Kerry: Americans Won’t Elect a President Who is Not Committed to Climate Accord

By Patrick Goodenough | December 13, 2015 | 7:17 PM EST

Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations climate change conference near Paris on Saturday, Dec.12, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

( – Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he does not believe that “the American people, who predominantly do believe in what is happening with climate change,” will elect a president who does not “understand climate change” or is not committed to the type of global agreement reached in Paris.

“I think, frankly, a lot of members of Congress are on the wrong side of history, and I don’t believe you can be elected president of the United States if you don’t understand climate change and you’re not committed to this kind of a plan,” Kerry told ABC’s “This Week” from Paris, where delegates at the weekend approved a new global climate accord.

Host George Stephanopoulos noted that Republican presidential candidates have “vowed to undo the president’s [climate-related] executive actions.”

“Well, I think it’s irrelevant,” Kerry said, in a comment barely audible on the video clip but reflected in the State Department transcript.

“So if President Obama’s successor is against it, will it unravel?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Well, obviously, if a Republican were elected and they have the ability by executive order to undo things, the answer is yes,” Kerry replied.

“But that’s why I don’t believe the American people, who predominantly do believe in what is happening with climate change – I don’t think they’re going to accept as a genuine leader someone who doesn’t understand the science of climate change and isn’t willing to do something about it.”

Asked about the vocal opposition in Congress to the deal reached in Paris, Kerry underlined the administration’s leadership in getting the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters – China and the U.S. – to join in pledging reductions, spurring “184 other countries to step up.”

“So this is significant. I mean, what do – what do the members of Congress think when leaders of major countries around the world are actually stepping up to do these things? These are not – these guys aren’t making up the science or the plans to do it.”

In an earlier press availability in Paris Kerry was even more categorical about the chances of a president who does not embrace the climate agenda, saying that a candidate “who doesn’t understand the science and isn’t prepared to do for the next generations what we did here today and follow through on it cannot and will not be elected president of the United States. It’s that simple.”

Asked in that briefing how the Paris accord would “survive this presidential election,” Kerry said, “it’s going to survive by electing a president who understands this and is committed to it. That’s how it survives.”

As far as congressional opposition before the end of the current presidency goes, Kerry suggested in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that President Obama would veto any attempts to block his climate initiatives.

“Congress does have the power of the purse, and they could prevent your – they could prevent the federal government, despite any executive action, from using money to participate in this,” said program host Chuck Todd.

“If they do that, do you ask the president to veto that bill?”

Kerry responded that Obama was heavily invested in the new climate accord because he “believes this is a major challenge to our country.”

“So if people want to tempt the president’s veto, I really believe they do so inviting him to take the steps that he will do to protect what he believes is a critical, urgent national security issue for our country,” he said.

“And the president, as you know, has been able to secure money for critical programs on the basis of the fact that there is that check and balance between the Congress and the executive. So I think the president’s going to stand up for his program no matter what.”

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow