on carbon-neutral growth in the international civil aviation industry. If you took civil aviation and looked at it as just a country all by itself, it’s one of the 12 biggest emitters in the world. But now we have a means of reducing it, because it wasn’t covered by Paris. We also won approval for the Montreal Protocol that will phase down the use of heat-trapping HFCs, which are used in refrigerants, so that we will be switching out of them because they are hundreds of times more damaging than CO2. This is a step that in itself could reduce global warming by a full half a degree Celsius between now and the end of the century.
So I’ve been at this climate debate challenge for many, many years now beginning when I was a lieutenant governor in Massachusetts and I dealt with acid rain in 1982. Climate change is growing as a threat in so many ways that are very hard to convey to people. I mean it’s very hard to talk about the nature of the threat, which is existential, and get people to relate to it because it is so enormous and so big. People look at the oceans and say, my god, how could I affect what’s going on in the oceans? But the truth is that the acidification of the oceans coming from CO2 is changing the ecosystem – perhaps irreparably.
We see fish stocks changing. Fish stocks, by the way, are subject to too much money chasing too few fish. And so almost every fishing – eight of the major fisheries of the world – there are about 18 of them – are overfished and the rest are at peak or nearly at peak. But with hundreds of millions of people coming in from poverty in China and India, all of whom now are part of the middle class, they’ll be looking for their share of fish and protein from it. And several billion people depend on that protein for jobs and for eating.
So these are huge challenges that we have to face, and we can only face them on a multilateral, global basis. That’s why diplomacy is so critical. And that is why it’s so imperative for us to approach that diplomacy not with a sense that we just walk into the room and tell everybody what to do, but that we nurture our relationships, that we respect other people’s point of view, that we bring them to the table in a forum of mutual respect, which is a very important component of global efforts.
I think – if you look, I just went to Antarctica to check this out, and I was stunned by the size and the power of the awesome wilderness that exists there, this ice sheet that in some places is three miles deep, and been there for millions of years. But it wasn’t always there. In fact, Antarctica wasn’t always there. I don’t know how many of you know – it floats. It’s now grounded because of the way that the ice which pushes the continent down, and then the water that’s warmer now flows in underneath the ice sheet, destabilizing the ice sheet even more.
So we had the Larsen ice sheet, an area the size of Rhode Island, broke off a summer or so ago. And scientists are extremely worried about the rate at which this change is surpassing what people even predicted. We just learned that in the Arctic, the North Pole was 36 degrees warmer than it has ever been recorded – now.
So we can’t afford public people who ignore science. We can’t afford to simply turn our backs on these realities. And climate change is literally a dire threat to our future security and to the prosperity of the planet. We’re already seeing Miami Beach, where they’re building pumps and raising the roads because the water’s coming into Miami and they need to pump it out. We’re already seeing in Boston where high tides regularly come over the balustrade down in the city where the park is. We’re already seeing in Norfolk, Virginia the Navy making contingency plans because their ships are moored at piers that may be difficult to get to in times of storms and so forth. It’s a security issue, folks, not a partisan issue.
Logic screams out to us that no country can plausibly claim to be a global leader if it fails to lead on climate change. And it’s not a question of what we can afford, believe me; green technology is the greatest economic opportunity we face in the world today. The solution to climate change is energy policy, and we have solutions staring us in the face. The question is: Are we going to make the decisions to use those solutions, or are we going to pretend that coal or some other fossil fuel is in fact cheaper when if you really take the costs of climate change, of dislocation, of refugees, of particulates in the air from dirty air, add it all up, kids who suffer from asthma during the summer and are hospitalized – that’s worth $55 billion a year in America. Just think of what the overall costs are of the real price of what we are dependent on today. We have to have honest cost accounting in this process going forward.
So the price tag of inaction is much, much more than the price tag of action. Lost food production, responses to floods and droughts – we spent $27 billion this year alone already in cleanup after storms. 11 billion of it was down in New Orleans after the – I mean, think about it. $27 billion, and we’re struggling to find $1 billion to help the global fund in order to help other countries deal with climate change.
Despite every lesson learned over the last decades, and despite what our science and our eyes have taught us, there are still some people who want to place yet another losing bet on fossil fuels. Now, that is a gamble that we have absolutely no chance of winning, and it’s going to harm our planet while striking a devastating blow against our capacity to lead. The right course is to accelerate our commitment to a true energy revolution and move ahead with giant steps on wind and solar, on fuel cell and storage energy – battery storage, for instance – on realistic pricing of carbon. If government won’t do it, then the private sector’s going to need to do it, the markets need to do it, and all of us need to be part of a movement to make sure that that happens.
So there is no clearer test of the duty that we owe to future generations. The current administration still has more than seven weeks to go, and believe me, we’re going to push as hard as possible between now and then. And we want our new leaders to take office with every possible opportunity to build on what we’ve accomplished in the fight against terrorism, to reduce the nuclear danger, to strengthen our alliances, to curb climate change, and in other areas.
And as we look ahead, I would dispel a damaging myth that still exists in our country. Ask any pollster and she will tell you that most Americans believe we spend about 25 percent of our national budget on international programs. The reality is 1 percent.
Why so little? Well, having served in the U.S. Senate for almost those 29 years, it’s fair to say that Capitol Hill is not exactly inundated with letters from constituents urging an increase in foreign aid. So it’s a responsibility for every one of us who understands the connections here, the connections of these dots, who cares about U.S. leadership, in order to help connect the dots between what our global investments accomplish and the interests of our citizens.
For example, we have to connect the dots between the safety of our citizens and the aid that we give to improve security at air and sea ports overseas. Pretty common-sense – if they leak like a sieve, we’re in trouble. We have to connect the dots between an Afghanistan where the 9/11 attacks were conceived and an Afghanistan where the number of girls attending school now has risen by a factor of 12. Since we went there in 2001 when there were about a million kids – just a little less – kids in school, all of them were boys, almost all of them. Today there are 9 million kids in school in Afghanistan and about 40 to 45 percent of them are girls. It’s an extraordinary transition. (Applause.)
And if you think of that transition over 14 years, people who were 10 years old are now 25, 24. They are participants in society. They have a different set of hopes and aspirations. Just two years ago, remember, we had this huge scare about Ebola virus. Connect the dots. President Obama and our partners mobilized a virtual army of civilian responders. We sent – the President sent courageously – over 3,000 American troops to West Africa to build treatment centers, to conduct public education, to prevent new infections. Experts had told us you’re going to lose more than a million people by Christmas. This was two years ago. Remember that? But the real toll was a tiny fraction of that. Why? Because we safeguarded our own citizens. We spelt the difference between death and life for hundreds of thousands of people in Africa.
Connect the dots between our own experience with AIDS and U.S. international leadership. We have now come to the first threshold. AIDS used to be a death sentence. Nobody wanted to talk about it when I began this effort in the United States Senate in the 1990s, when we got Jesse Helms to sign on and passed the first AIDS bill in the Senate unanimously. But now we’re on the threshold of the first born-free-from-AIDS generation in 30 years.
Eleven of our top 15 trading partners were, only 10, 15, 20 years ago, recipients of U.S. aid. They’re now our biggest trading partners. And guess what? Each of them is today contributing to global security and to the well-being of their region. They are donor countries now.
We live in a world where extreme poverty has been cut in half, where a child born almost anywhere can actually expect to live longer and a healthier life than ever before in history, where infant mortality is down, where women’s mortality in birth is down. That did not happen by accident. It happened because the United States of America has led consistently and steadily and on a bipartisan basis. Our country today is blessed with an $18 trillion economy – still the largest, most powerful, and most dynamic economy in the world. That is no grounds for complacency, but we need to be asking ourselves how much more we can accomplish.
The needs of our era differ sharply from those that prevailed 70 years ago when the Marshall Plan was conceived. Our goal then was to help industrialized economies recover from the damage of a devastating war. The urgent requirement now is to actually take non-industrialized economies, spur development, create jobs, generate sustainable growth, where industrialization is only just getting underway if at all. Why the urgency? Here again, all we have to do is connect the dots. Each year in the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia, hundreds of millions of young men and women are coming of age with an acute knowledge of the rest of the world because of those smartphones I mentioned, but tragically, with no faith in their own governments, no access to a good education, little chance for a quality job. There are about a billion and a half kids who are under the age of 15. There are about 350 million of them who probably won’t go to school at all.
The opportunity gap is fueling illegal migration, crime, human trafficking, modern-day slavery, and the appeal of terrorist groups. My counterpart in one country in Africa – I won’t name him or the country, but he told me he has about a 40 percent Muslim population. I asked him, “How are you managing the integration of that population with the future?” And he said, “I’m really scared because,” he said, “we have extremists who grab these young kids in poverty areas and they pay them a little bit and they bring them in and proselytize to them. And then when their minds are fully polluted, they don’t have to pay them anymore, and then they go out and become the recruiters.” And he said to me, he said, “You know, John, they have a 35-year plan and we don’t even have a five-year plan.”
What I’m talking about is a race that we have to win between desperation and the rekindling of hope. Now, some say the task is too big. I don’t believe that. I really don’t believe that. Remember, the most expensive peace is still cheaper than the least expensive war. And we’ve spent more than 3 trillion fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, so when we really need the money, we can find the money. The question isn’t about resources. It’s about priorities. It’s about understanding the link between our own well-being and timely international investments in education, health care, clean energy, connectivity, and the infrastructure that we need of all kinds.
These are the kinds of expenditures that will actually save money by diminishing the potential for conflict, by lowering the number of refugees, reducing the pressure for illegal migration, giving young people a powerful incentive to build their communities up instead of to believe the only choice for them is to tear them down. Now, I’m not talking about investments by the United States Government alone; I envision a truly global and forward-looking development initiative, with sustained and multilateral funding sources, and a full buy-in from the private sector, foundations, and private voluntary organizations.
Unlike the Cold War, which was often a zero-sum competition for influence, we have a chance today to establish unprecedented levels of coordination among donors and investors. For example, this is a topic that I’ve already discussed with Chinese officials, and they have agreed to make cooperation on development one of the pillars of our bilateral ties. Imagine that: China and the United States cooperating on global development. That cooperation is something the world has never seen before, but it’s starting already to happen now, and I believe if we grow it, it can make a major difference in the generation to come.
Some years ago, as a senator, I proposed a domestic infrastructure bank that, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supported it, would have used a modest additional initial investment of $10 billion to leverage up to $600 billion in private money to repair and modernize America’s ailing infrastructure. That principle was valid at home and it could work abroad as well, provided a slight discount at the discount window of the Fed Reserve, which created a arbitrage between that and the cost of regular borrowing, which made it possible for people to privately get a revenue stream from transportation projects, water projects, from energy projects – all revenue-producing projects which we pay over time. Sure, it’s not hedge fund 20 percent all the time, but it’s a solid rate of return on investment for a lot of money that’s looking for that.
A new international opportunity initiative would also build on the 146 billion already provided in annual overseas assistance by countries across the globe. And that would be in addition to the $60 billion or so invested each year by the World Bank. And that would be on top of the 4-5 billion in financing provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. And it could also benefit from an initial investment by our country of an extra $30 billion a year for at least the next four years. We’ll have to do more, but that’s a big important down payment on the future that would double our own contribution to this vital cause, and it would put us in a position to encourage others to do the same.
So last fall at the UN, the world came together to establish a set of 17 specific goals for sustainable development between now and 2030. I won’t go through them all here today. I’ve already spoken longer than I wanted to and that you probably wanted me to – (laughter) – but I want to urge you to go look at them. They’re really a worthy enterprise of a multilateral basis. We cannot allow these goals to be neglected or forgotten. We have a collective responsibility, my friends, and a powerful shared interest in transforming the objectives of those goals into real accomplishments. And make no mistake, we do have the ability and we do have the resources to get those jobs done, provided we make the right choices, provided we have strong leadership especially – though not solely – from the United States of America.
The good news is that success does not require a change in direction. It instead really requires bigger strides down the road that we’re already on towards the elimination of extreme poverty, towards the expansion of education at all levels, towards the development of clean and renewable sources of power, towards food security, towards better access to health care, towards the protection of our oceans, and towards the full economic and political participation of women and girls. (Applause.)
My friends, election outcomes matter, obviously. But the democratic process actually matters much, much more. And after the turmoil of the past few months, it is essential that we restore civility, honesty, and reasonableness, common sense, to the policy debates that we have in this country. We cannot survive if we are a fact-free nation. As Patrick Moynihan, my great colleague said many times, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. (Laughter and applause.)
It is also essential that we not turn our back on the alliances, friendships, and principles that have enabled the United States to lead the world so productively for so long. Seven decades ago, the American and other leaders who came together to forge the great post-war institutions, they were in many ways far more than skilled administrators and bureaucrats. They were people of a vision, people of ideas. And this was not because of any inherent inexplicable genius. It was because what they had experienced and witnessed left them with no other choice. They could not ignore the imperative of international economic cooperation because its absence had plunged the world into a devastating depression. They could not consent to runaway nationalism because they had seen it trigger global war. They could not deny the need to recognize basic human rights because the Holocaust had shown them what would happen when bigotry is allowed to go unchecked. The greatest generation did not exist or consist of people who were more capable, courageous, or altruistic than we are, I think. They were builders of necessity.
But still, they built and they built well, and it is our duty, whether we are inside or outside of government, to carry on that job. That’s why the Women’s Foreign Policy Group and comparable organizations are so absolutely vital to our democracy. You understand that the most basic interests we have and the most important principles that we cherish are not remotely partisan. America is defined and brought together – and this is unlike most other countries in the world – many, many countries are defined by ethnicity or defined by a certain tribalism or a course of history or some – but we are a nation brought together not by ideology but by a single enduring idea that we are all equal before the law.
That’s what unites us. That’s what makes us exceptional – not talking about how great we are. I sometimes grate at that when you hear everybody say how exceptional America is. We’re really fond of telling everybody how exceptional that we are. But what makes us exceptional is not talking about it. It’s doing exceptional things. It’s standing up for an exceptional principle. It’s supporting dignity and rights of every human being in an exceptional way with an exceptional outcome. It is on that firm platform that we have to continue to build.
So I thank you for your welcome here today as the holiday season continues. May God bless you all and continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much.
Remarks at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – November 16, 2016
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you so much, everybody. I apologize for being a few moments late. There was a fire and then there was some traffic backed up, and so here I am and here are you, and thank you for being here.
Let me begin by thanking our terrific U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing. I couldn’t be luckier than to have him in this job. He was over at the Energy Department for a while. We stole him from Ernie Moniz, who is a great colleague and was gracious in my theft. And he has done a spectacular job working with all of our international partners as we begin the hard work of implementing the Paris Agreement. And I also want to thank Ambassador Jennifer Haverkamp, who, along with Jonathan and a lot of the team that I see sitting here, has done an absolutely terrific job in leading the State Department’s efforts to advance our climate goals this year. And I have to tell you – well, let me just divert for a minute. I also want to thank Brian Deese – I don’t know if he’s here – but I’m grateful for President Obama’s senior advisor on climate issues and the entire intrepid U.S. delegation to the COP, whom I had a chance to meet with earlier this morning, but we’ve kind of traveled this road together.
I also thank our international partners, and particularly the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Patricia Espinosa; the outgoing president of the COP, Minister Segolene Royal of France; and the incoming COP president, my friend and our host this week, Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, the foreign minister of Morocco. And I also want to thank our partners from Fiji, who will serve as president for the next COP, which I intend hopefully to attend as Citizen Kerry.
It’s a great pleasure for me to be able to be here in Marrakech. I’m reminded of one of the 20th century’s most outsized figures whose connection with this city is so famous – Sir Winston Churchill. He loved to paint the landscapes here and to absorb the beauty and the culture.
And in fact, at the very height of World War II, as he and President Franklin Roosevelt and Allied leaders gathered in Casablanca to plan the strategy for the European Theater, Churchill was absolutely stunned to learn that Roosevelt had never been to this part of Morocco.
So in a move that perhaps only Winston Churchill would get away with in the middle of a global war – world war – Churchill convinced Roosevelt to extend his visit and drive through what was still, at the time, a country engulfed in active combat.
So after several hours on the loose, and because we’re talking about Winston Churchill, plenty of Scotch – (laughter) – the two leaders arrived in Marrakech in time to see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains.
And Churchill said it was the loveliest view on Earth.
So I think it’s fitting, therefore, that almost three-quarters of a century later, friends and allies meet again in Marrakech in order to undertake a very important discussion – a discussion about the natural world that surrounds us and the importance of preserving it for generations to come.
As Jonathan mentioned, climate change is deeply personal to me, but it’s personal to everyone in this room. I know that. And we obviously want it to be just as personal for everyone in every room: men, women, children, businesspeople, consumers, parents, teachers, students, grandparents. Wherever we live, whatever our calling, whatever our background must be, this is an imperative.
Now, I know the danger of preaching to the choir – and, obviously, all of us here are the proverbial choir. But I’m actually grateful for that, because here at the 22nd COP, no one can deny the remarkable progress that we have made – progress that actually was pretty hard to imagine even a few years ago. The global community is more united than ever not just in accepting the challenge, but in confronting it with real action, in making a difference. And no one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris. (Applause.)
None of us will forget the moment last December at Le Bourget, when the former foreign minister of France, with Segolene and a bunch of you there, led by our friend Laurent Fabius, who gaveled in the strongest, most ambitious global climate agreement ever negotiated. It was an accord that took literally decades to achieve – the proud work product of principled diplomacy, and ultimately, a deeply held, shared understanding that we’re all in this together.
And when we left Paris, no one rested on their laurels. Instead, the world – unified – moved expeditiously to begin the – to pull the agreement permanently into force, crossing the thresholds of 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions, and doing so far faster than even the most optimistic among us might have predicted. In a powerful statement of the whole world’s broad commitment to this agreement, in less than a year, 109 countries representing nearly 75 percent of the world’s emissions have now formally committed to bold, decisive action – and we are determined to affirm that action and to stick with it out of Marrakech.
Now, we have in place – (applause) – so we have in place a foundation, based on national climate goals – 109 nations, each of them have come up with their own plan, each of us setting goals that are based on our own abilities and our own circumstances. This agreement is, in fact, the essence of common but differentiated responsibilities. It provides support to countries that need help meeting the targets. It leaves no country to weather the storm of climate change alone. It marshals an array of tools in order to help developing nations to invest in infrastructure, technology, and the science to get the job done. It supports the most vulnerable countries, so they can better adapt to the climate impacts that many of those countries are already confronting.
And finally, it enables us to ratchet up ambition over time as technology develops and as the price of clean energy comes down. This is critical: the agreement calls on the parties to revisit their national pledges every five years, in order to ensure that we keep pace with the technology and that we accelerate the global transition to a clean energy economy.
This process – a cornerstone of our agreement – gives us a framework that is built to last, and a degree of global accountability that has never before existed. But I want to share with you that the progress that we’ve made this year goes well beyond Paris.
In early October, the International Civil Aviation Organization established a sector-wide agreement for carbon-neutral growth. Why is this so important? Because international aviation wasn’t covered by what we did in Paris, and if that aviation was a country, it would rank among the top dozen greenhouse gas emitters in the world.
A few weeks later, I was pleased to be in Kigali, Rwanda, when representatives from again nearly 200 countries came together to phase down the global use and production of hydrofluorocarbons – which has been expected to increase very rapidly with a danger that is multiple of times more damaging than carbon dioxide. The Kigali agreement could singlehandedly help us to avoid an entire half a degree centigrade of warming by the end of the century – while at the same time opening up new opportunities for growth in a range of industries.
All of these steps combine to move the needle in the direction that we need to. And in large part because global leaders have woken up to the enormity of this challenge, the world is now beginning to move forward together towards a clean energy future.
Over the past decade, the global renewable energy market has expanded more than six-fold. Last year, investment in renewable energy was at an all-time high – nearly $350 billion. But that only tells you part of the story. An average of – that 350 billion is the first time that we’ve been able to see that money outpacing what is being put into fossil fuels. An average of half a million new solar panels were installed every single day last year. And for the first time since the Pre-Industrial Era, despite the fact that you have global prices of oil and gas and coal that are lower than ever, still more of the world’s money was invested in renewable energy technologies than in new fossil fuel plants.
And like many of you, I’ve seen this transformation take hold in my own country. That’s why I’m confident about the future, regardless of what policy might be chosen, because of the marketplace. I’ve met with leaders and innovators in the energy industry all across our nation, and I am excited about the path that they are on. America’s wind generation has tripled since 2008 and that will continue, and solar generation has increased 30 times over. And the reason both of those will continue is that the marketplace will dictate that, not the government. I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now, today, on our way to meeting all of the international targets that we’ve set, and because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed. (Applause.)
Now, much of this is due to President Obama’s leadership, and our Congress also moving in a bipartisan fashion on things like tax credits for renewable energy. This leadership has helped to inspire targeted investment from the private sector. Today our emissions are being driven down because market-based forces are taking hold all over the world. And that’s what we said we would do in Paris. None of us pretended that in Paris, the agreement itself was going to achieve two degrees. What we knew is we were sending that critical message to the marketplace, and businesses have responded, as I just described. Most businesspeople have come to understand: investing in clean energy simply makes good economic sense. You can make money. You can do good and do well at the same time.
Now, significantly, the renewable energy boom isn’t limited to industrialized countries, and that’s important to note. In fact, emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil invested even more in renewable technologies last year than the developed world.
China alone invested more than 100 billion dollars. Ultimately, clean energy is expected to be a multitrillion dollar market – the largest market the world has ever known. And no nation will do well if it sits on the sidelines, handicapping its new businesses from reaping the benefits of the clean-tech explosion.
My friends, we are in the midst of a global renewable energy surge, and as a result, in many places, clean energy has already reached cost parity with fossil fuels. Millions around the world are currently employed by the renewable energy industry. And if we make the right choices, millions more people will be put to work.
So good things are happening. The energy curve is bending towards sustainability. The market is clearly headed towards clean energy, and that trend will only become more pronounced.
Now, for those of us who have been working on this challenge for decades, this really is a turning point. It is a cause for optimism, notwithstanding what you see in different countries with respect to politics and change. In no uncertain terms, the question now is not whether we will transition to energy economy – to a clean energy economy. That we’ve already begun to do. The question now is whether or not we are going to have the will to get this job done. That’s the question now – whether we will make the transition in time to be able to do what we have to do to prevent catastrophic damage.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not a Cassandra. You can tell from what I’ve said. But I’m a realist. Time is not on our side. The world is already changing at an increasingly alarming rate with increasingly alarming consequences. The last time that Morocco hosted the COP was in 2001, and the intervening 15 years have been among the 16 hottest years in recorded history. 2016 is going to be the warmest year of all. Every month so far has broken a record. And this year will contribute its record-breaking heat to the hottest decade in recorded history, which was, by the way, preceded by the second-hottest decade, which was preceded by the third hottest decade. At some point, even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening.
We have seen record-breaking droughts everywhere – from India to Brazil to the west coast of the United States. Storms that used to happen once every 500 years are becoming relatively normal. In recent years, an average of 22.5 million people have been displaced by extreme weather events annually. We never saw that in the 20th Century.
Communities in island states like Fiji have already been forced to take steps to relocate permanently, because the places they have called home for generations are now uninhabitable. And there are many, many more who know it’s only a matter of time before rising oceans begin to inundate their cities.
I know this is a lot for anyone to process – hard to process. That’s why I have found that whenever possible, the best way to try to understand and to see whether people are pushing the envelope of thinking on this or not is to see for oneself what is happening. That’s why this summer I went to Greenland to visit the incredible Jakobshavn glacier. Scientists pointed out to me the lines many meters above the water today that mark the glacier’s retreat which it has done more in the past 15 years than it did in the entire previous century. And while I was there, I boarded a Danish naval vessel and I traveled through the ice fjord. I saw the massive ice chunks that had just broken off from the glacier to melt inexorably into the sea. And because they come off Greenland, which is on rock, every bit of that ice contributes to the rise of the ocean.
Since the 1990s, the painful pace of that melting has nearly tripled. Every day, 86 million metric tons of ice makes its way down that fjord into the ocean. And the total flow that comes off that glacier in a single year is enough water to meet the needs of New York City for two decades.
But experts in Greenland and elsewhere have always warned me, and they warned me on this trip this summer, if you really want to understand what’s happening and what the threat is, go to Antarctica. Nowhere on the planet are the stakes as high as they are on the opposite end of the globe. For half a century, climate scientists have believed the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is a sword of Damocles hanging over our entire way of life. Should it break apart and melt into the sea, it alone could raise global sea levels by four to five meters. And the scientists down there described to me how the pressure of the ice and the weight of the ice pushes the entire continent down so that it’s grounded on the base of Earth’s crust and rock. But that allows warmer sea water to creep in under the glacier and speed up the process of the melting and destabilize the glacier.
Antarctica contains ice sheets that are, in some places, on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet three miles deep. And if all that ice were somehow able to melt away completely because we are irresponsible about climate change, in the coming centuries, sea level would rise somewhere over 100 to 200 feet.
That’s why I flew last week to McMurdo Station in Antarctica to meet with our scientists and to understand better what is taking place. I flew by helicopter over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. I walked out onto the Ross Sea ice shelf. And I talked with the scientists who are on the front lines, not people involved in day to day politics, but people who are making scientific judgment and doing extensive research. And they were crystal clear: The more they learn, the more alarmed they become about the speed with which these changes are happening. A scientist from New Zealand named Gavin Dunbar described what they’re seeing there as the quote, “canary in the coal mine” and warned that some thresholds, if we cross them, cannot be reversed.
In other words, we can’t wait too long to translate the science that we have today into the policies that are necessary to address this challenge. These scientists urged me to remind my own government and governments around the world and everyone here that what we do right now – today – matters, because if we don’t go far enough and if we don’t go fast enough, the damage we inflict could take centuries to undo – if it can be undone at all.
I underscore today: We don’t get a second chance. The consequences of failure would in most cases be irreversible. And if we lose this moment for action, there’s no speech decades from now that will put these massive ice sheets back together. There’s no magic wand in any capital in the world that you can wave to refill all of the lakes and rivers that will dry up, or make farm – arid farm land fertile again. And we certainly won’t have the power to hold back rising tides as they encroach on our shores. So we have to get this right, and we have to get it right now.
The scientists in Antarctica told me that they are still trying to figure out how quickly this is all happening. But they know for certain that it’s happening, and it’s happening faster than we previously thought possible. The alarm bells ought to be going off everywhere. As an American glacial geologist told me down there, a fellow by the name of John Stone, he said, “The catastrophic period could already be underway.” That’s why wise public policy demands that we take precautionary measures now.
Still, despite the real-life changes that are being done and the threat of more to come, it’s important to remind ourselves that we are not on a pre-ordained path to disaster. This is not pre-ordained. It’s not written in the stars. This is about choices – choices that we still have. This is a test of willpower, not capacity. It’s within our power to put the planet back on a better track. But doing that requires holding ourselves accountable to the hard truth. It requires holding ourselves accountable to facts, not opinion; to science, not theories that haven’t been proven and can’t be proven; and certainly not to political bromides and slogans.
For all the progress that we are making, at the current pace we will not meet our goal. I said that earlier. We knew in Paris that what we were doing was trying to start down a road. But we also knew it doesn’t get us to the end of the journey. Yes, renewables make up more than half of all the new electricity installation last year. That’s progress. But the reality is because of the existing energy infrastructure already in place, that new energy only generated a little more than 10 percent of the world’s total energy. That is nowhere near what we need in order to achieve our goals.
If we’re going to have the ability to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, we have to dramatically accelerate the transition that is already starting. We need to get to a point where clean sources are generating most of the world’s energy, and we need to get there fast. Certainly experts tell us by the middle of this century we have to get there.
Now, I’ve said many times, and I’ll say it again today: It is not going to be governments alone, or even principally, that solve the climate challenge. The private sector is the most important player. And already we are seeing real solutions coming from entrepreneurs and academia. It’s going to be innovators, workers, and business leaders, many of whom have been hammering away at this challenge for years who are going to continue to create the technological advances that forever revolutionize the way that we power our world.
But make no mistake, government leadership is absolutely essential. And because today is the last opportunity I will have to address the COP as Secretary of State, I just want to take a moment to underscore the work that government leaders can do and should do, especially the 200 – almost 200 nations represented here.
Now, we know that we have not come to Marrakech to bask in the glow of Paris. We’ve come here to move forward. In doing so, we cannot forget that the contributions we’ve each made thus far were never meant to be the ceiling. They’re a foundation on which we expect to build. And unless our nations voluntarily ratchet up our ambition, and unless we continue to put sustained pressure on one another to act wisely, we will have difficulty meeting the current mitigation needs, let alone holding temperature increases at 2 degrees warming, which science tells us is a tipping point.
And if we fall short, it will be the single greatest instance in modern history of a generation in a time of crisis abdicating responsibility for the future. And it won’t just be a policy failure; because of the nature of this challenge, it will be a moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequence.
Now, I know not – that’s not what any of us here signed up for. As Pope Francis said, “We receive this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan for future generations, to whom we will have to return it.”
Now, I fully recognize the challenges that a number of countries face because they have a big population, they have a growing economy, they have a lot of people in poverty, they’re determined to maintain stability and pull those people into the economy. And of course, they’re concerned about stability – we all are. Access to affordable energy is a key part of providing that stability. And the dirtiest sources of energy are, unfortunately, some of the cheapest. But I emphasize this: Only in the short term. In the long term, it’s an entirely different story, folks. In the long term, carbon-intensive energy is actually today, right now, one of the costliest and most foolhardy investments any nation can possibly make. And that is because the final invoice for carbon-based energy includes a lot more than just the price of the oil or the coal, or the natural gas; it – or the price of building the power plant. The real cost accounting needs to fully consider all of the downstream consequences, which, in the case of dirty fuels, are enough to at least double or triple the initial expenses.
That’s the kind of accounting that we need to do today. Just think about the price of environmental and agricultural degradation. Think about the loss of an ability of farmers in one area because of the lack of water or too much heat to be able to grow their crops today. Think of the hospital bills for asthma and emphysema patients, and the millions of deaths that are linked to air pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels.
In 2014, a study found that up to six million people in China have black lung because they lived and worked so close to coal-fired power plants. There are nearly 20 million new asthma cases a year in India linked to coal-related air pollution, and in the United States, asthma costs taxpayers more than $55 billion annually. The greatest cause of children being hospitalized in the summer in the United States is environmentally induced asthma. These are real costs, and they need to be added to the tally.
We also have to include the price tag of rebuilding after devastating storms and flooding. Just in the first three quarters of this year alone, extreme weather events have cost the United States – have cost American taxpayers $27 billion in damage. In August alone, Louisiana experienced flooding that resulted in roughly $10 billion worth of damage.
So none of us can afford to be oblivious to these expenses, and these initial costs are in reality just a glimpse of what the future could hold in store for us if we fail to respond. Just imagine: Sea barriers that have to be built. Go down to Miami – in south Miami, they’re building – they’re raising streets to deal with flooding that’s already occurring, building new storm drains and assessing people additional tax in order to do it. Massive increases in cost of maintaining infrastructure to control flooding, withstand storms. Power outages. All of this and more has to be added to any honest assessment of high-carbon energy sources. And in an age of increasing transparency and public demand for accountability, citizens in the long run will not accept phony accounting or an obfuscation of the consequences of the decisions.
So everyone needs to make smarter choices – with the long game, not the short game, in mind.
Coal, unfortunately, is the single biggest contributor to global carbon pollution. It provides about 30 percent of the world’s energy, but it produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. The unprecedented investments that we are now seeing in clean energy will mean very, very little if, at the same time, new coal fire plants without carbon capture are coming online and at a rate dumping into the atmosphere more and more of the very pollution that we’re all working so hard to reduce.
Some of these projections, I have to tell you, are deeply troubling. For example, between now and 2040, the demand for electricity in Southeast Asia is likely to triple – and the bulk of that demand is currently expected to be met by growth – where? In the coal-fired power sector, rather than clean energy. That threatens everything we’re trying to achieve here.
We literally cannot use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for what we’ve done to take steps to address climate change, and then turn around and use the other hand to write a big fat check enabling the widespread development of the dirtiest source of fuel in an outdated way. It just doesn’t make sense. That’s suicide. And that’s how we all lose this fight.
Make no mistake: People all over the world are working for victory in this. And this issue is increasingly capturing the attention of citizens everywhere, and certainly the private sector. The private sector welcomed the signals that we sent in Paris, but they are demanding even stronger signals now – the private sector – so that they can invest clean energy solutions with even greater confidence.
One of the strongest signals that government can send, one of the most powerful ways to reduce emissions at the lowest possible course – cost – is to move toward carbon pricing that puts basic, free-market economics to work in addressing this challenge.
Now obviously, this is not a new idea. Many have come to this conclusion already. The share of global emissions that are covered by a carbon price has tripled over the last decade. Last year, more than 1,000 businesses and investors – including sectors that might be surprising to some of you – all came together to voice their support for carbon pricing. The long list of supporters includes energy companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, utilities like PG&E, transportation companies like British Airways, construction firms like Cemex, financial institutions like Deutsche Bank, like Swiss Re, and consumer goods corporations like Unilever and Nokia. These companies all believe that carbon pricing will establish the necessary certainty in the marketplace that helps the private sector to move the capital that helps to solve the problem.
Carbon pricing allows citizens, innovators, and companies – it allows the market to make independent decisions free from the government to be able to best drive their emission reductions. And this is also, by the way, the chief reason that carbon pricing has received support from leaders and economists on both sides of the aisle in the United States of America. A price on carbon, coupled with government support for innovation in key sectors, is easily one of the most compelling tools for the world to accelerate the clean energy transformation that we are working to achieve. Now, while it may be some time before we see this ideal outcome, the effort to improve carbon markets ought to be a priority going forward.
The bottom line is that there are many tools at the world’s disposal. The COP itself is an important tool, in a sense. It has become much more of a – much more than just a gathering of government officials. It’s really a yearly summit, 25,000 people strong this year from all over the world, for all sectors to showcase their commitment to climate action and to discuss ways to expand shared efforts. It’s a regular reminder of exactly how much this movement has grown – and how many people, in how many countries, are committed to action.
Walking around the conference here before I was coming in here and seeing this site in Marrakech, and seeing the delegations and the business leaders, the entrepreneurs and the activists who have traveled from near and far to be here, it’s abundantly clear we have the ability to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
But again, we’re forced to ask: Do we have the collective will? Because our success is not going to happen by accident. It won’t happen without sustained commitment, without cooperation and creative thinking. And it won’t happen without confident investors and innovative entrepreneurs. And it certainly won’t happen without leadership.
For those in power in all parts of the world, including my own, who may be confronted with decisions about which road to take at this critical juncture, I ask you, on behalf of billions of people around the world: Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take just the existence of this COP as the stamp of approval for it. I ask you to see for yourselves. Do your own due diligence before making irrevocable choices.
Examine closely what it is that has persuaded the Pope, presidents, and prime ministers all over the world, leaders around the world, to take on the responsibility of responding to this threat. Talk to the business leaders of Fortune 500 companies and smaller innovative companies, all of whom are eager to invest in the energy markets of the future. Get the best economists’ judgment on the risk of inaction, of what the cost would be to global economies, versus the opportunities that are to be found in the clean energy market of the future. Speak with the military leaders who view climate change as a global security concern, as a threat multiplier. Ask farmers about – and fisherman about the impact of dramatic changes in weather patterns on their current ability to make a living and to support their families or on what they see for the future. Listen to faith leaders talk about the moral responsibility that human beings have to act as stewards of the planet that we have to share, the only planet we have. Bring in the activists and civil society, groups who have worked for years with communities all over the world to raise awareness and to respond to this threat. Ask young people about their legitimate concerns for the planet that their children will inherit in reducing emissions worldwide.
And above all, consult with the scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to expanding our understanding of this challenge, and whose work will be in vain unless we sound the alarm loud enough for everyone to hear. No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input.
Anyone who has these conversations, who takes the time to learn from these experts, who gets the full picture of what we’re facing – I believe they can only come to one legitimate decision, and that is to act boldly on climate change and encourage others to do the same.
Now, I want to acknowledge that since this COP started, obviously, an election took place in my country. And I know it has left some here and elsewhere feeling uncertain about the future. I obviously understand that uncertainty. And while I can’t stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue, I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I have learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail.
And the truth is that climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the first place. It isn’t a partisan issue for our military leaders at the Pentagon who call climate change a threat multiplier. (Applause.) It isn’t a partisan issue for those military leaders because of the way that climate change exacerbates conflicts all over the world and who view it as a threat to military readiness at their bases and could suffer the consequences of rising seas and stronger storms. It isn’t a partisan issue for our intelligence community, who just this year released a report detailing the implications of climate change for U.S. national security: threats to the stability of fragile nations, heightened social and political tensions, rising food prices, increased risks to human health, and more.
It isn’t a partisan issue for mayors from New Orleans to Miami, who are already working hard to manage sunny-day floods and stronger storm surges caused by climate change. It isn’t partisan for liberal and conservative business leaders alike who are investing unprecedented amounts of money into renewables, voluntarily committing to reduce their own emissions, and even holding their supply chains accountable to their overall carbon footprint.
And there’s nothing partisan about climate change for the world scientists who are near unanimous in their conclusion that climate change is real, it is happening, human beings for the most part are causing it, and we will have increasing catastrophic impacts on our way of life if we don’t take the dramatic steps necessary to reduce the carbon footprint of our civilization.
Now, whether we are able to meet this moment is a big test – probably as big a test of courage and vision as you’ll ever find. Every nation has a responsibility to do its part if we are going to pass that test – and only those nations who step up and respond to this threat can legitimately lay claim to a mantle of global leadership. That’s a fact.
More than his love of Marrakech, Winston Churchill was known for his hard-nosed insight and the way that he expressed it. He once argued, tellingly: “It’s not always enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what is required.”
We know today what is required. And with all of the real-world evidence, with all of the peer-reviewed science, with all of the plain just old common sense, there isn’t anyone who can credibly argue otherwise. So we have to continue this fight, my friends. We have to continue to defy expectations. We have to continue to accelerate the global transition to a clean energy economy. And we have to continue to hold one another accountable for the choices that our nations makes.
Earlier this year, on Earth Day, I had the great privilege of signing the Paris Agreement on behalf of President Obama and the United States. It was a special day. And because my daughter lives in New York, I invited her to join me at the UN. She surprised me by bringing my 2-year-old granddaughter, Isabelle, along as well.
And that morning, I had been thinking about the history that had brought us to that day. I thought about the first Earth Day in 1970 that I mentioned earlier, when I joined with millions of Americans in teach-ins to educate the public about the environmental challenges we faced. I thought about the first UN climate conference in Rio, which is actually where I met my wife Teresa, and I thought of the urgency that we all felt way back then in 1992. And of course, I thought about that December night at Le Bourget, when it seemed – for the first time – that the world had finally found the path forward.
But as I sat and I played with my granddaughter, waiting for my turn to go out and sign the Agreement, I thought, not of the past, but I thought of the future. Her future. The world her children would one day inherit.
And when it was time for me to go up on that stage, I scooped her up and I brought her out with me. I wanted to share that moment with her. And I’ll never forget it.
But to my surprise, people responded to her presence that day, and since then so many people have said to me, they’ve conveyed to me how that moment conveyed something special and moved them. They told me they thought of their own children, their own grandchildren. They thought of the future. They were reminded of the stakes.
Ladies and gentlemen, here in Marrakech, in the next hours, let us make clear to the world that we will always remember the stakes. Let us stand firm in support of the goals that we set in Paris and recommit ourselves to double our efforts to meet them. Let us say that when it comes to climate change, we will commit not just to doing our best, but as Winston Churchill admonished, we will do what is required.
I look forward to working with you in this important work for whatever number of years ahead I have a chance to. Thank you.
Remarks With Chatham House Director Robin Niblett at the Chatham House Prize Ceremony
MR NIBLETT: Present you with (inaudible) just a scroll – is to present you with this scroll on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen for your achievement in delivering the JPCOA with Javad Zarif. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Robin, thank you very much. Philip, thank you very much. I have forgiven you for deserting the cadre of diplomats to crunch numbers in (inaudible) words, but I know you’re happy where you are. (Laughter.)
Philip has become honestly a great friend, and we had an opportunity to share some really good times together, some wonderful meals, a lot of discussions about where to go and how to go. And I admire his extraordinary commitment to public service. He was constantly telling me I have to go back to my constituency for 24 hours and we would have this battle back and forth, but he loyally went back to represent his constituency and contributed hugely. And I thank him for the gift of his partnership and his friendship during the two years we served together as counterparts and colleagues.
Distinguished guests, Lords and Ladies, Excellencies, guests of Chatham House and members of the Chatham House, thank you very, very much for this extraordinary honor. I’m very, very grateful, humbled to receive this award, The Chatham House Prize, and to be able to share a few thoughts with you here today. And I say that I am really gratified to receive this award for several reasons, a number of reasons.
First, Chatham House is so much more than just a think-tank. It has very well-earned reputation for serious and mostly civil conversation, debate about consequential issues; so when Chatham House speaks, people listen even if the one rule that rules them all prevents anybody from revealing who spoke up and what they said. (Laughter.) Now personally, I happen to applaud that; just because transparency is a virtue doesn’t mean that discretion is a sin.
Second, this occasion is a welcome chance to renew my own personal thanks to the partners, the many partners in this negotiation, who – without whom, there simply would not have been an agreement; we would never have reached the end road. Philip Hammond and our colleagues from Germany, from France, Russia, and China, and in a non-negotiating coordinating role First Lady Cathy Ashton, and then, of course, Federica Mogherini representing the EU – all were absolutely instrumental in an orchestral, not a solo, multilateral effort.
And I want to acknowledge particularly my co-recipient that Philip spoke of so warmly, our Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. I’m sorry that he isn’t able to be here. We tried to coordinate schedules and coordinate this event. But I want to make it clear that Javad is a very tough, very capable negotiator and a patriot all the time who fought hard for his nation’s interests while always trying to find a constructive way to solve the problems that we both understood were gigantic hurdles for both of our countries and both of our peoples, for our politics, and the divisions that exist at home for each of us.
And I want to also recognize two colleagues whose technical knowledge and whose professional creativity and engagement also on a personal level, I might add, were instrumental in reaching an agreement, and that’s U.S. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi, who was the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Both MIT grads, they had a technical expertise that filled the gap for those of us less well-educated. (Laughter.) And literally hundreds of experts – I kid you not – hundreds of experts worked night and day over many years.
And at the end, you may recall, it was this more than 19 consecutive days and nights in Vienna. It took a lot of brain power, took a lot of sweat, and of course, a few hundred pounds of schnitzel, to turn ideas and ideals into documents, and documents into an agreement that is today ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, thereby making the world safer and also expanding opportunities for the people of Iran.
Now, it goes without saying but I say it that, of course, Presidents Obama and Rouhani had to make fundamental decisions, and both of them had to take on a political risk, both of them had a to share a vision here and have the courage to seek the diplomatic path which so many were, almost throughout it, ready to predict could only be resolved probably by bombing, by war, or wouldn’t be resolved certainly in the near term. It is a reminder and I think this is the significance and this is the way I accept this award; a reminder that despite decades of distrust and disagreements that continue to divide us to this day, when leaders are willing to at least talk and try, it turns out that not all fates are predetermined.
The third reason that I’m grateful to be here is because as we face multiple conflicts in a world that is changing at a pace that is difficult for anybody to keep up with, which is presenting a clash not of civilizations but of uncivilized people who attack civilization itself, a clash of modernity with culture and history and religion and ethnicity and sectarianism and a hundred different other emotions and motivations, we see particularly a time of sectarian, religious, and terrorist characteristics appearing in non-state actors, which is a very different phenomenon from that which characterized the last century.
So I am delighted to accept this award for improving international relations as an important statement about the urgency of effective diplomacy. It doesn’t receive the focus that it ought to. But every day in ways that are large and small – and I mean every day – diplomacy makes this planet safer. I thank Christiana Figueres – is here somewhere, who was a nominee – for the incredible work that she did and others did to help us be able to come together 186 nations strong to make a difference through diplomacy on climate change.
In our lifetimes, it has been diplomacy, good diplomacy, and a vision and ideals and values that drive it that has established foundational global institutions which matter to us and which we need to nurture more. It has forged landmark principles of human rights and law, produced consensus goals for human development. I might mark that for the first time in human history we are now below 10 percent in terms of severe poverty on a global basis. And it is also that diplomacy that has provided a detente to prevail over the prospect of nuclear conflict and allowed us to avoid the devastation of a third world war.
So often in the world today, if you listen to the naysayers and the critics who second-guess the cost of every single action, you can easily overlook something greater – the cost of inaction, the price we pay when countries don’t talk, the debt that is compounded with interest that piles up over conflicts that just remain frozen, the expense that mounts when wounds aren’t healed, the danger that grows when threats aren’t addressed through cooperation and when later they can only be addressed through conflict. Those of us engaged in the practice of diplomacy are engaged in a constant competition with time. Every minute that we stand still – and this goes to what Philip may have been saying about my sense of urgency that drives this – every minute that stands still, breaches widen and wounds fester and another generation of young people are not put in school but their minds are subject to the minds of the exploiters, the extremists, the nihilists. We see that particularly true in a world that with massive new platforms of information and the raging impact of technology coupled with yet another wave coming at us in terms of artificial intelligence tells us we better find some ways to put these people to work and give them opportunity.
So new inventions and technologies can quickly become new sources of danger. Non-state actors, as I mentioned earlier, have a much greater influence on events than ever before, and the world is less hierarchical, and there are far more competitors for power and influence. Meanwhile, age-old plagues of extreme nationalism and sectarian conflict, which should have been relegated to history, and we all hoped had been, actually remain a force in our time. So we live in a world of instant communication across virtually every single border, and yet, too often our ability to understand each other remains suspended in amber. And that matters.
My father was a diplomat for a number of years and I learned from him that diplomacy begins with the ability to see another country through the eyes of the people who live in it. He taught me that lesson while our family was stationed in Europe, stuck in the shadows of World War II. Our first foreign post, Berlin, a divided city in the early 50s; London still rebuilding from 57 consecutive days and nights of bombing during the Blitz; France, where my mother saw her childhood home occupied by the Nazis, razed to rubble, bombed out and booby-trapped as they retreated. And as a child, I even played in the bunkers and tunnels that remained as the detritus of war. For me, these were real-time reminders at a very young age of the grim reality of even just and necessary wars. And it offered a powerful lesson that while some wars are unavoidable, those that could be prevented through persuasion and through perspective should be.
Decades later, I fought in a war that could have been avoided through the kind of diplomacy and through the ability to understand perspectives besides our own and to see other people in countries through their eyes – something we never did in Vietnam. It was a war that went on far too long while politicians were afraid to negotiate without preconditions and instead debated the size and the shape of the negotiating table. And needless to say, I learned many things in Vietnam. But above all, I learned that you should not go to war because you want to; you should go to war because you have to.
I also learned an enduring truth that may seem simplistic, but it’s a constant: Peace is better than war. And believe it or not, there is nothing inevitable about the conflicts that are raging in places like Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan. If war is a choice, then peace is also a choice. And believe me, what we have the power to choose, we have the power to change. I believe that. And certainly, we in positions of significant power and responsibility have an important duty to try. I’d rather be caught trying.
Trying to understand adversaries is not a favor that we do for them; it’s in our interests. And talking to each other isn’t a favor that big countries do for small countries; it’s a strategic imperative for everybody. And trying to avoid conflict isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. And I say that reminded that the British prime minister who said, “To jaw-jaw is better than war-war,” was named Winston Churchill, not Neville Chamberlain.
Now, that doesn’t mean that war is never an answer. I’m not a pacifist. But it does mean that, first, we have an obligation to explore every other avenue, use every tool, transparently summon every bit of reason, and deploy every moral, political, and economic argument at our command to avoid it, since, after all, it was no less a conservative than Sir Edmund Burke who argued, “A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.”
So this afternoon, I ask that we, all of us, rededicate ourselves to a world in which peace is nurtured with greater fervor and resources than those that we devote to war, a world in which no nation is ever afraid to try to improve relations with every other, and for the very basic reason that life is better than death and peace is better than war. Thank you, very, very much. (Applause.)
MR NIBLETT: Secretary Kerry, thank you very much for those powerful words and for taking this opportunity as well of the receipt of the Chatham House Prize to, as you put it, to really talk about the urgency of active diplomacy. I thought it was a particularly powerful call. And as you said, the heritage of thinking about jaw-jaw rather than war-war seems to have been pushed to one side, and there are a proliferation of conflicts taking place internationally.
We have a little bit of time here. We have a very hard finish at two o’clock, so we will finish a couple of minutes before. But you’ve been kind enough to agree to let me kind of raise a few points with you and take a – and we may have time for just a couple of questions from the floor before we close. And I would remind you, this is on the record, as you well know. (Laughter.)
But as you mentioned, the Chatham House rule, which I think was devised, as you noted, in an effort to try to draw the best from diplomacy but get the best ideas shared and understood and then giving opportunity for those outside to contribute to it as well. You said this was an orchestral multilateralism. I thought that was a great phrase. You talked about the importance of seeing the world through other countries’ eyes. There are some people, including a colleague who’s worked with us here, who has talked about – Matt Waldman – the idea of empathy – the way to bring empathy in international relations. And yet these phrases, the phrase he used, calling your co-recipient of this prize, Dr. Zarif, a patriot for his country’s effort. That willingness to understand seems to be in such short supply at the moment.
Can I just start with one very broad question? To what extent will the pressures of communications back home, to what extent do you think diplomats, who in the days of (inaudible) really could shut themselves off to a significantly large extent – not completely but to a larger extent – and be able to develop negotiations in secrecy – to what extent do you think that has been lost? Of course, the United States did start this negotiation a little earlier than many of its European allies had realized, so secrecy did play a role at a particular moment. How do you balance this aspect of secrecy, being able to sustain public support at home even before you get to the negotiation on the other side?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s critical. I mean, let me give you an example of how this was effective and why it complicates all diplomacy (inaudible). Secrecy is a valuable element at times, and I know people – as long as your final result and your process is ultimately subject to some kind of scrutiny, some sort of test of legitimacy, I think it’s something you have to have. Why do you have to have it? Because you may not get off the ground. You may never get started. There were powerful forces – and all of you saw that part of our debate – powerful forces that were deeply opposed to this. I mean, it’s not often that a prime minister of another country comes to the Congress and in the middle of the Congress, speaks against the sitting president’s policy. That happened, and you can imagine the forces that were unleashed as a result, and the tension that existed.
I give you a sense of how this weighed on us. Because Congress was impatient for whether or not something real was happening, and because tweets were going out from various parties suggesting they’re giving away the score, they’re going to expose us to nuclear blackmail, or – they’re built up in impatience with the process, that required that we actually do something which was extraordinarily detrimental to the process, which was to be – I think it was in Lausanne – where we had to put out an interim agreement.
Now, I didn’t put out an interim agreement because I thought it was going to help the negotiations, or I thought it was going to make things easier. In fact, I knew it was going to make them harder. And it exactly did. Because once people who were taking for granted that this would ever go anywhere saw that there was a reality to what we were achieving, the opposition kicked into super gear and the politics became that much harder. And the only reason we had to go out publicly with that particular – at that particular moment was that had we not, we didn’t have any excuse for arguing to Congress why they shouldn’t pass another round of sanctions. And if they had passed another round of sanctions, that would have been a message to our colleagues with whom we were negotiating that we weren’t serious and that it was the same old, same old with the Satan of the West who paid no respect to the process, and was willing to sanction the hell out of people while they’re negotiating. You can imagine the impact.
So that yin and yang is a constant presence. And in a world of tweets and emails and podcasts and what have you, it became that much more complicated as we went on. But ultimately, I mean, the test is what you have graciously paid tribute to today, which is by staying at it and keeping people focused and by recognizing the stakes. And what I think drove us – and it’s not an exaggeration; I just ask you to imagine, if we didn’t have a protocol by which Iran was willing to live and prove to the IAEA top standards of the world’s best scrutiny, that this is a peaceful program, just imagine where we would be, at a time where I’m telling you there were people who were arguing vociferously we needed to go to war to prevent them from having a program.
So the stakes could not have been higher, and I think ultimately to the credit of the Ayatollah and Iran, they made a fundamental decision they were willing to submit to the scrutiny and give up that program. And we, on the other hand, made a fundamental decision we were willing to fight the fight of lifting sanctions in exchange for a set of standards of behavior that could guarantee us this program was peaceful. And that – and both of us had strong and powerful reasons for wanting to move down this road, which is also an essential ingredient of any negotiation. You can’t just will a negotiation to a conclusion. If the other party – I witnessed Israel-Palestine, which I spent two years working on. The leaders just weren’t prepared. It’s that simple. We had plenty of solutions, plenty of ways to go forward, but if people aren’t willing to assume the risk that President Obama and President Rouhani assumed, there’s nothing the negotiator is going to be able to do to change that. So you need fundamental decisions of vision and creativity and of hope, and sort of an aspiration that is expressed in the negotiation that both sides embrace.
MR NIBLETT: I’m sure Theresa May is going to be quite pleased to hear the back and forth sort of secrecy from the early part of the negotiations – (Laughter) – before things are put, as you said to parliamentary scrutiny, I thought, no one will draw that connection. But just one small point, as you took us so powerfully, again, into the feeling of this negotiation: Do you have a most difficult moment? Is there a most difficult moment, that when you think back on it —
SECRETARY KERRY: There were several of the most difficult moments. I’ve been accused a number of times of not being willing to walk away. But the truth, I’ve walked away several times, quietly. One was right here in London. I was poised to pull out of Geneva to negotiate, but because there had been a step backwards in the interim week, I informed them I wasn’t coming, and I stayed here in London. I actually had one of the most delightful days I’ve had in the country. (Laughter.) That should happen more. No – (laughter).
So, and then we managed to get back on track. But I was serious about it. I mean, there were moments – there were a couple of other moments. In Lausanne, in the last days of – it was a very tense moment where it wasn’t certain that we could get over a couple of hurdles so that people were serious about the effort to get there. And this is where there were – both sides, there were back-home skirmishes going on almost all the time.
MR NIBLETT: And that comment about back home, as we watched this agreement from London, obviously the U.K. being a signatory and key partner in this agreement, we can’t but help wonder, can agreements like this survive? Where does the executive power, the congressional power – let’s just talk about the U.S. side. We can come to the Iranian in a minute. But on the U.S. side, is this agreement designed in such a way that it can survive?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I mean, the answer is yes, providing that people don’t do dangerous things that can be interpreted as bad faith in the process. It is certainly designed on its face to more than survive. I mean, what people don’t realize about this agreement is that this is not a 10-year or a 15-year agreement, or a 20-year or 25 years, even though there are benchmarks in it for each of those things. For instance, 15 years you cannot have enrichment above 3.67 percent. For 15 years, you cannot have a stockpile more than 300 kilograms. So it is physically impossible, as long as you are verifying that— just on those two things— to not make a bomb. You cannot make a bomb with 300 kilograms. You can’t make a bomb at 3.67 percent enrichment.
So what we’ve built in, then, is beyond that 20 years of television cameras looking at the process of centrifuge production, and then 25 years tracking of all the uranium so that you have a cradle-to-grave knowledge of all the uranium they mine, which feeds in it and out of how much is available for production as yellow cake and on into a bomb.
So there are huge build-ins here, but the most important of all is the fact there’s a lifetime for the duration of this agreement, right under what is called the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, to be able to have a challenge, inspection, and test of the good faith of a particular facility, or if we had information leading us to believe something’s happening, we can in fact follow up on it. And then we always have the ability to bring back sanctions, or even – god forbid if you have to, but if you have to, you have to – have a direct confrontation over there with a compliance with it.
Now, Iran has complied with every part of it so far. They’ve dismantled centrifuges, they’ve dropped the stockpile, they’ve transported enriched uranium out of the country, lowered the stockpile. And we’re certain of this. So Iran deserves the credit of having met its part of the bargain, and it’s important for us and the rest of the world to meet ours, to make sure that the lifted sanctions are in fact not still impeding the ability to be able to do business, and to grant that Iran gets the benefit of the bargain that they made. And that is just plain, simple, good faith in international relations.
MR NIBLETT: As Chancellor Hammond said, he noted that he was going to be working on trying to make sure that there was the capacity to meet some of Iran’s expectations of access to financial markets. The sanctions removed under the agreement were those connected to the nuclear program, and the U.S. in particular has, as most people here know, a number of other sanctions.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Robin, let me make clear.
MR NIBLETT: Yeah.
SECRETARY KERRY: Because it’s important for people to understand that we have worked hard to make sure that we have lived up to every component of what is required of us here. And I wish that some of the larger banks were, in fact, ready to make loans and engage in opening accounts, because they can. They’re allowed to, but they’re still remaining somewhat risk averse for various reasons.
And what I have also made clear – and it’s in the agreement – is that we are not backing down on the other issues of importance that we had also had sanctions in place on. So we didn’t take our sanctions away for human rights abuse. We didn’t take our sanctions away for state sponsorship of terror. We didn’t take our sanctions away for illegal – for breaking the UN arms embargo and so forth. And we obviously still have real differences with Iran that I’d like to see us work out – namely, support for the Houthi in Yemen, support of Hizballah in Syria, support for Assad against all capacity to have a reasonable political outcome, and so forth. These are things that continue to be challenges for us, and my hope is that over time those too can be worked at in the same way that we were able to work at the fundamentals of the nuclear file.
But had we tackled each of those – some people have said, well, you were crazy; you should have resolved each and every one of those things before you made an agreement. Folks, we’d still be in Vienna eating good schnitzel and having a good time and celebrating another Fourth of July. But I have to tell you, we wouldn’t be any closer to an agreement on any of them, because some of them are deeper rooted to intricacies of the region and history and other things that are going to take longer to try to work through.
MR NIBLETT: And let me just bring Russia in for a second. Here we are – this was a place where Russia was a – to my understanding, a constructive – very much part of this negotiation. What did you take away about what the West, the United States can get and not get from Russia in multilateral negotiations? Is it just a matter of where the interests align, anything is possible, and where they don’t align, it’s not? Or was there some other dimension here? Because this was – you look at the agreement and Russia played a pretty important role, especially in some of the technical areas.
SECRETARY KERRY: Russia did. Russia was constructive in that, and Russia – in fact, right here in London I was asked the question at a press conference: Is there anything Assad can do to prevent himself from being bombed? And I said yes, he could agree to remove all the chemical weapons from Syria. Within an hour and a half, I had Lavrov calling me and saying let’s work on that, let’s see if we can do it. We’d actually already talked about it, so it wasn’t out of a whole sort of cloth that I had proposed this.
And within a week or two – I forget how long it was, but we were able to cut an agreement that got the – all the chemical weapons that were properly declared, as the saying is, were out of Syria, with a much better outcome than would have occurred if you’d spent a day or two bombing, obviously. But Obama – President Obama still gets blamed for not, quote, “enforcing the red line,” but in fact, he achieved the goal. Our goal was to prevent them from using chemical weapons, and by getting them all out we did a better job of that than we would have by sending him a warning militarily that he shouldn’t do it.
Bottom line is there are other things, obviously, where Russia has interests that we just – they don’t come close. Syria – Russia has had a client relationship with Assad for years. It is not new that Russia supports Assad. This is not something that developed in the Obama Administration. It expanded, but it didn’t begin. Russia built what is reputed to be the fourth most effective air defense system in the world. Russia built that and staffed it for Assad for years. Russia has had a port use at Tartus, and Russia has had obvious relationship with Assad. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to people that we are at loggerheads in our support for an opposition because we think Assad abused his people and Russia’s support for Assad for the reasons I’ve described and some others.
I think that it’s very dangerous right now, and there are – we are still engaged on a multilateral basis even now as I sit here, trying to see if there’s a way to forge a ceasefire. We have a proposal that’s been going back and forth, and we will see whether the Russians have a greater desire to bomb Aleppo into smithereens, claiming they’re going after a legitimate – the terrorists when in fact there are oppositionists there who are prepared to live by a ceasefire. And this will determine to some degree sort of where we go with respect to Syria in the long term.
MR NIBLETT: Well, I’m going to turn to the audience in just a second, see if I can – we’ll get a couple questions before you finish. But one last very difficult one for you: I suppose it strikes one listening to your comments here that because you are representing the U.S., you could work towards striking an agreement. When it becomes Syria, you’re trying to get other parties together; if they don’t want to do it, they don’t want to do it. The U.S.-Israel relationship after the nuclear accord and where it’s at – do you think this agreement has changed the Middle East in any way? People always say that in the end, the Arab-Israel conflict is sui generis, it sits in its own box. Just because you fix other parts of the Middle East doesn’t mean you’re going to fix this. And yet, the deal has certainly led to closer relationships between Israel and some of the Gulf states. I mean, how do you think this deal has changed? Has it made the context more difficult for pursuing the Middle East peace process, no impact at all? How would you look at that spillover?
SECRETARY KERRY: I personally still believe that the – that if the parties wanted peace in the Middle East, if both parties were prepared to take risks for peace, there is a very clear peace that is definable and achievable. Unfortunately, it’s moving in an opposite direction. I have said many times publicly, as had President Obama, that we are deeply concerned about choices being made – incitement in the case of some of the Palestinians, the arming in the case of some, acts of terrorism by some. But we’re also concerned on the other side by the continued incursion of settlements in the West Bank, which over a period of time can threaten the capacity for a two-state solution to be achieved. And we’ve tried to be a fair broker in articulating both. We are obviously deeply committed to Israel’s survival. We are its strongest ally in the world. We don’t shy away from that. We embrace that. And we’ve just embraced it in a $38 billion over 10 years memorandum of understanding – 3.8 billion, obviously, per year – in order to help Israel be able to defend itself by itself, and that is a fundamental tenet of our policy.
But at the same time, I would absolutely embrace the notion that there is a greater readiness of the Arab world to be part of this peace and to help to change the region that at any time previously. And I believe that if leaders in Israel are prepared to try to move forward in a genuine way, there is a new discussion that could be had and new opportunities to try to have a breakthrough that was unachievable a couple of years ago. And we will see. I may speak out on this in the next weeks, months, or over the year – hard to say. But people need to recognize that there is something different in the Middle East that is available to people now and we should not lose that opportunity.
MR NIBLETT: (Inaudible) you’ll speak about it here. Let me just see if there’s a couple – I only see a couple questions. I’m sorry that I can’t too many – take too many. There first, please.
PARTICIPANT: So Peter Westmacott —
MR NIBLETT: Oh, right. Okay, there we are. Microphone.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Secretary of State, wonderful to have you here. As the last ambassador to the United States and one who began his career in Iran, I just want to say how much I echo and the whole Foreign Office echo our admiration for the resilience, the optimism – never-say-give-up approach that you took to getting this negotiation done. I watched it when we weren’t supposed to be watching it, when you were active privately – but with Hillary Clinton’s full support; let’s never forget that – and I watched it when it was in public and when the rest of us all came together.
You said that this helped to avoid a war. There was a lot of insidious stuff about let’s just add more sanctions, let’s get a tougher deal. Actually, there were also a lot of people who would have happily got us into a fighting war to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. You stopped that, and if you had not stopped that, somebody else might have begun it, dragging in America, dragging in Britain. There was a real risk of military conflict, and I think we all admire the efforts that you did to stop that. (Applause.)
Second thing I just wanted to say in the presence of some diplomatic colleagues is how rare it was for the rest of the P5+1 – the Russian, the Chinese, the French, the German, and the British ambassadors – to be able to help deliver an Administration objective on Capitol Hill at a time when, as you yourself pointed out, other governments were busy trying to kill this deal despite the fact that all of our governments had supported it and despite the fact that it was by a long way the least bad way of stopping Iran’s nuclear program. I think that was rare. I think it was unusual, and I’m glad we were able to do that.
My little question is just to say to you that I do think that the difficulty we’ve now got in getting business going with Iran is a real one. I do think that the European banks do have a problem. We are frightened because of our experience of the way in which bilateral U.S. sanctions are still in place. This frightens people. Is there any more, Mr. Secretary, that you can do, that the Administration can do to signal to us it’s safe to go back in the water? Because we all have an interest in making sure that the deal you negotiated succeeds.
MR NIBLETT: Can I just – we’ve got very little time, so I knew there was a hand up there. If you just could —
SECRETARY KERRY: I can take an extra minute, I think. Can I, Tom? I can take a couple minutes.
MR NIBLETT: First – no, sorry, (inaudible) we’ll do two ladies then then.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah.
MR NIBLETT: You’ll stay for one more?
SECRETARY KERRY: I’ll let you know if our hard stop– but I think —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Kings College London. A quick question. You mentioned and a previous speaker mentioned the sanctions relief is an issue. What are the other challenges that you foresee in the next year given the election instability both in the U.S. but also in Iran? And you mentioned regional security. Do you think that’s going to impact the implementation of the agreement?
MR NIBLETT: (Inaudible) very careful terms. You say, “I’ve got more time,” and then your colleagues at State Department will never come back here again. (Laughter.) So the lady next to you, she was – did have her hand up as well.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I am Anna Marie Trudeau (ph) from Kings College London.
MR NIBLETT: (Inaudible) Kings College (inaudible).
QUESTION: I also took part in (inaudible) vote and I voted for you because I thank you for doing this. My question is: What is the heart for you now having this experience in dealing with Syria? What do you think is missing in that orchestra of multilateral efforts for the international community to somehow deal with problems in Syria? Thank you.
MR NIBLETT: We’ll take a question – last question from the back, from the far side. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Could you contrast the relationship you have with Lavrov with that you have with Mohammad Zarif? (Laughter.)
MR NIBLETT: I think there were four questions there.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s —
MR NIBLETT: (Inaudible) it was double (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, but that’s going to be the easiest. No. (Laughter.)
First of all, let me thank Peter for – he was a superb ambassador. Peter and Susie, his wife, just did a superb job in growing our relationship, which was already enormous. So I want to thank him for his terrific diplomacy in Washington.
With respect to the deal, I think you asked what – whether or not —
MR NIBLETT: (Inaudible) business (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: The business piece. I want to say something about that. It’s very important. We met here in London with some of the key banks earlier while Philip was still foreign secretary, and we had the major banks there from Europe. It was a difficult session because clearly the banks were in a kind of – and not – I’m not blaming them; they’re a business and they have to bank this way, a sort of risk-reward analysis. And risk aversion was such that you could understand people making the decision, well, we have to take a little time and see how this shakes out, we’re not sure if there’s some designated entity out there that may be swept into the web of whatever this lending is, and therefore we don’t want to be exposed. So I understand the challenge.
The problem is that we agreed to lift certain sanctions. So OFAC, the Office of Financial Accountability, has come out and made it very, very clear that if you do due diligence in the normal fashion, no extra due diligence, just normal due diligence for whoever it is you’re opening an account or for ever – whatever lending you’re about to do, and later it turns out it was some unforeseeable entity that pops up, you will not be held accountable for that. And so what we’ve done is we’ve been trying to reduce the level of risk so that people will begin to engage in a broader range of lending. Why are we doing that? Because the deal we made was that sanctions would not continue to interfere with their ability to do a normal course of business, and regrettably because of some of the uncertainties about OFAC or some of the uncertainties about who’s doing what, it hasn’t been. And we’re trying to change that.
I must say though that we’ve made good-faith efforts way beyond what we agreed to do, I mean, like this meeting. I mean, I never anticipated I’d be sitting in the banks to try to get them to do this. But we have reached out way beyond what anything within the four corners of the agreement in order to try to make sure that it delivers in full.
So we would encourage the banks to take a hard look at this, and I am glad to say that both sides have lived up to, I think, their part of the bargain, but we will would like to see more transactions taking place because I think that’s in the interests of us to see an Iran that begins to – begins to become more a part of the international community with the belief that that can also affect long-term behavior and choices that Iran makes.
Now on the first King’s College question that was on —
MR NIBLETT: That was spreading instability in the region. That’s a big question.
SECRETARY KERRY: I think, to answer your question – you asked about sort of the other relationships through the region. I think there is a growing stability, to be honest with you. There’s obviously the challenge of Syria, which is part of the last – the third question also. And Syria – I’ll sort of answer them both together, but you asked what’s missing in Syria and what are the problems there.
Syria is a whole bunch of wars taking place in the same place. People don’t think of it that way, but you’ve got Kurd versus Kurd, you’ve got Kurd versus Turkey, you’ve got Iran and Saudi Arabia with its tensions and vice versa, you’ve got Turkey-Qatar which have a certain attitude about some groups, you have Persian Shia versus Arab Sunni, you have Sunni versus Shia, you have a lot of people against Assad, you have the challenges of Shia Iraqi militia coming in to Syria, and then of course you have Hizballah, a designated terrorist organization that’s supporting Assad.
So this mix is about as toxic as any diplomatic cocktail I can think of, and the result is that there are complications. Let me be precise. We make an agreement with Russia that because there is so little trust we need to see that they’re serious about a ceasefire. So you have a seven-day period during which Russia has to show that the Assad regime is living by its agreement not to fly and so on. Except that you have Nusrah there – al-Nusrah, which is a designated foreign terrorist entity, and you have ISIL, and you’re not going to have a ceasefire without either of them.
So if they choose to attack the regime, as they do, what happens is the regular opposition gets swept up with them – oh boy, a chance to attack Assad – and the other guy started it, so they get involved. All of a sudden, your ceasefire starts to shred. Likewise, Assad is a spoiler because Assad can say, well, I don’t have any restraint on my going after Nusrah or going after ISIL, and so he’ll just claim he’s going after them even as he just overtly bombs the opposition that has signed up to the ceasefire. So they then get angry and say he’s not keeping good faith, which he’s not, and it spirals downwards.
So you’ve got this incredible sort of – how do you begin? Do you begin on day one without any good faith? Well, the Russians want to get something for it. They want to know that we’re serious about going after Nusrah. Right now they’re blaming us, saying no, you’re not really serious, Nusrah is there because you’ve been using Nusrah in conjunction with your opposition to fight Assad.
So unraveling this very contorted web of interactions is as complicated as any challenge I’ve seen in the course of 30 years of involvement in these issues directly as a senator and now as Secretary, 30 plus, and – 34 or 33, 32, excuse me. (Laughter.) And – but 50 years, I hate to say it, of public service since I raised my hand and went into the military. That’s too long to contemplate. (Laughter.)
Just very quickly, I would say to you that there is a way to try to resolve this. If Russia were to test the stated willingness of Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia and the United States to try to separate Nusrah from the opposition, and if they would test it by standing back and not bombing for a period of time and give the legitimate opposition the opportunity to adhere to the ceasefire and separate from the true terrorists, then we could begin to get some, perhaps, cooperative breathing space where we might have an opportunity to be able to really put in place a ceasefire and, importantly, get to the negotiating table in Geneva, which, despite five years of warfare, has never really happened. People have stood at a distance in the hotel rooms arguing with each other but never really beginning the negotiation.
I remain the eternal optimist and hopeful that we can still try to push to that somewhere in these next couple of months. We have two and a half months left in this Administration and we’re going to work till the last moment to try to do that. And we are engaged even now in some discussions to see whether or not that is possible.
So I think, though, the overall region, because have seen this chaos and people have felt this spiral into a darkness that is unparalleled in terms of our ability to have a direct impact immediately, they fear it. And that fear is driving people together. There are shared interests between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and Egypt, and you’re seeing that play out a little bit in the Sinai in the fight against Daesh in the Sinai. You’re seeing it play out in Iraq. And my hope is that maybe we can create a critical mass to see it play out yet in Syria.
MR NIBLETT: Secretary, with that, I think that counts as an optimistic note on the Middle East – about as optimistic as is possible. Thank you for taking this extra time. I think those closing remarks are reminders that all the hard work that you, Dr. Zarif, others have done (inaudible).