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John Kerry: "We Embrace Our Responsibility To Do Something" About Climate Change

The U.S. secretary of state announced Wednesday at the Paris climate talks that the U.S. will increase funding to fight climate change.

Posted on December 9, 2015, at 10:07 a.m. ET

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks meeting in Paris Wednesday.
Mandel Ngan / AP

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks meeting in Paris Wednesday.

PARIS — The United States is deeply committed to solving climate change and accepts its role in creating the problem, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday in a Paris suburb.

Kerry was speaking during the Paris climate talks, which are in their second week and aim to create a global solution to halt changes to the climate. The final agreement won't be done until later this week, but Kerry's speech offered glimpses into the major issues that matter to the U.S.

The United States accepts its role in creating climate change.

Early in his speech, Kerry announced the U.S. is joining the "High Ambition Coalition," which is a group of nations at the talks that is pushing for an "ambitious" agreement.

Kerry also said the U.S. "not only recognizes our role in creating some of this problem but we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."

However, while Kerry said the U.S. shares responsibility for the problems of climate change, the country is not alone in that responsibly and cannot solve the problems by itself. He also said the U.S. has made more cuts to its "total carbon pollution more than any other country on earth."

The U.S. view of climate change — and responsibility — is a major issue at negotiations because the U.S. is both a major polluter and a massive economy.

The U.S. is going to (financially) help other nations.

Kerry said that the U.S. will "double our public grant based investments by the year 2020." That will put U.S. investments at over $800 million.

"We are prepared to do our part and we will not leave the most vulnerable nations among us to quite literally weather the storm," he said.

Kerry also noted that numerous private American financial institutions have committed billions of dollars to research and development aimed at fighting climate change. Later he added, however, that the money for adapting to climate change has to come from the international community.

"No one country can solve this problem or foot the bill alone," Kerry said.

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Different goals for different countries.

One of the issues negotiators in Paris are wrestling with is how to ensure countries actually make progress. Kerry stressed Wednesday that there must be oversight, but that different countries require different approaches.

"Everyone does what they can coming out of Paris but no one is forced to do more than is possible," he said. "But they're has to be oversight. It's only fair to have higher ambitions for developed countries."

The comments seem to be in line with those made earlier this week by chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern, who said the system moving countries toward their goals should be legally binding, but the goals themselves should not.

Paris is the start, not the end, of the global fight against climate change.

Kerry said the U.S. wants an agreement "that endures" and "gets stronger over time."

"We came to Paris to build a floor on which we can and must continue to build," he added.

He also said that the targets for cutting emissions should "ratchet" up over time.

Reaction to the speech from activists was generally, but not universally, positive.

In a statement, the Sierra Club called Kerry's speech "another example of American leadership helping bring nations around the world together to tackle the climate crisis."

Activist group 350.org said Kerry "said what needs to be said," but added that "now we need the U.S. and the rest of the parties not just to say but to do, and to do boldly."

However, advocacy group Friends of the Earth called the funding increase a "mere drop in the bucket" and said the U.S. has not delivered on the ambitions Kerry outlined.

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