Remarks at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate
Secretary of State
Thank you, Todd. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Well, I’m delighted to welcome all of you to the State Department for this very consequential meeting. As I look around the table, I think I have met in bilateral forums with all of the countries here, if not in multilateral forums, over the last nearly 100 days. And at each and every one of those meetings, global warming, climate change, clean energy, a low-carbon future has been part of our discussions. And I’m very pleased to welcome the personal representatives of 17 major economies, the United Nations, and observer nations to this first preparatory meeting of the major economies on energy and climate.
I think it’s significant that this discussion is taking place here at the State Department, because the crisis of climate change exists at the nexus of diplomacy, national security and development. It is an environmental issue, a health issue, an economic issue, an energy issue, and a security issue. It is a threat that is global in scope, but also local and national in impact. I’m delighted that our Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, will be working with you, as will Mike Froman, who sits at that nexus in the White House between the National Security Council and the National Economic Council.
You know the details or you would not be here. There is much going on in the world today that challenges us, and it is remarkable that each of your nations has committed to this because we know that climate change threatens lives and livelihoods. Desertification and rising sea levels generate increased competition for food, water and resources. But we also have seen increasingly the dangers that these transpose to the stability of societies and governments. We see how this can breed conflict, unrest and forced migration. So no issue we face today has broader long-term consequences or greater potential to alter the world for future generations.
So this morning, I would like to underscore four main points. First, the science is unambiguous and the logic that flows from it is inescapable. Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention. Second, the United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time, both at home and abroad. The President and his entire Administration are committed to addressing this issue and we will act.
Third, the economies represented here today have a special responsibility to pull together and work toward a successful outcome of the UN climate negotiations later in the year in Copenhagen, and I’m delighted that Denmark could join us because they are going to host this very important meeting. And the Major Economies Forum provides a vehicle to help us get prepared to be successful at that meeting.
And fourth, all of us participating today must cooperate in developing meaningful proposals to move the process forward. New policy and new technologies are needed to resolve this crisis, and they won’t materialize by themselves. They will happen because we will set forth an action plan in individual countries, in regions, and globally. It took a lot of work by a lot of people to create the problem of climate change over the last centuries. And it will take our very best efforts to counter it.
First, I want for the American audience principally, but also for international audiences, to underscore what I said here just a few weeks ago when we had the meeting of the Antarctic consultative group. Some of the countries were represented here. The science is conclusive. The evidence and impact is getting more dramatic every year. Facts on the ground are outstripping worst-case scenario models that were developed only a few years ago. Ice sheets are shrinking. Sea levels are rising. Oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening coral and other life forms. So the imperative is clear. We are called to act, and future generations will judge us as to whether we do or not.
Second, the United States is no longer absent without leave. President Obama and I and our Administration are making climate change a central focus of our foreign policy. We are, as Todd has often said, back in the game. We don’t doubt the urgency or the magnitude of the problem. This forum is not intended to divert attention from working towards solutions, but to assist us in creating those solutions. And we are moving quickly. On April 17th, in a decisive break with past policy, our Environmental Protection Agency announced its finding, that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions threaten public health and welfare. This move will open the door for more robust tailpipe emission regulations.
President Obama has proposed a broad, market-based cap on carbon pollution that would include a mandatory national target through the year 2050, when emissions would be cut by 80 percent. A market-based cap will encourage game-changing private investments in clean energy and improvements in efficiency, streamlining our regulatory process, stimulating new jobs and growth, and setting us on the road to a low-carbon economy. We, with our stimulus package of just a few months ago and our continuing emphasis will make significant, direct investments in clean energy technology and energy efficiency. And our EPA is paving the way for more stringent auto emission standards.
Now, we are well aware that some see the economic crisis as an excuse to delay action. We see it in an exactly opposite way, as an opportunity to move toward a low carbon future. So we work on that internally and we look forward to working with all of you.
We believe that the $80 billion in President Obama’s recovering plan, which includes funding and loans for clean energy development, targets to double our country’s supply of renewable energy over the next three years. And we also are working very hard on programs to make homes and buildings more energy efficient. We think this is something that all countries can do in this immediate economic crisis to make this a green recovery, and some of you are far ahead in doing that. We are also reengaged in the UN framework convention negotiations and looking forward to working throughout this year.
Third, as major economies, we are responsible for the majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. We may be at different stages of development and we certainly may have different causes of the emissions that we are responsible for, but we think coming together and working to address this crisis is comparable to the G-20 nations addressing the global economic crisis. That is why I want to assure you that the United States will work tirelessly toward a successful outcome of the UN Framework Convention negotiations.
There is no sense in negotiating an agreement if it will have no practical impact in reducing emissions to safer levels. The math of accumulating emissions is clear. So we all have to do our part, and we need to be creative and think hard about what will work in order for us to achieve the outcomes we hope for.
It is going to be both a national and local responsibility, as well as a global one. I believe that this forum can promote a creative dialogue and a sense of shared purpose. Of course, each economy represented here is different. And some, like mine, is responsible for past emissions, some responsible for quickly growing present emissions. But people everywhere have a legitimate aspiration for a higher standard of living. As I have told my counterparts from China and India, we want your economies to grow. We want people to have a higher standard of living. We just hope we can work together in a way to avoid the mistakes that we made that have created a large part of the problem that we face today.
And it will be harder, not easier, if we fail to meet the challenge of climate change for all countries, particularly developing countries, to continue the growth rates that they need to sustain the increase in standard of living that they’re looking for.
And finally, I would hope that we could develop through this mechanism concrete initiatives that leaders of the major economies can consider when they meet in Italy in July. We have to come up with specific recommendations. Breakthroughs can and should come from anywhere and everywhere. That’s why creative diplomacy and genuine collaboration is called for. And I think proposals for transformational technological changes, creating markets for such changes, subsidizing them on a declining basis so that we can get those new technologies into the market, whatever combination of incentive and mandatory requirements that will accomplish this change in the short run, should be considered.
Being good stewards as we must be of this fragile planet that we inherit together, requires us to be pragmatic, not dogmatic. We have to be willing to embrace change, not just repeat tired dogma. And I think we have to be ready to do whatever it takes and whatever the earth demands to succeed in addressing this common danger to our future.
I remember many years ago, as a young woman, seeing the first pictures that came back from space of earth, and looking at that blue and green orb as it spun on its axis, and I remember being so struck about how it was this place of light and life in what appeared to be just darkness and no life, so far as we knew. We now bear the responsibility in this generation, and the United States is ready to do our part. We are ready to listen and learn and to participate as a partner and also as a leader at this critical juncture. We want to be sure that that fragile planet we inhabit continues to provide for the greatest opportunities for our children and generations to come. But in order to do that, we have a historic responsibility to come together and actually create a new history.
So I appreciate your coming. I look forward to the reports of your deliberations. And I urge all of us to do what we know we must do to put our world on the right track to deal with this crisis. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)