Climate and Clean Air Coalition Event
Secretary of State
AMBASSADOR LINDSTEDT: Thank you. Your Royal Highness, Madam Secretary, Madam Minister, ladies and gentlemen, a warm welcome to you all, and thank you for being with us on this special occasion. We are honored by the presence of Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Your Royal Highness, thank you so much for showing interest in this initiative.
With us today, we have the Secretary of State of the United States of America Hillary Rodham Clinton. Madam Secretary, we highly value your presence. Allow me to express my admiration for your hard work and dedication. To me, as a diplomat, you’re a role model. And it’s encouraging that you have taken such interest in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. We see the coalition as a means to strengthen ties between our two countries and as an important tool to promote health and clean air as well as to combat climate change.
I will now hand over to Lena Ek, Sweden’s minister for the environment. But first, let me convey how privileged I feel to work with you, Madam Minister. You show such determination in advancing a whole range of environmental policies, including this initiative.
Madam Minister, the floor is yours.
MINISTER EK: Thank you. Your Royal Highness, Secretary Clinton, Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, I’m extremely happy and honored to have this opportunity once again to address the issue of short-lived climate pollutants or SLCPs together with Secretary Clinton.
Much as happened in the short time since we met in Washington in February to launch the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce SLCPs. We were proud to host the first formal meeting of the coalition here in Stockholm in April, where we were joined by new members, and the coalition has now grown from six to 16 countries, plus the European Commission, UNEP, and the World Bank. And we especially, of course, welcome the decision of all G-8 members to join at the recent summit in Camp David.
Short-lived climate pollutants is a strange and maybe unfamiliar set of words to most, but SLCPs such as black carbon, soot, tropospheric ozone, methane, and short-lived HFCs all have some characteristics in common. They significantly contribute to global and regional warming. They also impact crop yields, deteriorate air quality, and affect human health across the globe. And they are short-lived. And just because of this, they represent a golden opportunity to slow down climate warming in the near term, even more so because they represent as much as a third of increases in average global temperature.
I believe this coalition owes to rapid success to two things. Firstly, it delivers a simple but powerful message based on science. By preventing SLCPs emissions, we can significantly reduce near-term climate change and at the same time save 2.5 million lives per year, increase crop yields and food security, and promote gender equality and women’s rights across the globe.
Secondly, this is a coalition of action. All partners bring something to the table, and in joining have agreed to take action also at home. The coalition is structured around the basic idea that we need to act now, and countries are demonstrating their will and ability to reduce domestic emissions by agreeing to implement national reduction actions on SLCPS.
It’s only through effective action on greenhouse gases that we can stop climate change. Researchers are telling us that without drastic CO2 emission reductions we are facing temperature increases that will be substantially higher than the two-degree target. Therefore, we are wholly committed to the UNFCCC negotiations and to making the necessary mitigation efforts at home. Measures to reduce CO2, such as the Sweden carbon tax of 150 U.S. dollars per ton CO2, are not only necessary but contribute to green growth and enable lower taxes in other areas and job creation in the economy as a whole.
The key to success in the climate negotiations is trust building. Trust comes from commitment to action and through collaboration. And this is how I see the coalition, as a valuable complement to the UNFCCC. The coalition on SCLPs has decided on the first five focal area actions for emission reductions and be ready to kick off projects in all partner countries. Two areas of particular importance at this early stage – one is how to engage the private sector. Reducing SCLP emissions from diesel trucks, landfills, and recovery and user buy guides are examples of actions with huge potential that I’m looking at. To successfully realize that potential, we need the active engagement of businesses, and we need to build partnerships and exchange best practices on a global scale.
The other area is awareness raising. How do we communicate short-lived climate pollutants in a way that will catch people’s imagination and that is easy to understand? Today, Secretary Clinton and I have had a stimulating discussion with students and business leaders, and we will follow up on this thoroughly. Encouraged by this exchange and by the many invaluable suggestions, we have decided to extend the debate beyond this room. We intend to invite people, especially young persons all over the world, to participate in a contest of how to best communicate actions on short-lived climate pollutants. The benefits of actions are tremendous. Help us make them known.
Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister, and thank you for your leadership on behalf of the coalition. And it’s a great pleasure for me to be here in Sweden. It’s my first visit as Secretary of State, but it’s a chance for me to express publicly what I have told my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt – how grateful the United States is for the close collaboration and cooperation we have in so many areas. This coalition is another example of that.
I also want to thank Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria for joining us, and more importantly, for your personal commitment and activities on behalf of the issue of climate change.
Now, Sweden and the United States have a long tradition of working closely together on issues that shape our security, our prosperity, and our people’s future. And on some of the most difficult challenges of our time, Sweden and the United States are stalwart partners. Now when it comes to the climate crisis, Sweden is a global leader, both in finding solutions and encouraging other countries to put them to use. We do need more action in the fight against climate change. We need real-world solutions and we need results.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is designed to get results for what are called – as the minister just said – short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, black carbon, and the hydrofluorocarbons. These pollutants are responsible for more than 30 percent of current global warming. And because they are also very harmful to human health and to agriculture, we can save millions of lives and tons of crops as well by acting now. This is what we call a win-win for sure.
In February, Sweden, the United States, four other nations, and the UN Environmental Program launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and since then, as the minister said, we’ve been growing, bringing on all G-8 countries, as well as Norway, Nigeria, Denmark, and Colombia. And we were pleased when the World Bank and the European Commission signed up as well. We’ve also increased our funding thanks in part to contributions from Sweden and Norway. We are setting up a science advisory panel. And just in April, Sweden hosted the coalition’s first ministerial meeting, when we decided on a set of global action-oriented initiatives to implement immediately.
So we have built some strong initial momentum, but we need your help. Today, Sweden and the United States are beginning a global campaign to close the information gap about short-lived climate pollutants. Few people actually know about the impact we could have on global warming if we aggressively target them. And fewer still know that many cost-effective solutions already exist and are just waiting to be broadly implemented.
We, in fact, are going to be holding a global contest to find the best, most creative ideas for raising awareness about short-lived pollutants and the work that must be done to stop them. So I invite everyone to visit the coalition’s new website for further information. The address is www.UNEP.org/CCAC. And you can see it on your wall somewhere. It’s supposed to be. I don’t know where it is, but we were hoping – is it over there? Oh, over there. Okay.
Now, what we’re really looking for is how to translate the great ideas that came out of the group that Minister Ek was referring to this afternoon, that included some very dynamic Swedish university students who brainstormed about ways that could raise awareness, how we put all of that into motion. And so we’re looking for cartoon ideas, slogan ideas, app ideas. Whatever you come up with, we are going to be receptive.
Now, included in the group that Minister Ek and I met with were leading Swedish companies also supporting this effort, because we know we cannot solve this crisis without the active cooperation and, indeed, the leadership of the private sector, particularly oil and gas companies, makers of diesel trucks, green tech companies that can help turn methane from landfills into clean energy. Today, for example, representatives from Volvo, Mack Trucks talked about how to cut down black carbon worldwide, 20 percent of which is emitted by the transportation sector.
Major reductions of short-lived pollutants can be done inexpensively and with existing technologies. Experts tell us, for example, that one third of all methane leaked and vented by oil and gas companies can be avoided at a net cost of zero dollars or zero kroner. So we need to convince decision makers everywhere, political leaders, CEOs, civil society leaders, investors, and students that this is one of those areas where we can show tangible progress almost immediately and that we can do it in a cost-effective way.
Here are just a few concrete examples. We’re launching an initiative focused on hydrofluorocarbons. By 2050 – 2050 – at the current rate, these greenhouse gases could grow to nearly 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. So we will start by holding a technology conference in Bangkok in July to showcase new technologies that can eliminate the need for these potent greenhouse gases in refrigeration and air conditioning. At the upcoming sustainability conference in Rio, we’ll launch an initiative working with cities to reduce methane and other pollutants from their waste systems, and we will be working with oil and gas companies to take advantage of all the currently available zero-cost options.
Now, we’re aware that reducing these short-lived pollutants by themselves will not solve the collective crisis facing the world. We must also aggressively reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which we know remain the principal contributor to climate change and last in the atmosphere for generations. And countries and people around the world, like Sweden and Norway and Denmark, where I just visited, are taking bold actions.
The United States is also moving forward. The Obama Administration has adopted fuel efficiency standards that will be among the most aggressive in the world, effectively doubling the miles we will get per gallon of gas. We’ve made historic investments, more than $90 billion, in clean energy and are committed to being a world leader in this vital sector. And since just 2008, we’ve nearly doubled how much electricity we generate from renewable sources. And we’re making a big push to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings and home appliances. We’re focused on pursuing President Obama’s call for a clean energy standard to cut carbon dioxide emissions while building domestic and export markets for clean energy technology.
And while we continue to work on bringing down carbon dioxide emissions and finalizing an international agreement, let’s also deliver a blow to methane, black carbon, and HFCs. We are poised to do both, and we should.
Now, I began my day yesterday in the high north, in Tromso, Norway, where we saw some breathtaking views and where we toured the waters on a research vessel, listening to marine biologists and sea ice experts and others explain the changes that have come to the Arctic. The waters don’t freeze, even in the dead of winter. The ice shelves that have crumbled no longer protect coastlines from erosion. Species are at risk. And it’s such a reminder to be in a beautiful place like Stockholm, or yesterday in Tromso, that we inherited a fragile, marvelous planet, and it’s our duty to protect it.
So we’re very grateful, once again, to be working hand in hand with Sweden. We’ve already made progress on the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in less than four months. And we’re going to continue working closely with Sweden and our other partners. And we are determined to take aggressive action in the months ahead. We can do no less.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)