Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a major speech Wednesday at the U.N. climate summit, promising the United States would double its climate aid to $800 million a year by 2020 to help poorer nations prepare for the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed that the United States, European nations and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries have joined together to form a new negotiating bloc. The group, which U.S. chief negotiator Todd Stern has dubbed “the high ambition coalition,” reportedly first met in secret six months ago and does not include China or India. We speak with Bangladeshi climate scientist Saleemul Huq of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh for more on the talks.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from inside the COP. That’s inside COP21, conference of parties, of the U.N. climate change summit, as we turn now to the latest on negotiations here at the summit in Paris. Secretary of State John Kerry is, as we speak, delivering a major speech.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Now, I know there are still a few who insist that climate change is one big hoax, even a political conspiracy. My friends, these people are so out of touch with science that they believe rising sea levels don’t matter, because, in their view, the extra water is just going to spill out over the sides of a flat Earth. They’re wrong, obviously. For the benefit of those who may still question the 97 percent of peer-reviewed studies on climate change, let me just underscore: You don’t need to be a scientist to know that the Earth is round, that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that gravity is the reason that objects fall to the ground. You could pick a hundred different examples of simple things that happen every day that reflect science and determinations of science. And you don’t need to be a scientist, as some assert, to see that our planet is already changing in real, measurable and alarming ways.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s John Kerry, secretary of state of the United States, speaking here at the U.N. climate summit as we broadcast. He’s promised the U.S. would double its climate aid to $800 million a year by 2020 to help poorer nations prepare for the impact of climate change.
Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed the United States, European nations, as well as 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, have joined together to form a new negotiating bloc. The group reportedly first met in secret six months ago. Notably, the bloc does not include China or India. U.S. chief negotiator Todd Stern has dubbed the new bloc “the high ambition coalition.”
To make sense of where the talks stand right now, we’re joined by Bangladeshi climate scientist Saleemul Huq. He is with the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! We talk to you every summit, every December. Saleemul Huq, the significance of what Secretary of State John Kerry has just promised?
SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, I think Secretary of State John Kerry is an extremely knowledgeable person. I had the privilege of meeting him in Kyoto. And he has been following the negotiations and the climate change issue for very many years. And he gave what I thought was a master class in explaining the problem of climate change and the reason why we all have to work together. So, I found it a very encouraging speech.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how climate change has affected Bangladesh, your country.
SALEEMUL HUQ: Bangladesh, my country, is a country of 150 million people living in less than 150,000 square kilometers, which makes it one of the densest, as well as one of the poorest, countries in the world and also one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. And so, we are facing problems of climate change, from flooding to cyclones to even droughts, as we speak. And millions of people in Bangladesh are facing it. But we are also tackling it. We are not sitting idle. We are facing it, and we require assistance and support from the rest of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what does this “high ambition” group mean, that’s led by the United States, does not include China and India, if the U.S. says this cannot be binding, what comes out of Paris?
SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, we regard whatever comes out of Paris as an agreement by the leaders of the world. And that’s, as far as I’m concerned, as binding as we need it to be. If they agree to do something, then we expect them to abide by what they agree to do. And we’re hoping that the “high ambition coalition,” that they’ve dubbed themselves, is indeed high ambition.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me get a comment from you from Friends of the Earth. This is the group’s president, Erich Pica.
ERICH PICA: Two different sides, right? In the United States, the U.S. negotiating team is, you know, preserving President Obama’s legacy. You know, they’re pushing for an aggressive deal. They’re taking on China. They’re taking on India. But what the reality is within the negotiating center is that the United States is undermining all of those key points within a negotiating framework or agreement that provides for that moral responsibility. So instead of being the moral shining light that the United States has always proclaimed it is on the international world, we’re using backdoor negotiations and behind-the-scenes negotiations to surreptitiously undermine every instance where it proclaims our moral responsibility to be a leader and to do more than the rest of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth. Do you share his assessment of the role of the United States, Saleemul Huq?
SALEEMUL HUQ: No, I don’t. I think the United States is negotiating in good faith here. The announcement of the $800 million to support adaptation in the poorest and most vulnerable countries is a good sign. It’s not enough. We know that everything that is being said here is never going to be enough to keep the temperature down to one-and-a-half degrees, unless everybody steps up. And we believe everybody wants to do that. We just have to push them to make that happen.
AMY GOODMAN: What has to happen in this next two days?
SALEEMUL HUQ: From my point of view, I need to see that the long-term goal is one-and-a-half degrees centigrade and not 2 degrees, because the difference between those two is roughly 100 million poor people on planet Earth whom we will be writing off if we accept a 2-degree target or continue to keep the 2-degree target, which we have at the moment. That’s number one. Number two is financing the poorest countries, the most vulnerable countries, to the tune that has been agreed, in the tens of billions of dollars. They’re asking for 50 percent of the $100 billion to be allocated to adaptation in the poorest and most vulnerable countries to help them cope with the impacts. And number three is to have a very rapid decarbonization and rapid increase in renewable energy worldwide.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Saleemul Huq, climate scientist at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh.
And that does it for our show. I will be speaking on Friday night, December 11th, at The Place to B at 5 rue de Dunkerque, which is near the Gare du Nord here in Paris. It’s a public talk.