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Kerry: 'American People are Committed' to Keeping Paris Climate Agreement

Secretary of State John Kerry wouldn't guess where the next administration would go with environmental measures, but said the American public would continue to demand action to combat climate change.

At a Sunday press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Kerry said he didn't want to "speculate on what President- elect Trump's presidency is going to mean with respect" to the Paris climate agreement.

Trump said on the campaign trail that he wants U.S. participation in the agreement scrapped.

"I think that everybody knows that there are sometimes -- there is sometimes a divide between a campaign and the governing, and I think the administration, the next administration, needs to define itself on that subject," Kerry said.

"But let me just say very, very clearly from my experience which goes back many years on this subject, I was at the Conference of the Parties in Rio in 1992 when President George Herbert Walker Bush, Republican, and his Environment Protection Agency joined in the first global effort, which was a voluntary effort to try to deal with climate change, which only four years earlier Jim Hansen famously proclaimed in testimony to the United States Congress it was already happening, that it was there then in 1988," he continued.

"Scientists have for years been talking factually about why this is occurring going back to 1898 when a Swedish scientist named Arrhenius actually first promoted this notion of what would happen as greenhouse gases rise into the atmosphere. Now the world's scientific community has concluded that climate change is happening beyond any doubt, and the evidence is there for everybody to see. Last July was the warmest month in the history of human measurement of temperature, and the June before it was the warmest June, and the entire year before that was the warmest year in the history of recorded temperatures. And that year made up one of ten years in the warmest decade in the history of human temperature, and the decade before that was the second warmest, and the decade before that was the third warmest."

Kerry added that "most kids in high school or even middle school are pretty good at getting a sense that something is happening if that's what's going on decade after decade."

"And when the scientists overwhelmingly in the world reinforce that's what's happening, and we see the evidence of it every single day -- last year in the United States we spent $8 billion cleaning up after storms that were far more intense than any we've had before," he said. "So I believe the evidence is clear, and the question now that we, this administration, are going to continue to address is how we will implement the Paris Agreement."

The secretary of State stressed that "until January 20th when this administration is over, we intend to do everything possible to meet our responsibility to future generations to be able to address this threat to life itself on the planet."

"...So we will wait to see how the next administration addresses this, but I believe we're on the right track, and this is a track that the American people are committed to because the majority of the American people believe climate change is, in fact, happening and want to see us address it."

On trade, Kerry underscored that "TPP, I think, remains important." Trump campaigned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his pitch to the working class.

"Obviously, President Obama and I are deeply committed to it. The fact that it may or may not be taken up in the lame-duck session doesn't -- isn't dispositive of where the country may go with this issue. I believe there'll be a robust debate about it," he said. "And there is enough benefit in it for everybody that ultimately I think people will come to see this is a different kind of agreement."

"This is an agreement which has environment protections built into the agreement. It's an agreement which has labor protections built into the agreement. It happens to open up the ability for certain American goods to be able to be sold abroad which can't be sold abroad today because of restrictions that are not -- or tariff barriers or non-tariff barriers which are eliminated. It actually restricts state-owned enterprises so that state-owned enterprises will compete on an even playing field with private enterprises. That benefits our companies, I believe."

Kerry was confident that "as people examine it and begin to get beyond the campaign and begin to dig into it, my hope is that it can summon the support that it needs."

"And if not, immediately that there are tweaks here and there and things that could be done in order to address some of the concerns that people have, because I think trade is absolutely critical, if it's fair and sensibly based, is essential for growth and development and for the prosperity and stability of nations all around the world," he said. "And I think there's enormous room here for us to do a better job of it but still not to abandon it."