May 20, 2013 | 06:01 AM (BD Time)
20 May, 2013 Monday
Hillary Clinton, dignitaries launch new environmental coalition
Secretary Clinton welcomed all to the State Department, to the Benjamin Franklin Room. She said, Benjamin Franklin was not only our first diplomat, but our first great scientist. So I think he would be particularly pleased that we would be holding such an important gathering here today (17 February) while he looks down on us, urging us to move forward and to take action.
It's a very big honor for me to have you here for the purpose of launching the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, our new global effort to fight climate change, protect health, improve agricultural productivity, and strengthen energy security.
I'm very pleased to welcome my friend and colleague Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the environmental ministers from Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, and Sweden; the ambassador from Ghana; Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UN Environment Program; other ambassadors and representatives from NGOs and the private sector.
The range of countries, organizations, and industries gathered in this room today reflects the weight of scientific research showing that climate change is one of the most serious and complex problems facing our world. We know its impacts. It impacts global security, the global economy, global food and water supplies, and the health and well-being of people everywhere. And we know that in the principal effort necessary to reduce the effects of carbon dioxide, the world has not yet done enough. So when we discover effective and affordable ways to reduce global warming ? not just a little, but by a lot ? it is a call to action.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition will spread practical ideas and practices regarding so-called short-lived pollutants, which remain in the atmosphere only for a short time ? pollutants such as methane, black carbon or soot, hydrofluorocarbons. In the past few years, we've learned that this group contributes much more to climate change than we previously realized. More than one-third of current global warming is caused by short-lived pollutants. They also destroy millions of tons of crops every year and wreak havoc on people's health. Millions die annually from constantly breathing in black carbon soot that comes from cookstoves in their own homes, from diesel cars and trucks on their roads, from the open burning of agricultural waste in their fields. Furthermore, methane ? a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide ?can also be an abundant source of energy if we capture it instead of just venting it into the air or flaring it.
By focusing on these pollutants ? how to reduce them and, where possible, use them for energy ? we can have local and regional effects that people can see and feel. They can see those effects and become convinced that this commitment is one we all must all undertake. There will be better health, cleaner air, more productive crops, more energy ? in addition to less warming. The UN Environment Program has determined that reducing these pollutants can slow global warming by up to a half degree Celsius by 2050. To put that into context, the world's goal is to limit the rise in global temperature to two degrees. So a half a degree, or 25 percent, is significant.
Now, exceptional work has already been done to investigate how to reduce these pollutants. For example, UNEP has identified a package of 16 major actions, which include replacing inefficient cookstoves and traditional brick kilns with more efficient ones to cut down on black carbon, stopping the burning of agricultural waste, harvesting coal mine methane, improving wastewater treatment, and adopting emissions standards on vehicles.
Now, every one of the actions has already been applied somewhere, and so we know they work. Every one is based on existing technology, and fully half of them are considered low-cost interventions. So when you put all these factors together, they add up to an important opportunity that we cannot miss.
This coalition ? the first international effort of its kind ? will conduct a targeted, practical, and highly energetic global campaign to spread solutions to the short-lived pollutants worldwide. It will mobilize resources, assemble political support, help countries develop and implement a national action plan, raise public awareness, and reach out to other countries, companies, NGOs and foundations.
Now, we have every hope that we will see results soon, both on the ground and in the atmosphere. One of the benefits of focusing on pollutants that are short-lived is, if we can reduce them significantly, we will have a noticeable effect on our climate in relatively short order.
I am pleased to announce that our foundation partners are committing more than $15 million to get the coalition up and running. And the United States is proud to commit $12 million of new funding to this effort, in addition to the $10 million in annual support already provided to each of two existing efforts: the Global Methane Initiative and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves that I had the honor of announcing in 2010.
Now, this project holds a lot of promise, especially in the context of our larger battle against climate change. Now we know, of course, that this effort is not the answer to the climate crisis. There is no way to effectively address climate change without reducing carbon dioxide, the most dangerous, prevalent, and persistent greenhouse gas. It stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. So this coalition is intended to complement ? not supplant ? the other actions we are, and must be, taking.
Now to that end, the Obama Administration has been acting aggressively across the board. The Administration adopted fuel efficiency standards that will double the fuel economy of our cars and trucks. We're making a big push to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings, a major source of carbon emissions, as well to improve standards for home appliances. We've nearly doubled how much electricity we generate from renewable sources. And looking ahead, we will be focusing on the goal of putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and pursuing President Obama's call for a clean energy standard to slash carbon emissions while building domestic and export markets for clean energy technology.
The nations represented here today have made strong progress, and I'm pleased that the international community took steps in the right direction at the climate conference in Durban. It followed up both on previous agreements to establish a transparency regime, a green climate fund, and a technology center and network, and also helped to lay the groundwork for negotiations for a new legal agreement that applies to all parties.
So we're working on many fronts individually, through the international track, in smaller, voluntary coalitions like this one. But we are excited today, because we think that today's announcement ? if we do everything we want to do and intend to do ? will be looked back on in years to come as a real turning point in the fight against the effects of climate change across our globe.
I have the great honor of introducing someone who's done a tremendous job, who understands what's at stake and has never faltered in making it clear that we have to keep moving forward. Please welcome EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
EPA administrator Jackson
This is such an inspiring room, just to look out at so many people who recognize the importance of this moment. And let me return the favor. I was sitting as the Secretary was talking about this initiative and talking about the Global Methane Initiative and talking about the cookstoves initiatives, and thinking this bears your mark, which is a connection of extraordinarily big problems back to people. And maybe that's going to be ? we have to come up with a verb. I
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