Op-Ed
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Op-Ed
International Herald Tribune
December 15, 2009


Our world is on an unsustainable path that threatens not only our environment, but our economies and our security. It is time to launch a broad operational accord on climate change that will set us on a new course.

A successful agreement depends upon a number of core elements, but two are shaping up to be essential: first, that all major economies set forth strong national actions and resolve to implement them; and second, that they agree to a system that enables full transparency and creates confidence that national actions are in fact being implemented.

Transparency, in particular, is what will ensure that this agreement becomes operational, not just aspirational. We all need to take our share of responsibility, stand behind our commitments, and mean what we say in order for an international agreement to be credible.

Representatives from more than 190 countries have gathered in Copenhagen in the hopes of meeting this urgent challenge to our planet. If we are serious about that goal, we will all embrace these principles.

It is no secret that the United States turned a blind eye to climate change for too long. But now, under President Obama’s leadership, we are taking responsibility and taking action.

Already, the Obama administration has done more at home to promote clean energy and address climate change than ever before in our history. We are investing more than $80 billion in clean energy and working with Congress to advance comprehensive climate and energy legislation. And we have announced our intention to cut our emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and ultimately in line with final climate and energy legislation.

In light of the president’s goals, the expected pathway in pending legislation would extend those cuts to 30 percent by 2025, 42 percent by 2030, and more than 80 percent by 2050. These are the kind of strong national actions that a successful agreement requires.

The United States has also pursued an unprecedented effort to engage partners around the world in the fight against climate change, and we have produced real results. President Obama launched the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate which brought together key developed and developing countries to work through issues essential to an accord. He also spearheaded an agreement, first among the G-20 and then among the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations, to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. This effort alone could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent or more by 2050.

So there should be no doubt about our commitment. We have come to Copenhagen ready to take the steps necessary to achieve a comprehensive and operational new agreement that will provide a foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth.

This needs to be a common effort. All major economies, developed and developing, need to take robust and transparent action to reduce their carbon emissions. Of course, the actions required of the developed and major developing countries will not be identical, but we must all do our part.

The simple fact is that nearly all of the growth in emissions in the next 20 years will come from the developing world. Without their participation and commitment, a solution is impossible. Some are concerned that a strong agreement on climate change will undermine the efforts of developing nations to build their economies, but the opposite is true. This is an opportunity to drive investment and job creation around the world, while bringing energy services to hundreds of millions of the world’s poor.

That is why United States is supporting an accord that both complements and promotes sustainable development by moving the world toward a low-carbon economy. The accord we seek will provide generous financial and technological support for developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. And we are prepared to join an effort to mobilize fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012 to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of countries in need.

We can all see the way forward that has emerged from months of negotiations: decisive national action, an operational accord that internationalizes those commitments, assistance for nations that are the most vulnerable and least prepared to meet the effects of climate change, and standards of transparency that provide credibility to the entire process.

The United States is ready to embrace this path, and we hope that the rest of the world will rally around it this week.

[This is a mobile copy of The U.S. Is on Board]