Posted by David Shafie
Senator John Kerry delivered an urgent and frank talk Wednesday, saying that “amateur hour is over; it’s time for science fact.” Despite the alarming tone, Kerry told a packed room that he expected the delegates to deliver an agreement on greenhouse gas emissions because of the constant dedication of those involved and “the urgency of the science.”
The former presidential candidate acknowledged that the U.S. “failed to lead” after the Rio Summit in 1992 and this setback has made it harder to reach a climate agreement. However, Kerry said that Congress and the Obama Administration were moving in the right direction. Since January, Kerry said, Congress has appropriated $80 million for investments in clean energy, and he named some of his Senate colleagues, who obstructed climate change legislation on behalf of the coal industry in the 1990s, who now support taking action to reduce carbon emissions.
Even before he addressed the conference, we noticed the Massachusetts senator moving frantically around the hall and visiting the section of the center where the delegation offices were housed. That Kerry would devote so much energy to this is no surprise. As the principal sponsor of the carbon cap-and-trade bill, passed by the House but stalled in the Senate, he has a lot riding on its success. He not only called upon the parties to act, but also spoke of the importance of trust. No doubt fearful that the stalled U.S. legislation might derail the Copenhagen talks, Kerry sought to reassure the delegates–and the audience beyond the hall–that the U.S. could be trusted to deliver after the Senate takes up the bill next Spring.
His talk seemed to be a call to action and a message of reassurance to other nations. After all, he said, the EPA’s recent finding that carbon dioxide is a threat to human health will serve as a “wake up call” to the Senate, which would likely force it to enact more favorable legislation to create a flexible program to reduce carbon emissions. The alternative, he said, would be strict command-and-control regulations that industry—and Congress—would hope to avoid. The EPA’s message was clear, according to Kerry: If you don’t legislate, we will regulate.