The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Kerry to Climate Change Summit Attendees, and Trump: ‘We Don’t Get a Second Chance’

Secretary Kerry addressed climate change negotiators Wednesday. But his real message was to Donald Trump.

By , a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.
marrakech
marrakech

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried Wednesday to soothe international climate change negotiators after last week’s surprise presidential election of Donald Trump. But his message was aimed at the president-elect himself.

In a speech to the COP-22 summit in Marrakech, Morocco, Kerry said the United States won’t abandon the landmark international climate change deal brokered in Paris last year -- even though Trump is openly skeptical of man-made climate change. “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,” Kerry said.

Trump’s Nov. 8 victory landed smack dab in the middle of the COP-22 summit, where government officials, business leaders, and experts from across the world held follow-on negotiations to the Paris deal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried Wednesday to soothe international climate change negotiators after last week’s surprise presidential election of Donald Trump. But his message was aimed at the president-elect himself.

In a speech to the COP-22 summit in Marrakech, Morocco, Kerry said the United States won’t abandon the landmark international climate change deal brokered in Paris last year — even though Trump is openly skeptical of man-made climate change. “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,” Kerry said.

Trump’s Nov. 8 victory landed smack dab in the middle of the COP-22 summit, where government officials, business leaders, and experts from across the world held follow-on negotiations to the Paris deal.

On the campaign trail, Trump openly called to cancel the climate change agreement, which would unravel one of the Obama administration — and Kerry’s — most high-profile legacies. Though the deal boasts nearly 200 signatories, its future without U.S. leadership is in question.

Yet Trump has already rolled back other pledges he made as a candidate, conceding his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border could just be a “partial fence” and saying he would keep parts of Obamacare. This trend could bode well for proponents of the climate change deal, who are worried Trump will stick to his campaign promise of abandoning the agreement.

Had Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, a staunch supporter of the Paris agreement, beat Trump, Kerry’s speech would have been more of a victory lap than a grave attempt to reassure nervous negotiators.

But she did not. And so Kerry’s ultimate message in Marrakech seemed to be directed at Trump.

“While I can’t stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue,” Kerry said, ostensibly to those in Marrakech, and perhaps to one soon to be very powerful man back in New York, “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.”

“Make no mistake, government leadership is absolutely essential,” he said. “We don’t get a second chance. The consequences of failure would in most cases be irreversible,” Kerry added.

Photo credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.