Climate change is one of those topics that can make eyes glaze over, but it shouldn’t. The consequences of failing to act – as illustrated by the intense storms that have threatened or destroyed cities in the United States and elsewhere – are too significant to ignore. Moreover, in order to address climate change equitably there is a need for developed nations like the US to change its habits in favour of environmentally sound investments in green technology. The world is undergoing an economic shift, similar to the industrial revolution. This environmental revolution will likewise reshape economies and lifestyles. Just as farms gave way to factories, so now “green” investment must literally “save” the planet and yield new employment premised on renewable energy, high mileage vehicles and reformed industrial practices capable of reducing an oversized carbon footprint.
The United States is committed to achieving the strongest possible outcome at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. To demonstrate both this commitment and our interest in seeing the global community meet this goal, President Obama will travel to Copenhagen to participate in the conference. Copenhagen represents an important opportunity to work toward a global solution to climate change – more than 90 heads of state are expected to make an appearance at the conference and the world is watching.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our planet, and its impacts are already apparent. Sea levels are rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, storms are becoming more frequent and intense, glaciers and Arctic ice are disappearing, and water supplies are increasingly at risk. These changes threaten not only the environment, but also security and stability.
Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global solution. To this end, the United States has joined others in seeking an international agreement through the UN negotiating process. We support a legally binding agreement, but world leaders have acknowledged that reaching one in the short time frame of Copenhagen is unlikely.
With this in mind, it is crucial that all countries, led by major economies, do what it takes to produce a strong, operational accord that will get us started right away and help build the institutions needed to combat climate change. Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen first put the idea on the table for such an agreement that all world leaders could stand behind. It would serve as a strong and concise commitment that covers all the major issues in the negotiations: mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology support and transparency and accountability.
President Obama will lead the United States in doing its part. We are doing more to meet this challenge than ever before, both by supporting domestic policies that advance clean energy, climate security and economic recovery and by vigorously pursuing international engagement. The US is prepared to put on the table an emissions reduction target in the range of 17 per cent below 2005 levels in 2020, ultimately in line with domestic legislation. This target puts us on a pathway toward a 30 per cent emissions reduction in 2025 and a 42 per cent reduction in 2030, in line with the President’s goal to reduce emissions by 83 per cent by 2050. When compared to a 1990 baseline, this pathway translates into an 18 per cent reduction in 2025 and a 32 per cent reduction in 2030.
But the United States cannot solve the problem alone. Success will require action by all. To this end, all major economies will have to present mitigation plans in any new Copenhagen agreement and make clear that they intend to stand behind those plans. We are seeing encouraging signs in this regard.
Transparency is also fundamental in any agreement – it gives countries confidence that others are carrying out their commitments and allows the world to determine whether we are adequately reducing emissions. All major economies need to agree to a robust transparency regime in Copenhagen.
Ultimately, an international agreement will only succeed if it both complements and promotes sustainable development by moving the world toward a low-carbon economy. It must provide financial and technological support for countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Finding a solution to climate change can benefit all countries – driving investment and job creation around the world, while bringing energy services to hundreds of millions of the world’s poor.
The government of Malta has demonstrated its commitment to contributing to the international dialogue on climate change and to implementing international agreements aimed at reducing emissions and promoting sustainable development. During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 9 September, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi recalled Malta’s initiative in 1988 to introduce climate change as a political item on the agenda of the 43rd Session of the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister Gonzi said: “Malta strongly believes that it is the duty of all countries, large and small, rich and poor, to contribute their fair share in this concerted effort which must be global if it is to succeed.”
The United States Embassy is striving to support the government of Malta in its effort to find solutions to the challenges presented by climate change and are focusing on investment in green technology and clean energy. Recently, the US Embassy sponsored the participation of two Maltese citizens in “Green Technology” programmes in the US. During the programmes, the participants were able to review the US government’s role in green energy formulation and green job creation. The Embassy is also committed to leading by example as we are incorporating plans to include wind and solar technology in our new LEED certified embassy compound that is under construction in Ta’ Qali.
Copenhagen is not the end of the process. It is part of our larger collective commitment to meeting one of the world’s greatest challenges. Copenhagen represents an opportunity to reach an accord that could start us down the path toward a legal agreement right away and speed the transition to a low-carbon global economy. It is important that we seize it. The United States stands ready to do its part, and we know Malta will continue to do its own.
Douglas W. Kmiec is the US Ambassador to Malta