28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol

Secretary of State John Kerry addressing the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol that was held in Kigali, Rwanda.

Remarks by SecretaryJohn  Kerry at the Plenary of the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol

Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
October 14, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon everybody. I want to begin by thanking the president of this Meeting of the Parties, Minister Biruta, and the Government of Rwanda for the terrific job that they have done in hosting everybody all of this week here in beautiful Kigali.

I also want to thank the terrific administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – my friend, Gina McCarthy – and Ambassador Jennifer Haverkamp, who have been leading our team. And if you’ll permit me, I want to thank our entire team and all of the teams – everybody here has been working extraordinarily hard on this for a long period of time.

And therefore, I want to profoundly thank all of our international partners, without whom there is no multilateral effort, there is no accountability, there is no transparency, there is no effort. The delegations have all been working hard to ensure that we live up to our nations’ pledges that were made last fall in Dubai.

Now, nearly 30 years ago, the countries that we represent came together in Montreal around an agreement that fundamentally shifted the path that our planet was on. It was one of the earliest efforts. I was privileged to be elected to the United States Senate and go in 1985. We began working on this in 1986, ‘7, ‘8, ‘9 – ’87 passed; in 1989 it came into effect. I want you to just think of that – 28 times we have come together since that time in order to nurture and advance this incredibly daring and effective protocol. And with success, we have the ability to be able now once again to prove the value of multilateral work, the value of diplomacy, and the value of patience.

So thanks to the cooperation and the courage that we summoned at that critical time almost 30 years ago, the hole in the ozone layer – which had been growing at an alarming rate, and which was the reason that we came together – that hole is now shrinking, and it’s on its way to full repair.

So we proved that we can make a difference. We proved that science has a value. We proved that if we come together in a forum like this, we can actually do things that affect the entire planet.

Today, in Kigali, the parties to the Montreal Protocol are again called on to summon our shared commitment to the only planet that we have. And I can assure you, that in the 30 years’ time from now, our successors will look back and scrutinize, make judgments about the steps that we take or don’t take, fail to take at this time. The only question is whether or not they will be as proud of what we do now as we are of what our predecessors did three decades ago.

Now, everyone in this room is aware of how serious the stakes are. Everyone here knows about the reams of scientific evidence that is gathering by the day and by the week, all of it compounding to provide one of the most authoritative scientific cases we have ever seen with respect to things that happen on the planet, all of them detailing how catastrophic climate change could be for future generations. We all know that the window of time that we have to prevent the worst impacts from happening is in fact narrow, and it is closing fast. We see fires – there was a National Academy of Science report just the other day – fires lasting longer, fires of greater impact. We see drought lasting longer, happening more frequently. We see agriculture affected in country after country. We see flooding in places it hasn’t occurred. Five-hundred-year floods have become once every five years, 10 years. We all know that adopting an ambitious amendment to phase down the use and production of hydrofluorocarbons – or HFCs – is likely the single most important step that we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and protect the planet for future generations to come.

It is not often you get a chance to have a .5-degree centigrade reduction by taking one single step together as countries – each doing different things perhaps at different times, but getting the job done.

All of us here know that HFCs, which was supposed to be the solution, turned out not to be the solution. We replaced the ozone depleting substances, but we came to understand the hard way that HFCs may be safe for the ozone layer but they are disastrous for our climate, in many cases thousands of times more damaging than carbon dioxide. So today, the use of HFCs in everyday items like refrigerators and air conditioners is responsible for an entire gigaton of carbon dioxide equivalent pollution every single year. Put another way, in a single year, these substances emit as much CO2 equivalent as nearly 300 coal-fired power plants.

In Paris, the world set the goal of limiting the Earth’s warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Everybody here understands, and we have heard again and again, an ambitious HFC amendment is the single biggest thing we can do in one giant swoop, in one moment. Kigali can become the pace setter for Marrakesh and the pace setter for next year. That is how much our work here in Kigali matters. That is the responsibility that we share.

Now, obviously, I recognize that although approving the amendment that we seek is an essential step forward, it’s not an easy solution for some countries to decide to make. I understand that. Not easy for anybody to make fundamentally. Implementing it is a different process for each of our countries, and we need to respect that and we are. Some nations, including the United States, have already begun to phase down the use of HFCs, but others have not. And therefore, some of those countries have real concerns about the potential costs.

I believe that what we have done here in the workup to this amendment recognizes those differences, understands the differences, makes genuine efforts in order to try to deal with them by putting money on the table, by stretching out certain kinds of schedules, by dealing with baselines responsibly, and ultimately by having different freeze years that recognize what is genuinely possible.

But it is important for everybody here to remember that one of the reasons that the Montreal Protocol has worked so well is because it accounts for these differences. Cooperation is written right into the text of the agreement. No country has ever been expected to go it alone, and that is absolutely true under the HFC amendment of the type that we have proposed. No country is expected to go it alone. In fact, the multilateral fund exists with the sole purpose of assisting countries in implementing their obligations.

Last month I announced in New York that in order to help with the early stages of an ambitious HFC amendment, the United States and other donor countries intended to contribute an additional $27 million now, and I am confident as we go forward that more money will be produced, but that is the amount that we will produce immediately into the fund in 2017. And because we all recognize that governments aren’t going to do this all by themselves, a dozen donors from philanthropic and private sector community announced that they, too, are going to contribute, and they pledged at least another $50 million if we are successful.

Now, I remember a very late night in Paris when people were agitating and some people were worried that somehow the differentiation because of common and differentiated wasn’t being acknowledged enough. Well remember, that has never been part of the Montreal Protocol discussion. Never. That is not the standard we have ever applied. But nevertheless, in Paris we passed the most differentiated agreement ever in history. How can I say that? Because it’s true. Every single country came to Paris with its own plan designed by itself with a review process that is not accountable under the law, so it’s open to everybody’s application.

Well, here it’s the same thing. We have countries coming in that are prepared to start in 2021. We are and we will, but we know we can’t hold everybody to that. So other countries will start at a later time with a different baseline, and other countries perhaps even different from that. We understand that. That’s why we have a group 1 and a group 2, and we’re working through these things. But no country has a right to turn its back on this effort and to forget about the meaning of a multilateral effort where the world is looking to us to try to literally save this planet from what we ourselves have chosen to do with respect to how we power our energy and what we have done for more than 150 years or more.

I don’t think there’s any question at all that every single person here, every negotiator, every country represented is here because everybody is committed to progress. I believe that. And we have been working towards this goal for some time now. Many of you have put in more long days and nights than you ever imagined you were going to. In fact, we’ve been working towards this day for those full 28 years, folks, but particularly towards this meeting and this amendment and this effort for quite some period of time.

I came to Kigali for the same reason that I came to Vienna last July: because I don’t want anybody to have the least doubt whatsoever about the commitment of the United States to try to make this happen, to invest in these negotiations and to invest in the outcomes, to continue to lead in order to help put technical assistance, resources, money, and intellectual property, and all of the effort that we can to help countries be able to cross this line. We are willing to work with all of you to make possible a meaningful outcome.

And I want to emphasize: That meaningful outcome is not some pie-in-the-sky dream out there that’s yet to be defined. It’s not some intangible, yet to be defined technology or something that we don’t know how to do. It’s not.

I just came from Silicon Valley; I went out there three or four days ago for the simple reason I wanted to hear what they’re doing. I wanted to sit at the table with all of the young start-ups and all of the creative energy that’s going into finding the solutions for battery storage, for new refrigerants, for new heat transmission – all of these kinds of things that we’re working on. And I tell you, I came away so confident, so excited about what is happening and what will happen. It is clear that businesses are already moving as rapidly as possible to deliver energy in a less expensive, more efficient, modern, and effective way.

And last year – think about this – investment in renewable energy was at an all-time high – $348 billion was invested. And for the first time in history, despite the low price of oil, gas, and coal, more of the world’s money was spent fostering renewable energy technologies than on new fossil fuel plants. That’s the transformation that we’re in the middle of. And costs for these technologies continue to plummet. I think it was Argentina recently just letted a contract for 2.99 cents for solar per kilowatt hour. Saudi Arabia letted a contract for 3 cents per kilowatt hour for solar. I am absolutely convinced that Moore’s Law, the law of technology, about what happens when you begin down a road is going to take over, and there’s no question whatsoever. The marketplace is going to decide this, folks.

And I’ll tell you what – it’s 2016, right? The first baselines don’t even begin until 2019, 2020, 2021. Then you go to ‘24, ‘23, ‘24, ‘25, ‘26 and some out into later – 10 years in this world of technology is a lifetime, many lifetimes.

And the fact is that if we continue to remember the high stakes for every country on Earth, the global transition to a clean energy economy is going to accelerate. It is going to drive a virtuous cycle of greater innovation, greater investment, greater productivity, cheaper products, faster compliance with all of what we’re trying to do.

So I say to you clearly and I say without any doubt: Bet on the future. Don’t hedge against the future here. Bet on the future of the planet and bet on the future of human ingenuity. And believe me, I tell you, the message that we sent out of Paris is what sent the signal that has created the kind of investment figures that I just quoted. Wait until you see what happens with investment if we send a powerful message from Kigali about this particular effort.

This is a time for leadership. And everybody here is a leader in this effort.

Again and again, we have gone beyond the targets that we set for ourselves in the Montreal Protocol. Remember that. We’ve consistently beaten the targets and we’ll beat these targets. If we’re going to adopt an amendment this year, we need to conclude negotiations on a level of ambition in the coming hours. And if we’re going to give this amendment the teeth that it needs to prevent as much a half a degree of warming, then we need to make sure that we are pushing the most far-reaching amendment that we can adopt. Every week, every day that we are able to move up the freeze dates, or every hour we’re able to accelerate our phasedown schedules – every bit of HFC production and consumption that we can reduce all makes a difference.

Adopting the Paris Agreement was a clear signal to the world – and particularly the private sector – this is where governments in every corner of the globe are going. Governments in every corner of the globe finally understand the true magnitude of the challenge and what it means to global security – security, folks. We’re going to see climate refugees. We already have the greatest refugee crisis we’ve had since World War II, but we are going to see – we already see some climate refugees and we will see more.

If you think there’s a challenge to provide food for some people, just think of the challenge for those people who think they found a place where they can produce the food and it all changes, because the lack of water, the increased heat. That’s what we’re facing. The fact is that real security is at stake in this, because if people have food problems and water problems and refugee problems, then we all have problems with countering violent extremism and managing our economies.

So if we can adopt an ambitious HFC amendment here in Kigali, the message is going to be underscored the same way that it was in Paris, and it will demonstrate to the private sector just how serious we are, and that will immediately move capital into finding the solutions to this problem. Why? Because people will make money, because there are revenue streams for energy, for refrigerators, for air conditioning.

In the end, what we do here today is actually about much more than just one amendment. It’s about much more than the Montreal Protocol. It’s about whether we have actually woken up as a world in a meaningful way to the harsh reality of climate change.

We’ve known about this threat for decades now. But for a long time, we have allowed countries to be divided into certain kinds of fault lines – rich and poor, north and south, industrialized and developing. And those divisions prevented us for years from achieving any meaningful progress. And so I can remember from the day I went to Rio in 1992 to the follow-on conferences in Bueno Aires, the Kyoto efforts we made, all the way to Copenhagen and that failure, and then the passage in Paris. We lost years in this effort. We delayed action and the challenge grew and it became harder and harder to overcome. And every year that we wait here, it will become more expensive and it will become more demanding.

But then we found a way to go forward. We turned the corner. We removed many of the hurdles that had been blocking the road to progress. And because of the unprecedented cooperation that was built among so many different nations – there are almost 200 here – because of that, we were able to achieve the most inclusive, the most ambitious global climate agreement in history.

In the time since, as I mentioned, we’ve all seen the evidence of growing need for a collective commitment to action. Last week, we actually crossed a remarkable threshold. That was to bring the Paris Agreement into force this year, far quicker than most people imagined that we could.

So, my friends, we have hours left here, into the wee hours, no doubt. But today, our commitment is being tested yet again, and we have to prove ourselves yet again. I will tell you that – excuse me – having been part of those many other years of meetings, I actually come to Kigali more confident than ever that we have the knowledge, we have the ability, we have the solutions – some yet to be fully defined, but we are on the cusp of one of the greatest revolutions in the history of humankind. And I believe our community of nations finally understands the magnitude of what we are up against. I believe we’ve all learned that none of our nations, not one of us, is equipped to deal with this generational task all by ourselves. And I believe we all recognize that it is time to meet this global threat with all of the seriousness and all of the purpose and all of the commitment that it demands, and to do what we must do to urgently meet this need now, and to do so boldly.

So I say to everybody here, let’s get this job done, just as we did in Paris. Let’s do it the way we did, let’s get it done in the next few hours, let’s move forward, and together, I think we can leave here with pride in the foundation we have laid for the greatest change our planet has ever seen in how we energize and service our marketplaces, and most importantly, live up to our obligation to protect the future for the future.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)