Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Bonn, Germany
May 28, 2010

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here to participate in the 1st World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change. As a Representative of the United States and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and Secretary Clinton, I would like to thank ICLEI, Secretary General Konrad Ottö-Zimmermann, President David Cadman, ICLEI USA Board Chair Mayor Patrick Hays, Deputy Director General of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Dr. Manfred Konukiewitz, Mayor of Bonn Jürgen Nimptsch, UN colleagues, and all other mayors, ministers, elected officials, partners and guests for all of the hard work you do day in and day out working to create a greener world.

This is an excellent opportunity to give different insights into what cities are doing and how they can learn from you. It is such a pleasure to be able to be on a dais with Mayor Nimptsch and to have the occasion to meet Dr. Konukiewitz. This is a wonderful platform for exchange, learning and strategic debate around cities, and adaptation to climate change. We have the opportunity to tackle together these common and urgent challenges of energy and economic growth.

Secretary Clinton, as the leading U.S. diplomat, has made international engagement concerning this issue a priority in all of our work, because our communities around the world are grappling with the same issue: how to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth that makes a difference in people’s lives.

We know that the participants at this 1st World Congress understand that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our planet, and the United States is taking significant action to meet this challenge. Under President Obama, the U.S. has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than ever before, not only by supporting domestic policies that advance clean energy and address climate change, but also by vigorously engaging in international climate negotiations.

In the President’s first year, October 2009 remarks from the World Habitat Day stage, he said that we are investing in a clean energy sector to generate green jobs, build affordable, energy efficient homes and promote more sustainable development so that we can meet the needs of the present, so that we can secure the future for our children and grandchildren.

The U.S. is investing over $80 billion in clean energy through the economic recovery act – including the largest ever renewable energy investment in U.S. history.

The President is working with Congress to advance comprehensive climate and energy legislation that would promote clean energy investments and lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent below current levels by 2050.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has instituted historic new vehicle efficiency standards that will increase fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas pollution, requiring an average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg by 2016 for model years 2012 to 2016.

And in the U.S., we continue to develop more stringent efficiency standards for appliances like refrigerators and microwaves, helping Americans reduce their climate impact in their own homes.

Under Secretary Clinton, the Department of State has broadened this and changed the way we do business, has opened our doors to a new era of global engagements, and is working with new partners to collaborate and innovate the way we engage globally. The Secretary is integrating the Three Ds – Development, Diplomacy, and Defense – in order to serve our mission of representing America’s very best to the world.

One of the things that Secretary Clinton realizes is that the time has come to take a bold and imaginative look, not just at the substance of our foreign policy, but at how we conduct our foreign policy. We must now make the transition to 21st Century Statecraft, engaging with all the elements of our national power – and leveraging all forms of our strength. We must now engage our sub-national leaders at the local level and utilize them as an extraordinary source of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge.

Now we are seeking in the Department of State to build partnerships that will allow mayors and local officials to exchange ideas. Because we know that it is the cities, as Mayor Nimpstch so accurately said, that are the engines of green growth and at the core of this solution.

As the former first lady, and as a former Senator representing New York, Secretary Clinton truly understands the importance of working closely with state and local officials to successfully address global challenges. We understand that implementation of the solutions have been occurring largely on the state, city, and local levels.

The era of engagement on global issues is upon us and the Secretary understands communities the world over are grappling with the same issues: how to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, improve education and public health, fight corruption and ensure accountable governance that delivers results that make a difference in people’s lives. The Department of State seeks to build partnerships that will allow local officials to exchange ideas. In that effort Secretary created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the State Department to:

  • Work in a structured and formal way with state and local officials both in the U.S. and with their sub-national counterparts abroad; and
  • Build and enhance global relationships between state and local officials so that they can collaborate on international issues such as urbanization, city planning, food security, global health, trade, investment and economic development, energy, and, of course, climate change; all of which require very effective intergovernmental collaboration.

As I noted earlier, in the past year, the United States has demonstrated a renewed commitment to addressing climate change at home; moreover, our cities and states had a key role in addressing this challenge. Our U.S. trade associations’ climate change initiatives, like ICLEI USA, the National League of Cities, the National Governor’s Association, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association and the Center for Climate Strategies, just to name a few, have been catalysts for policy development and best practices. These organizations have been combining expertise in facilitation, communications, technical analysis, and policy development to provide cutting edge, collaborative solutions for advancing community resilience and sustainability.

The integration of all of our work will allow us to bring all of our competencies together to maximize our success. The coordination and participation of state and local and sub-national leaders and governments is the key to inspiring interest, compliance, and expanded innovation and initiative. Without comprehensive support and cooperation at all levels of government and with their constituents, the goals and objectives of climate protection cannot be realized.

We understand our success in these endeavors is shared. Our work must also be more collaborative, our plans more coordinated, and our partnerships more strategic, to include universities and research institutions, the private sector, NGOs and civil society because we already know that adaptation policies cannot be executed by the governments alone.

We believe that by implementing these partnerships and acting in a collective, concerted manner, we can add value to both our individual and shared goals, while also promoting the strategic interests of our nations, and enhancing what we can achieve together.

Thus, we begin today at this first conference with the ideas that we have been working on and sharing to help us build a better world that will inspire us to make us even more passionately committed to the challenges before us. Moreover, we firmly believe that our shared, global challenges can only be met through a comprehensive response rooted in partnerships, innovation, and collaboration at the sub-national and state and local level.

As in 21st century diplomacy, our office will serve as a connector on a peer to peer basis. We are working with elected sub-national leaders from across regions to work together on issues of common interest, municipality to municipality, province to province, and institution to institution. Because of that common interest, cities are at the core of the climate change solution. Local governments have been working on climate issues for decades. We will support high level policy and leadership discussions between mayors, governors, and other local governments in this United States with their counterparts abroad for information sharing in these knowledge networks.

We must look beyond our borders and take a shared, global response to meet the shared, global challenges we face. Why? Our world is urbanizing at a rapid rate and our sustainability policies must keep pace with these changes so that adaptation and mitigation are also a core part of our urbanization policies.

In this new era of U.S. engagement, we will work with multilateral international organizations also working with cities and urban issues like the OECD, where Mayor Osborne of Boulder, Colorado and I were earlier this week participating in a cities and green growth dialogue and with our ECOSOC Ambassador Barton at the United Nations and the World Urban Campaign. And through organizations like ICLEI and these international conferences, we hope to foster more partnerships in the United States with communities around the world.

We are truly all in this together, and we will only succeed in building a green, sustainable economy by forging mutually beneficial partnerships among our state and local leaders and their sub-national counterparts abroad in order to create inclusive partnerships for effective, sustainable cities in all parts of our world.

Thank you all again and ICLEI for your work on this issue so critical to our common future, as we come together for state and local partnerships in pursuit of the common good. Together in partnership we are making a difference.