The Cable

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.


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 staff writer at Foreign Policy@RobbieGramer

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