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   Environmental Issues

17 December 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 17, 2009

Copenhagen, Denmark

Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you all for coming this morning.  I arrived in Copenhagen several hours ago.  I’ve just had a briefing on the state of the negotiations.  I'd like to give you a brief report on where we stand and then make an announcement. 

First, let me thank Todd Stern and the terrific team representing the United States at this conference.  Actually, they’ve been representing us ever since the beginning of the Obama Administration over this past year. 

We appointed Todd Stern as our first-ever Special Envoy for Climate Change because we understood that this is one of the most urgent global challenges of our time, and it demands a global solution.  Climate change threatens not only our environment, but our economy and our security -- this is an undeniable and unforgiving fact.

So in addition to the robust actions that the Obama Administration has taken at home -- from the historic investment in clean energy included in the Recovery Act to the new efficiency standards for cars, trucks, and appliances -- we have pursued an unprecedented effort to engage partners around the world in the fight against climate change.  And we produced real results.

President Obama launched the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate which brought together key developed and developing countries.  He also spearheaded an agreement, first among the G20 and then the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations, to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. 

And after a year of diplomacy, 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.   Our U.S. delegation includes not just the President of the United States, but six members of his Cabinet. 

We have now reached the critical juncture in these negotiations.  I understand that the talks have been difficult.  I know that our team, along with many others, are working hard and around the clock to forge a deal.  And we will continue doing all that we can do.  But the time is at hand for all countries to reach for common ground and take an historic step that we can all be proud of.

There is a way forward based on a number of core elements: decisive national actions, an operational accord that internationalizes those actions, 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 world community should accept no less.

And the United States is ready to embrace this path. 

First, we have announced our intention to cut our emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 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. 

Second, we also recognize that an agreement must 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.  That’s why we joined 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.  

And today I’d like to announce that, in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries.  We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.  This will include a significant focus on forestry and adaptation, particularly, again I repeat, for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

So there should be no doubt about the commitment of the United States to reaching a successful agreement here in Copenhagen and meeting this great global challenge together.

But ultimately this must be a common effort.  We all know there are real challenges that remain in the hours left to these negotiations.  And it is no secret that we have lost precious time in these past days.  In the time we have left here, it can no longer be about us versus them – this group of nations pitted against that group.  We all face the same challenge together. 

I have often quoted a Chinese proverb which says that when you are in a common boat, you have to cross the river peacefully together.  Well, we are in a common boat.  All of the major economies have an obligation to commit to meaningful mitigation actions and stand behind them in a transparent way.  And all of us have an obligation to engage constructively and creatively toward a workable solution.  We need to avoid negotiating approaches that undermine rather than advance progress toward our objective. 

I am deeply concerned about the consequences for developing countries - from Bangladesh to the Maldives, from the Caribbean to West Africa and the Pacific Islands - if we cannot secure the kind of strong operational accord I’ve described today.   We know what the consequences will be for the farmer in Bangladesh or the herder in Africa or the family being battered by hurricanes in Central America.  Without that accord, there won’t be the kind of joint global action from all of the major economies we all want to see, and the effects in the developing world could be catastrophic.  We know what will happen.  Rising seas, lost farmland, drought and so much else.  Without the accord, the opportunity to mobilize significant resources to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation will be lost.   

Over the next two days, we will be discussing these issues further.  This problem is not going away, even when we leave Copenhagen.  But neither is our resolve.  We must try to overcome the obstacles that remain.  We must not only seize this moment, but raise our oars together and row in the same direction toward our common destination and destiny.  And the United States is ready to do our part.  Thank you. 

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