US action on climate: If late is better than never, it needs to be bolder
The President’s leadership could help vulnerable people overcome the impacts of climate change.June 25th, 2013 | by Guest Blogger
Kathleen Mogelgaard is a Climate Change Policy Advisor at Oxfam America.
“I refuse to condemn your generation, and future generations, to a planet that’s beyond fixing.” ~from President Obama’s speech at Georgetown University today
Right now President Obama is telling us that for the sake of our children and future generations, it is time for the US to lead global efforts to fight climate change.
This comes at a time when the US is falling almost hopelessly behind commitments for reducing our nation’s carbon pollution, and also on the heels of last week’s World Bank report that paints a picture of increasingly dire consequences of prolonged inaction.
“Multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea-level rise, more severe storms, droughts, and floods are expected to have further severe negative implications for the poorest,” the report warns.
These threats are already very real for the poorest wherever they reside, whether it’s the coasts of Alabama or the increasingly-dusty farmlands of Senegal, which President Obama will visit this week.
“Those who already feel the effects of climate change don’t have the time to deny it—they’re busy dealing with it.” ~President Obama
We welcome President Obama’s call to leadership, and note that it comes none too soon. The US, after all, is currently the second biggest contributor to global carbon pollution, and one of the highest per capita polluters. As the President himself noted, given what we know about the science and impacts of climate change, we have an obligation to take action.
Faced with prolonged Congressional inaction on the issue, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan charts a course of Administration initiatives that don’t require Congressional approval, including bold new EPA rules to limit climate pollution from power plants, new regulations for wind and solar development on federal lands, and national initiatives for resilience and adaptation that will support coastal communities and farmers in coping with the impacts of climate change. He has also signaled renewed commitment to negotiating an international agreement on climate change that is “ambitious, inclusive, and flexible.”
“75% of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts.” ~President Obama
In a challenging fiscal environment and with climate skeptics holding influential positions in Congress, it would be difficult for one to argue that President Obama’s vision is not bold.
But a vision that is both bold and comprehensive cannot ignore the fact that empowering vulnerable people to overcome the impacts of climate change—in the US and around the world—will require resources. Thankfully, President Obama has made the Global Climate Change Initiative an ongoing priority in US foreign assistance. The new plan highlights ongoing need for climate initiatives in foreign assistance, including innovative programs like index insurance for small scale farmers struggling with greater weather variability, an approach that Oxfam has championed in our R4 Initiative. And on Sunday, the US announced a $35 million pledge for two multilateral climate funds that assist the most vulnerable, but the need is greater than current budgets can cover.
The US has also already committed, with the rest of the industrialized world, to ramp up resources to $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries. Financial resources will need to scale-up dramatically to meet the 2020 target. Innovative financial mechanisms can and should be further explored to meet this commitment.
The US has begun to engage in international discussions in shipping and aviation agreements on measures that would limit carbon pollution while also raising the badly-needed financial resources to address the climate challenges of the most vulnerable. US leadership could pave the way for innovative climate finance from these sectors.
“The world still looks to America to lead… We’ve got a vital role to play—we can’t stand on the sidelines.” ~President Obama
Truly bold US leadership could emerge from the President’s Climate Action Plan. Now let’s see it.