Ambassador Gardner on Climate Change (June 16, 2015)

Opening Remarks
U.S. Experts Climate Change Breakfast
Brussels, June 16, 2015

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning. Welcome to the U.S. Mission to the European Union.

It is my privilege to represent President Obama as Ambassador to the European Union, and it is an extremely interesting and challenging time to hold this job.  I’ve spoken in a number of venues about the broad range of issues the United States and the European Union are addressing together, from the foreign policy challenges posed by conflicts in Ukraine and Syria to the opportunities for economy growth offered by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.

The challenges posed by climate change are among the most complex and most critical we face, both as transatlantic partners and as global citizens.  Climate change presents very real risks to our environment, economies and health.  These challenges require cooperation at every level and across all regions of the world, including across the Atlantic.

An honest and realistic exchange of perspectives and expertise among climate change experts and policymakers is essential in addressing these challenges.  That is why USEU is proud to be working with E3G and WWF to bring our four American guest speakers here to Europe to engage with publics and policymakers in Brussels, Berlin and Riga in the coming days.

There is of course much focus right now on efforts to reach a global framework on climate change in Paris this December during COP 21.  The United States strongly supports the adoption of an ambitious agreement in Paris and sincerely hope an agreement will be reached.

To this end, the United States has pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.  This builds on the current, on-track US goal of reducing US GHG emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

This administration has done more than ever to reduce harmful emissions, making unprecedented investments to cut energy waste, and doubling the flue efficiency of American vehicles.  We are investing in renewable technologies and clean energy and worked for new standards to cut carbon pollution from power plants.  U.S. carbon pollution is now close to its lowest level in almost two decades.  And a strong agreement in Paris will be key to start reducing the total global emission.  As the President has said, every nation must do its part.

The U.S. commitment to combating the causes and effects of climate change does not start or end in Paris.  Even as we take unprecedented steps to mitigate the climate threat, we are working now and looking beyond the Paris talks to addressing the impacts we are already seeing worldwide in the form of heat waves, floods, historic droughts, ocean acidification and more.

These natural disasters in turn create human disasters.  President Obama chose the occasion of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation a few weeks ago to make this point.  “Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security,” he said. “[I]t will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now.”

The federal government and local communities in the United States have taken steps to increase our resilience domestically, and I hope some of our speakers can provide some specific examples of these efforts.  The United States is also committed to helping the rest of the world – especially the poorest and most vulnerable nations – adapt to the changing climate as well.  Just last week, the President launched the Climate Services for Resilient Development partnership, along with the government of the United Kingdom and our partners at the American Red Cross, the Asian Development Bank, Esri, Google, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.   It’s a long list of partners that we hope will continue to grow.

The partnership will provide needed climate services – including actionable science, data, information, tools, and training – to developing countries that are working to strengthen their national resilience to the impacts of climate change.

In addition to the $34 million we and our partners are putting toward that new partnership, we also announced a series of individual steps we’re taking to make adapting to climate change easier around the globe – including, for example, the volunteer “climate resilience corps” that the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps will be launching in developing countries, and NASA’s release of the first-ever climate modeling system that breaks data down to the country level, which will enable countries to better target their individual adaptation planning efforts.

Our speakers today represent the breadth and depth of U.S. expertise on climate change, looking at the issue from the view of the science, the policy, the legal implications, and the international and defense angles.  They may not always see eye to eye with the Administration’s policies, and we don’t ask them to.  We’ve invited them here this week to give you a peek behind the scenes at different U.S. approaches to mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects, from international, national, and local levels.  We hope they can give you a sense of those projects that don’t make the headlines in Europe- what is going on in a city in the Midwest or at the Department of Defense.

Thank you to Vicki, Alden, David and Christine for coming to Europe this week to start this important conversation.