It's Hard to Build a Skyscraper from the Sky Down: Subnational Climate Action in the U. S. and China
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Thanks so much to Tom Peterson, Anne Devero and their colleagues at The Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) and Madam Jin Jiaman and her colleagues at the Global Environmental Institute (GEI) for organizing this event. And good evening to all of you. It is such a pleasure to be participating in this COP 16 Side Event as a member of the Delegation of the United States of America.
On behalf of the U.S. Department of State and Secretary Clinton, I would like to thank the state and local elected officials including Governors, Mayors, City Council Members, Education, Health, and Climate and Environment Secretaries and Ministers at National and Sub-National levels.
Thanks to the Honorable Mayor of Cancun, the host city and also a sister city to Wichita, Kansas, as I just learned. Wichita hosts an eco-partnership with a sister city in China. Eco-partnerships between cities and local governments are expected to grow in number in the months ahead.
The Center for Climate Change (CCS) and the Global Environmental Institute (GEI) have been pioneers in not only recognizing that climate change is an issue that the world must address regionally, nationally and globally, but also in recognizing that to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the world is going to need Sub-national action.
In creating my office, Secretary Clinton said that we will lead the State Department’s efforts to build relationships between state and local officials in the United States and their counterparts around the world. That is why it is so important for me to be here today, with so many local leaders, to collaborate in building partnerships.
Secretary Clinton spoke at the April 20th Energy and Climate Change Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) conference and she emphasized the benefits of the diversity of resources, needs, economies and opportunities. The Secretary underscored the need for collaboration between countries around the world including both hemispheres and gave many examples of regional projects.
Secretary Clinton recognizes that State and Local officials around the world face so many daily challenges: providing security, health, food and water, education, and jobs.
And, now there is the real threat of global climate change, which will impact the abilities of local communities to face these daily challenges. These communities are responsible for adapting to the threat of climate change and mitigating its impact.
Global climate change, like many other global grand challenges, has local impacts in the form of floods and hurricanes, rainfall and tornadoes, shortage of food and water supplies.
Every so often, the local impact of global challenges is so severe that Regional, Federal and Globalresponses become necessary for:
a) fighting forest fires,
b) capping oil wells,
c) rebuilding after earthquakes, tornados, and tsunamis, and,
d) for protecting biodiversity.
The United States is committed to working with our partners around the world to continue the effort to build a comprehensive global approach to combating climate change.
Climate change is a global problem. Its solution will require all major economies to take national action.
And, as we will talk about extensively today, solutions to climate change will also require sub-national actions. The United States has also fostered international cooperation and partnerships at the sub-national level, to strengthen the execution of initiatives to address climate change.
Since the inception of our work, recognizing the State and Local impact of climate change, we have been working closely with other offices within the U. S. Department of State.
Special Envoy Todd Stern spoke a couple of months ago in a speech entitled “A New Paradigm: Climate Change Negotiations in the Post-Copenhagen Era.” In his speech, he emphasized “Much needs to be done, much is uncertain, and the future of climate diplomacy is still waiting to be made.”
Our grand challenges require local responses.
Within the United States, a small sea level rise has a very different meaning to Gulf residents in Louisiana than it does to soybean farmers in Missouri. However, a few meters’ rise in the Mississippi river’s water level may mean the same thing to the people from the two States.
The world is connected by waterways and oceans, canals, and channels and roadways and passes through many mountains.
Island nations and states that have lost shore lines have very different responses to the issue of global warming than do nations and states that may have experienced longer crop growing seasons as a result of overall warming.
It takes trusted partnerships and collaborations between state, local, and global communities to work with each other, in spite of the differences in regional climate changes and their resulting impacts.
Infrastructure development requires State Governments within the United States to work together in bilateral and regional groups. For example, the Council of State Governments (CSG) brings together the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. State Governments to work on important issues with the help of the Federal Government.
My office works with various Bureaus and Offices within the U. S. State Department to facilitate collaborations and partnerships among U. S. state and local organizations such as International Council for Local Environmental Initiative- US chapter (ICLEI- USA), (note: ICLEI has changed their name to – “ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability”) 'the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), National League of Cities (NLC), the National Governors Association (NGA) as well as global organizations such as International Council for Local Environmental Initiative (ICLEI), International City Management Association and the Centre for Climate Strategies, just to name a few. These organizations have been combining expertise in facilitation, communications, technical analysis, and policy development to provide cutting edge collaborative solutions to build capacity and advance community resilience and sustainability.
We have collaborated with the Office of Global Change—the climate change office in the State Department-- to support programs such as the U.S.-China Eco-Partnerships program. Some Eco-Partnerships involve sub-national organizations such as counties and cities working with their counterparts in other countries to address specific problems associated with global disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Other Eco-Partnerships involve Communities, Universities and Corporations collaborating on opportunities such as renewable energy development.
Many of us participated in a World Summit in Mexico City organized by the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) for sharing information and promoting collaboration on addressing the most serious issues.
And here at Cancun, my office is participating in at least three panels with U.S. state officials to discuss subnational solutions.
The Subnational leaders care about the challenges facing humanity and are contributing their best to potential solutions.
I look forward to participating in the rest of the discussion in this forum and beyond.