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Kerry: World Laughing and Crying at U.S. Climate Policy. Aired 2- 2:30p
Aired December 25, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AMANPOUR: Good evening everyone and welcome to the program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Looking at some of the highlights of the year; tonight
climate change in the Trump era, perhaps President Trump's positions on climate and trade are the starkest indications of his America First Policy
where he's pulling back and even isolating the United States on the global stage. The winner though by a long shot is China, which is only too happy
to step into the void. And even before Trump's inauguration last January, President Xi Jinping for the very first time attended the Capitalist Mecca
talking shop in Davos Switzerland and he became to assume the mantle of world leadership.
XI JINPING (through translator): Say no to protectionism. Protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room, while wind and rain are kept outside,
so are light and air.
AMANPOUR: Well those are stunning words from the leader of a one-party Communist State and barely six months after his inauguration President
Trump said that he would pull America out of the Global Climate Accord,
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists
that have long sought to gain wealth at our country's expense. They don't put America first.
AMANPOUR: The very next day, I would speak to the top diplomat who was a driving force behind the agreement, the former US Secretary of State, John
Kerry, on behalf of all of our children. Indeed he had his granddaughter on his lap when he signed the Paris Accord at the UN. He was as angry as I'd
ever seen him.
JOHN KERRY: President Trump clearly is trying to appeal to a very narrow base, shoring up his base; it's clear to me that this is more political
because it can't be substantive. There is no fact cited on which -- and no science cited, much of what he said with respect to the economic argument
is simply not true.
AMANPOUR: Well let me ask you that; let me ask you that because he -- let me ask you specifically because there were lots of claims flung around in
this briefing just now. First of all the world is laughing at us, he said those countries who are expressing disappointment today are doing so
because they want to put the United States at an economic disadvantage and that also matches what the president said, that the world is laughing at us
because of these deals. So I ask you, did you negotiate a laughable deal that puts the United States in an economic disadvantage?
KERRY: If the world is laughing today, it's also crying; it's a laughing crying at the President of the United States who clearly doesn't know what
he's talking about. He really is ignorant on the issue of climate change and regrettably the world is going to pay a price because American
leadership is important on this; it took us years of work and leadership by the United States working very specifically with China. I mean I would ask
Donald Trump, does he think that President Xi, President Macron that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Chancellor of Germany don't know what
they're talking about? Are they stupid? Is he accusing them of somehow buying into a hoax? This is one of the most cynical and frankly ignorant
and dangerous, self destructive steps that I've seen in my entire lifetime in public life.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Obviously China is stepping into the void it's already publically this weak sign that you planned an alliance with
the E.U. What does that mean as China steps into the leading role that the U.S. had?
KERRY: Well it means that they are going to have an opportunity to sell their goods, an opportunity to be able to advance their technology. They
will have the full support that they have anyway because it's a government enterprise in many respects, but they will be pushing the curve of
technology where the federal government of The United States because of President Trump's decision will be lagging.
AMANPOUR: President Trump's decision unnerved his European allies who had waiting decades to finally get the U.S. on board. The newly elected French
President Emmanuel Macron seemed to sum up their feelings when he literally gave Trump the cold shoulder as he swerved away from him at their first
NATO summit heading straight for his fellow plant crusader the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Macron drove the point home to America in
English with a page right out of Trump's playbook.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: To all scientists and Chinese entrepreneurs responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of
the President of The United States I want to say that they will find in France a second (continent). I call on them, come and work here with us.
Where is it we (live), who is that we are? We all share the same responsibility. Make our planet great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The view from America's oldest ally and right from the start Macron demonstrated a willingness to stand up to President Trump when he
challenged him to this hands on version of a dual, the white knuckle handshake. I asked Macron about his conversations with Trump when he sat
down with me for his very first interview as President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACRON: This is the first - this argument is very well known, it's about climate. As President Trump decided to leave The Paris Agreement, I mean
that's his choice and I have to respect his choice and he was elected on the basis of such a decision, that I do regret these decisions and I do
want the conversion to back to the (segremen) because for me that's the core agreement for climate.
And I do believe that especially after these hurricanes we just had both in the U.S. and in France. We do see the direct consequences of CO2 emissions
and of this climate change. We have to fight against this climate change and we need the global modernization for that. So, we had a disagreement on
this issue, but I will keep pushing. We have direct decision yesterday. We will implement Paris Agreement on our own at the French level, but the
European level as well.
We have a strong agreement with the Chinese and the (inaudible) and I think it's very important to preserve there's (inaudible) at our (inaudible). And
now that's an issue for the U.S. itself. To see what they want to do and what President Trump wants to do with climate, but we have to deal with
AMANPOUR: The President says this is a bad deal we can get a better deal. It's bad for the economy, it's bad for the climate, it's bad for The United
States. What do you say when he says that to you?
MACRON: I mean first of all it's not bad for the climate, for climate and environment definitely. And especially if he decides to leave it will be
worse because the U.S. is a very good completer in terms of CO2 emissions. So, that's an issue. And if you don't fix the situation in the U.S. you are
not credible to tell the others what they have to do. And you have the consequences of the situation. So no, this agreement is not bad for
climate, it's wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And you can watch the rest of that interview at Amanpour.com. Now to understand just how far President Trump's decision is leading America
behind, I spoke to Christiana Figueres. She was the U.N. official in charge of passing the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. Now she's out of office
and she told me that market forces are more powerful than politics and no where is that more clear than in India and China which are making strides
often at America's expense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, FORMER U.N. CLIMATE CHIEF: I think that what were beginning to see and we may see it at the (G20) is the beginning of let's
say a dissonance between the political discourse on one hand that is being to a certain extent defined by The United States and the real economy.
And so that - this and is this possible that over the next three years or so we may see that dissonance or that gap grow but what is important to
understand about that gap is that just because the political discourse is stuck some place doesn't mean that the real economy's not moving forward.
In fact, I think that most important ship what has occurred in climate is that we are beyond politics and ideology. We're not into the real economy,
we're into the technologies, we're into the prices, we're into the market forces and that is why I think many people are saying, well, we will - it's
OK whatever happens in politics.
The fact is, where the exponential progress is occurring is in the read economy and that's the one that really counts.
AMANPOUR: Polls are showing that a rapidly developing majority or ordinary republicans, ordinary voters are on board with the private funds -
FIGUERES: Fifty-one percent of the way -
AMANPOUR: Exactly, and that's really important - including republicans, that's very, very important. However, not republican leaders as I was
saying. At least not many of them.
FIGUERES: Obviously, you could attempt to deny the science of gravity but it doesn't really diminish the gravitational pull on you or on me. The best
evidence is idea, OK, because everybody thought OK, India's going to lie behind - no. India has come forward and they have said you know what, under
Paris, we put in a pledge that we would be at 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Now, because solar is cheaper in India than coal. Now, India has upped up it's predictions and they're saying, we're going to be not at 40 but at 60
percent renewable and by the way, now by 2030 but 3 years earlier, 2027.
AMANPOUR: And China.
FIGUERES: And China. Closing coal plants, putting on more electric zero mission electric vehicles that anyone else, five million over the next
three years. Investing in a huge charging station infrastructure in China and really moving forward, in fact even intellectually and from an
analytical point of view really contributing to the devolving practice of green finance because they understand that this is their competitive edge.
AMANPOUR: Enlightenment on this issue may have come to India and China. But in America, President Trump continued to disappoint allies by appointing
Scott Pruitt to run the environmental protection agency. A man who made his career out of fighting and suing that very agency.
So before we move on, let's be clear about one thing. Thirteen federal agencies in the U.S. this Autumn concluded that human activity is the
dominant reason our earth is warming. The report says that sea levels have rising seven to eight inches since 1900 and nearly half of that rise has
come since 1993.
Carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in three million years and the effects are with us now. This year, we've seen the impact of extreme
weather especially in the United States where hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria have devastated the Caribbean, Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Wild fires ravaged California, the vast majority of Americas now say climate change is happening and weather related disasters are becoming more
severe. But that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from waging a war on science from within.
When we saw French President Emmanuel Macron inciting American climate scientists to continue their work in France, he had people like Joel
Clement in mind, a top climate scientist at the U.S. Interior Department until July.
JOEL CLIMENT, FORMER UNITED STATES CLIMATE SCIENTIST: I was reassigned, I believe in retaliation for the work that I was doing to address the health
and safety risks that climate change presets to the Alaskan native communities on the edge of a melting arctic.
AMANPOUR: And just remind us exactly what you were doing then and what you're doing right now.
CLIMENT: At the time, I was organizing the federal engagement with this issue, it's a very complicated issue trying to bring these folks who live
on very narrow spits of land, narrow spits of permafrost that is melting and no longer protected by the sea ice so they're one big storm away from
That's what I was working on, now I've been reassigned to that accounting office that collects royalty income form the oil and gas industry.
AMANPOUR: Oh my goodness. I mean, it's kind of allele in that, royalty's from the oil and gas industry, OK, so from you perspective, what's
happening? We se people being fired, we see people being reassigned but what actual practical effect is that happening or will it have on the
CLIMENT: Well, we're seeing several effects already and that's why I raised the plate of the Alaskan natives, those villages are really one step away
from refugee status. But also, what are the implications from the opioid Crisis or National Security, diplomacy, when you are moving the subject
matter experts and the scientists, so systematically in ongoing way away from the agencies, it's troubling. And it's troubling to a lot of us that
work in the Civil Services and we are committed to the Civil Service (so) (that) (better) experts and scientist really make it tick.
So, it's troubling as an American, I am very concerned because there is likely to be greater risks to health and safety to Americans.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST AND CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are some bright spots. Committed Americans who argue that however President
Trump wants to withdrawal America from the global stage, one simple fact remains, adopting clean energy makes economic since.
At the forefront, is billionaire business man and former New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. We spoke about the dollars and cents of all this in New
York along with Carl Pope. He's the former Director the environment group, the Sierra Club. And together, they have written "Climate of Hope".
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: This issue, it is a local issue much more than a national or a state issue. Most of the people, 50 percent
of the public, maybe more, live in cities and that's where the pollution comes from because they're the ones that use the energy, the plants
producing the energy put into the air. They're the ones that have to face issues like crime and education and traffic and economic opportunities are
done at the city level.
And so, in this case, because of that the Federal Government has not really had much to do with the America's success in reducing carbon in the air and
green houses gases. The state governments haven't had much success. It's really been done by local governments, we have (publican) talk to the Mayor
or the City Council directly and say, clean up this air. I want it done today and they have to listen. Or, it's done by the private sector. You and
I, who want to drive more fuel efficient cars or paint our roofs white so that it reflects off the sun and reduces our cost.
Or, at these corporate level because corporations want to be environmentally friendly, it helps recruiting people, it makes them happy
employees, it makes for happy customers and most importantly, big investors want to invest companies that are environmentally friendly. So, that's
where the problems are and that's where the solutions are.
AMANPOUR: So Carl Pope, you know that the President and those who are against the idea of regulation on climate, saying, it's bad for American
business. But, you just heard and we know that the stats show that actually, it's a really, you know, moving, gang busters kind of business.
CARL POPE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE SIRERRA CLUB AND ENVIRONMENTALIST: Well, it is the biggest economic opportunity in the 21st Century. And, it's that
in the United States, it's that India, it's that in Europe, It's that in China. Globally, twenty years form now will be using entirely different
technology than we see today.
And prosperity will belong to those countries and those companies that figure out how to do that first. So, for example, Donald Trump comes along,
he say's. Oh, Barack Obama wanted to clean up power plants, I don't, I will appeal (the) rule. That, he might be able to do, he might be able appeal
the rule but (Reuters) went out and asked twenty of the most cold dependant public utilities, does this make any difference in what you're doing and
only one of them said, it made a little bit of difference. The rest said, we don't plan around presidential elections; we plan for twenty, thirty
In twenty or thirty years, we're going solar, we're going to wind, companies like Anheuser-Busch, America's biggest beer manufacturer, has
announced that all the electricity will come from (red oaks).
AMANPOUR: What about when people say, oh well, we're doing all this, we're, you know, controlling our carbon and putting in regulations? What about
India, what about China, they're the (big) solution?
BLOOMBERG: The truth of the matter is those countries are doing even more than we're doing. Why, because they have a much bigger problem. You see
pictures of not being able to see across the streets in the big cities in China and India. And, their governments cannot survive unless they do
something because the people are saying, wait a second, I have to wear a mask, my kids are going to the hospital with asthma attacks, people are
telling me that I am going to come down with stomach cancer because the water is not clean. And so, those governments have to do something.
Now, they have bigger problems than we do. They're three, four, five times the size of America. They have antiquated infrastructures; they have an
awful lot of old plants that are more of polluting than the newer plants but never the less, China has already cancelled the building of more
qualified power plants than we have in this country.
Pope: Coal is so uncompetitive that the coal mining museum in Eastern Kentucky proudly announced that it had converted to solar power to save
(VIDEO CLIP END).
AMANPOUR: But, the Trump Administration thinks that fossil fuels will be with us a long time to come. So, by the end of the year, when world leaders
gather to celebrate the second anniversary of the landmark climate agreement, President Trump was not invited. Instead, earlier he had sent
fossil fuel executives to Europe to plead his case.
HOLLY KRUTKA, PEABODY ENERGY REPRESENTATIVE: Coal and other fossil fuels will help achieve the U.N. sustainable goals like insuring access to
affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. I think the question and the discussion today needs to be not about if we will use coal
AMANPOUR: Now that did not go down very well in the room, but there was an alternate American delegation at that summit led by the former Vice
President Al Gore and the Governor of California Jerry Brown, who warned the America First agenda in fact risks putting America last.
JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Well it is a paradox that by espousing America First, President Trump is risking having America last or if not
last, a second or third or fourth or fifth. The climate change, along with some other key risks is existential, is taking increasingly the center
stage. And, if America is going to be AWOL, absent, then others will occupy the field. And certainly China with its size, it's wealth, and it's
political commitment is in a position to marginalize America's role, not just in climate change but trade and with other relations. So, it's one
thing to stand up for American workers and stand up for our country, but we are part of the big world and it is very important that our national
leadership recognize that and forge the agreements on trade and climate change that the rest of the world expects from a great power as the United
States is. It's not something you just can ignore. We're looking at starvation, disruption, mass migrations, the spread of diseases, and this
is coming and they're irreversible tipping points that the scientists, not the politicians, are warning us about. And the (inaudible) program that is
being espoused from Washington under the Republicans and under Trump, it is an outrage. It's, it's deviant to the world norm, no one takes it
seriously. It's such an absurdity.
AMANPOUR: Can I broaden it out a little bit Governor Brown because you've been very prominent in the sort of so called resistance springing up to
Donald Trump around United States.
BROWN: We're fighting for fiscal rectitude. We're fighting for environmental sanity. We're fighting for immigration, humanity, and
generosity in so many different ways. But I don't see it so much as a resistance as I see it as action being taken at this level of government.
And we will carry the ball until finally Washington wakes up and we get the kind of leadership that is consistent with the problems that America and
the rest of the world is facing.
AMANPOUR: Around this time China's President was wrapping up his party congress with an extraordinary coming out of his own. It was finally time
he said, 68 years since the Communist revolution that China assume global leadership on these issues.
XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through interpreter): It will be an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater
contributions to mankind. Openness brings progress while self seclusion leaves one behind.
AMANPOUR: While back amongst European allies, in Holland climate and rising seas are not abstract thoughts as much of the country is below sea level.
And the (inaudible) have been protecting it for hundreds of years, now they're exporting that knowledge. Henk Ovink is the country's first ever
special envoy for international water affairs and he weighed in with practical advice after Hurricane Harvey flooded much of Houston.
HENK OVINK, DUTCH CABINET SPECIAL ENVOY FOR INTERNATIONAL WATER AFFAIRS FOR THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS: First we have to protect ourselves with
dams, dikes and levees, natural solutions, any type of measurements. Second, we have to plan our cities for the future for those uncertainties
that come with climate change. More extremes will hit us harder and more severe and we have to plan our cities for that. And third, response. Now in
the United States you would see the last one being there-a collective effort to help when the disaster happens, but that is not the way to go. We
should not respond to the disasters that happen to us, we have to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future.
AMANPOUR: Well so give us a few actual concrete examples of what should have been in terms of instructure (pf) done differently.
OVINK: Houston is a city that is, has only hard in surface. There is no capacity to hold any rain and especially not in these amounts. If we look
at the rivering (pf) system, it's totally urbanized or channeled up so there's no room for the river to actually hold more excessive rains. If you
look at the coastline of Texas and we've done studies with the TU Delft and other research institute like Deltares in the Netherlands and engineering
firms like Arcatas and Royal Haskoning on how to enforce the coastline with natural barriers and increasing those barriers, but nothing is in place.
So, on protection as well as in storing the water and holding it and letting it go in a better flow than only having this massive amount, this
is one. The other, of course, is critical infrastructure in your hospitals, your emergency shelters, your energy supply, they're all in vulnerable
places and therefore hit first and hardest. And then the system breaks up, your city breaks up.
And I have to say the latter too, poor people live in poor places all over the world and you see it again happening in Houston, where the most
vulnerable are not only hit hardest because they are in the worst place, they will also have the hardest time to get back on their feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, nowhere is the fragility of human existence on earth more visible than from space. Astronaut, Scott Kelly, had plenty
of time to contemplate our planet during the full year he spent orbiting aboard the International Space Station.
He spent more time in space than any other American and he gave me his perspective once he landed right back on earth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT KELLY, AMERICAN ASTRONAUT AND ENGINEER: We have a beautiful planet. We should be very, very -- we should feel very fortunate, but parts of it
are visibly polluted from space. And now we are a lone in the world as the -- not only the most powerful and the richest nation on earth, but the only
one that denies climate change.
And I, personally, think that everyone should have the right to have their own opinion. What I have a hard time understanding is, when you are not a
scientist, when you are not a climatologist, for you to somehow say, well those 97 percent of the experts that have studied this issue their whole
lives, they're all wrong and me, with no experience in this issue, with no background, with no understanding, I am right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's it for our program tonight and remember you can listen anytime to our podcast. See us online at amanpour.com and follow me on
Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.