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Kerry Urges Climate Negotiators to 'Get This Job Done'

  • Lisa Bryant

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech during the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change in Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, France, Dec. 9, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech during the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change in Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, France, Dec. 9, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged passage of an ambitious agreement at the COP21 climate conference near Paris, announcing Wednesday the United States planned to double the money it would provide in climate adaptation grants to developing countries.

With time running out at the climate talks, Kerry called on leaders from the nearly 200 nations to set aside differences and reach a strong deal that puts the planet on a more sustainable trajectory.

“Our task is clear, our moment is now. Let’s get this job done," he said, summing up his message in a few words.

Negotiators now have less than two days to reach an agreement aimed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less over pre-industrial levels.

Participants are seen in silhouette as they look at a screen showing a world map with climate anomalies during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 8, 2015.

Participants are seen in silhouette as they look at a screen showing a world map with climate anomalies during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 8, 2015.

Kerry said the United States would make available more than $800 million in grants by 2020, part of an existing promise by wealthy countries to jointly provide $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance.

"We will not leave the most vulnerable nations among us to weather this alone," he said. The Obama administration is committed to helping vulnerable nations prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change, he added.

Climate finance has been a major issue for developing nations during the climate talks in Paris.

Time to act

Kerry said the time to act on climate change is now, citing record-breaking and extreme weather that is "becoming normal," such as higher average temperatures and flooding.

"You don't have to be a scientist to see that our planet is changing in real and measurable ways," he said. He noted that temperatures in the past decade have made it the hottest on record, and "last July was the hottest ever recorded."

Kerry said severe weather events, such as recent flooding in Chennai, India, and continued smog issues in Beijing, "are warning signs that no rational person should ignore."

WATCH: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses climate conference

He said reaching a climate agreement in Paris "may well be the best chance we have to correct the course our planet is on."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is presiding over the talks outside Paris, said a new draft introduced Wednesday has been whittled down. It’s now 29 pages instead of 43. And agreement appears close in areas such as climate change adaptation and technology transfer to poorer countries.

But Fabius said three key sticking points remain: differentiation — or distinctions between rich and poor nations in fighting climate change — climate financing and how ambitious the Paris agreement should be.

Starting point

Kerry said any deal reached in Paris should be considered a start, not an end, in cutting carbon emissions. He directed part of his message to developing countries as he urged greater compromise in reaching a deal.

"If all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions -- remember what I said, all the industrial nations went to zero emissions -- it wouldn’t be enough. Not when more than 65 percent of the world’s carbon pollution comes from the developing world," he said.

He also appeared to direct his message closer to home, where some Americans question whether climate change exists or man’s role in causing it.

Members of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition demonstrate for increased climate funding at the U.N. summit in Paris.

Members of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition demonstrate for increased climate funding at the U.N. summit in Paris.

Even if the vast majority of science proves wrong and climate skeptics are right, Kerry said, the world is still better off with a climate deal.

“But on the other side of the ledger, if the scientists are right and the climate skeptics are wrong, we face catastrophe. It’s that simple. That is the choice," he said.

Climate change doubters

On Tuesday, the top U.S. diplomat took the U.S. administration’s criticism of climate change doubters to a new level, labeling those who reject mainstream climate science as “insane.”

Kerry, speaking at a meeting of the U.N. Foundation on the world’s oceans, said refusal by doubters to recognize the threat of rising sea levels is “insulting to everything we learned in high school about science.”

His strong language reflected frustration by the U.S. administration as it finds itself locked in a dispute with the Republican-led U.S. Congress on funding of President Barack Obama’s promise to contribute billions of dollars to the Green Climate Fund.

Delegates face a Thursday deadline to produce a climate plan that can formally be adopted on Friday.

Luis Ramirez in London and Nike Ching at the State Department contributed to this report.

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