Addressing climate change requires action at home and abroad. That is why it is imperative that President Obama follow through on key actions at home to reduce U.S. carbon pollution. At the same time, the U.S. must play a critical role in securing strong international action to address climate change. That is why today, 60 leading environmental, conservation, development, and faith-based organizations urged Secretary Kerry to emphasize the severity of the threat of climate change and spur bold and immediate action.
These groups outlined three key actions that Secretary Kerry must take: (1) push for strong international action on climate change; (2) reject any new or expanded infrastructure for tar sands oil, starting with the Keystone XL pipeline; and (3) secure robust funding for international climate action.
Here is what Secretary Kerry can do on these three fronts and why they are so important.
Strong international action is essential. The Secretary of State must play a leading role in securing strong commitments from all key countries to reduce carbon pollution. Countries are just beginning to negotiate a new legal agreement to address climate change and the U.S. must play a central role in securing a strong agreement. A key cornerstone of this agreement must be key actions by major countries to curb their carbon pollution, with key battles happening around the world in the next few months and years. The U.S. must lead by controlling the carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants – an action that President Obama can act on immediately.
At the same time there is a need to move forward on other actions such as securing an agreement to phase-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, curbing carbon cuts from aviation and shipping through a global agreement, helping dump dirty diesel, and reducing methane emissions.
Reject any new or expanded infrastructure for tar sands oil, starting with the Keystone XL pipeline. As my colleague highlighted, the evidence shows that Keystone XL would unlock vast amounts of additional carbon that we cannot afford to burn, extend our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, endanger health and safety, and put critical water resources at risk. We can’t afford this pipeline. A huge amount of carbon will be unleashed if this pipeline is built and
Secure robust funding for international climate action. The U.S. makes critical investments in helping developing countries deploy clean energy, adapt to climate change, and reduce deforestation emissions. The clean energy economy has been surging around the world – having grown over 539% since 2004. There is a large market emerging that is ripe for sustained U.S. investments that can help reduce carbon pollution and create clean energy jobs.
Investments in adaptation help the most vulnerable cope with the climate impacts that are already being felt and prepare for even greater devastation in the future. And early investments pay off as data on efforts to reduce disaster risk show that up-front investments result in a savings of $7 for every $1 spent. These kinds of smart investments also help reduce instability in developing countries that makes military leaders worry about failed states and conflict as a result of climate change.
Forests are a huge store of carbon. With large swaths of rainforests being lost to deforestation there is an urgent need to help countries address this damage. The U.S. has been a leader for years in helping curb deforestation, protect biodiversity, and support the people and communities that are dependent on the forest. We must continue those efforts and do more.
Acting on climate change is a critical issue as Secretary Kerry clearly recognizes. As the groups stated:
“We applaud your bold statement that American foreign policy ‘is defined by leadership on life-threatening issues like climate change.’
The need for such leadership couldn’t be more urgent. Climate change threatens our planet, our security, the health of our families, and the fate of communities and nations throughout the world. It is the greatest challenge of our time and our response will leave an historic legacy here in the U.S. and abroad.”
We know what needs to happen. This diverse coalition looks forward to working with Secretary Kerry to get it done.
Photo of John Kerry: Courtesy of Center for American Progress Action Fund under creative commons license.