Kerry: Copenhagen Could Change the Global Warming Debate

The Massachusetts senator says a “verifiable” agreement could have broad implications.

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How might the outcome of Copenhagen impact what Congress does in the next few months?

It can be very influential. If Copenhagen comes up with an agreement in which the less-developed, major-emitter countries—India, China, Brazil, Mexico—join up, if you have the major developing countries as part of this agreement, so that you've covered the vast majority of the countries contributing to global climate change, then you really have an ability to change the dynamics of this debate. As long as what they do is verifiable and measurable and reportable, we will have an ability to know what the other person is doing, and they will have an ability to know what we're doing. That way you can really measure where you are heading in an effective way and hold people accountable for their actions. I think it can be very helpful if they step up there.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that greenhouse gases are a danger to human health. That means the EPA could begin regulating them. How does the EPA's finding affect the climate debate?

It does two things: It sends a message to the folks in Copenhagen that the Obama administration is serious about continuing to proceed on this, and they have the administrative power to do it. No. 2, it sends a message to members of Congress that if they want assistance for their companies, for their consumers, for the transition costs, all these other things, they are better off sitting at the table and working it out with Congress than they are with the regulators telling them, here's what you have to do, because they won't have any of that other assistance to help them, if that's the case.

Are you optimistic that Copenhagen will actually produce a real agreement?

I am hopeful. I am very hopeful that Copenhagen is going to seize this moment and that there will be a political agreement that is binding to the countries who sign it, and it is going to have real targets and real reductions that people are signing up to. I am very hopeful. That to me is a very big success, if they come out of Copenhagen with that, in the form I've described, with the adequate verification and reporting and so forth.

  • See photos from the Copenhagen climate summit.
  • See the Top 5 Issues at Copenhagen.
  • See 10 Animals Threatened by Global Warming.
  • See more coverage of Copenhagen.