Remarks at a Meeting on the Outcome of the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

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Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 15, 2015

Thank you. It’s great to be here and to hear these briefings. So it is the Christmas season, [and] I have two children, one six and one three. And by pure coincidence – having nothing to do with the Paris Agreement or this briefing – I, who have been listening to a lot of Bing Crosby with my kids lately, was taking my son to school this morning, and neither of us were wearing our winter coats. Because why would we be? It’s only December 15! And my son said, “Mommy, are we ever going to have a White Christmas?”

You all should be so proud of what you have done for our kids and for our grandkids.

I want to congratulate you, Mr. Secretary-General. You’ve been banging the drum on this, gathering people together before they were ready to come together, making people who didn’t agree understand that they had to find a way to agree. It’s extremely moving. This is a turning point in history. And it’s a turning point so that we can look our kids and our grandkids in the face.

I think there is also a lesson – I was just talking to Antonio Patriota from Brazil – Brazil played such a constructive role. I love the idea of the “high-ambition coalition.” We should have more “high-ambition coalitions” all over the world on all issues. The “high-ambition coalition” became a coalition of everyone, in the end, who came together. And I’m incredibly grateful, Francois, to President Hollande. Again, as Antonio said, there were people just a few weeks ago saying, “Could Paris do it? Could you pull it off? Would people come together? Would heads of state even show up?” And President Hollande, as he has done throughout this process, just kept his eye on the essential target – the other existential threat that we face, because there are two. And France executed brilliantly. By all accounts, the work of Foreign Minister Fabius, the President himself at critical junctures, and your whole team was phenomenal.

The only last thing I’d say is that it goes without saying, that implementation is everything – as it is on everything we do here in any part of the UN system. As hard as it is to reach that kind of consensus – and for those of you who were involved in those all-night sessions, I know it must have seemed that light may have been at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel was very, very long. As hard as that seems, implementation is harder because the politics are hard and people in politics want to privilege the short-term over the long-term again and again and again. And what’s so important is [this was] the private sector, citizens, governments, and civil society who will hold us all accountable. It will not be easy – it shouldn’t be easy – to meet our targets. It shouldn’t be easy, or they wouldn’t be important targets. And those communities that you called out, Mr. Secretary-General, are the communities whose ongoing vigilance and involvement – who see themselves as part of implementation and not just accountability for implementation, though both. Those communities’ engagement is going to be absolutely essential.

So I thank all of you. I thank all the countries here, on behalf of President Obama. I was with him yesterday. He views this as one of the most important things that has happened in the seven years that he’s been privileged to be President. I also want just to give my dear friend and colleague, Secretary Kerry, a shout-out. This guy has been working this issue for three decades, or more, and he never gives up. He’s a completely dedicated public servant. He didn’t give up in the 80s when he was banging on about this problem before people in this country were willing to take it seriously. And he didn’t give up, as I understand it, in the middle of the night in the negotiations.

So I’m privileged to get to work with President Obama and Secretary Kerry, but even more privileged to be part of this coalition that brought about this historic turning point.

Thank you.

Source: U.S Department of State

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