Excerpts from John Kerry's Copenhagen Speech

Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and lead author of the US Senate’s comprehensive climate change legislation, today delivered a major address at COP15. 

Here are some telling excerpts:  

Back in 1992 an American President personally traveled to climate talks in Rio to help plant the seeds of possibility, the promise of a beginning; But that promise was allowed to wither on the vine. In the years that followed the United States joined with other major polluters to delay, divide and deny.  We simply failed to lead in the manner this challenge demands.   

Seventeen years is a long time to pursue an urgent goal.  But history reminds us that sometimes even urgent struggles take time.  Consider the hundred years of conflict in Northern Ireland.  At the moment when peace was finally achieved after tireless efforts, Senator George Mitchell, said simply:  "We had seven hundred days of failure and one day of success."

If Dick Cheney can argue that even a 1% chance of a terrorist attack is 100% justification for preemptive action-then surely, when scientists tell us that climate change is nearly a 100% certainty, we ought to be able to stand together, all of us, and join in an all out effort to combat a mortal threat to the life of this planet. 

There isn’t a nation on the planet where the evidence of the impacts of climate change isn’t mounting. Frankly, those who look for any excuse to continue challenging the science have a fundamental responsibility which they have never fulfilled:  Prove us wrong or stand down. 

In the last ten months, we’ve [the US] accomplished more than we did in the previous ten years.   Two years ago in Bali, in a room much like this one, a delegate from Papua New Guinea chastised the United States saying "If…you are not willing to lead, then please, leave it to the rest of us, please get out of the way."   Well, we’re here today. The United States is back and President Barack Obama is coming to Copenhagen to put America on the right side of history.

Today, there is no excuse for America not to act when we account for just five percent of the world’s population, but 20 percent of its emissions.  By the very same token, when 97 percent of new emissions over the next two decades will come from the developing world, that is more than "an inconvenient truth" in our larger struggle.  It is a core issue.  By 2020 China’s emissions will be 40% larger than America’s.  It is inescapable that ultimately, the only workable way forward will be a global solution where all major emitters take on binding commitments.  

The developing world is already making enormous progress.   China has committed to a 40-45 percent carbon intensity reduction; Brazil has pledged a remarkable 80 percent cut in its all-important emissions from deforestation; and India too has broken new ground with an offer to cut its emissions intensity by 20-25 percent.  Yes, many would like to see more, and yes these commitments must be made part of an international agreement, but these countries’ decision to join in announcing targeted reductions is an historic breakthrough and they deserve our applause for getting this far. 

It is easy to get lost in the ups and downs of a week like this one.  Emotions run high.  While we may sometimes want to walk away from each other, none of us can truly afford to walk away from this problem. 

People strive for 17 years and succeed for one.  We need to trust the science.  We need to trust each other, put aside our grievances, focus on the bottom line and have the courage to take risks together and make Friday our day of success.

Read his full speech:

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