Kerry: Public Shaming is ‘Most Powerful Weapon in Many Ways’ to Enforce World Climate Agreement

December 13, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that international shame and condemnation is "the most powerful weapon in many ways" to ensure countries comply with the newly-signed climate change accord reached in Paris, which is meant to lower greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Kerry defended the merits of the climate agreement, but host Chuck Todd challenged him on how the deal will be implemented.

"There's a lot of pledges. There's a lot of promises. But there seems to be no mechanism for getting countries to comply other than wagging your finger at them and shaming them. Am I wrong?" Todd asked.

"Well that's the most powerful weapon in many ways," Kerry replied, "but it's not the only weapon. And, in fact, we think that there are other powerful weapons."

Kerry said President Obama has been able to move action on climate change in the United States not just by enforcement mechanisms but also "by setting policy," which he says took place in Paris with this agreement.

"Here we set policy," Kerry said, with 186 countries each submitting their own proposal to reduce emissions based on their capabilities.

Kerry then cited a "mandatory, legally binding reporting mechanism," which requires participant countries to update their plans every five years so they can meet the deal's goals and do more if necessary.

"People understand this issue," Kerry said. "This is not a question of just doing it because it seems nice or politically it's good. It's because it's [climate change] having a profoundly  negative impact on nations. They need to respond, and that's perhaps the most compelling reason of all."

Todd pushed Kerry on what exactly will happen if a country does not fully adhere to the agreement.

"Okay, so somebody doesn't comply. Again, what's this law that you're going to hit them with, other than international shame?" Todd asked.

Kerry explained that a mechanism is being set up under the framework of the agreement "that will promote compliance," in which nations will help "bring them on board."

"You don't always need a sledgehammer," Kerry said. "If you can provide people with technology, or you provide them with technical assistance, or you've discovered a new means of reducing least cost, more efficiency, there will be a huge sharing of these kinds of experiences through the reporting mechanism of the agreement. And that's going to have a profound impact on a lot of countries, Chuck."

Kerry admitted that all of this is not necessarily enough "to get us there," but it will "send a powerful message to the global marketplace." He said on Fox News Sunday that there would not have been a deal at all if there were actual penalties for not meeting emissions standards.

Kerry said it is expected that the world will invest about $50 trillion into energy over the next 30 or 40 years, and that will be one of the main factors causing countries to "spontaneously move in this direction, because there's jobs to be created, money to be made, and there's a population to respond to in terms of the demand of their citizens."