Since 1992, the international community has met annually to forge an international solution to curb climate change. Over two decades, countries established new initiatives to improve climate science and technological solutions, and many countries have shown strong commitment to clean energy. Nonetheless, levels of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide continue to increase, and scientists warn that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must take further action now.
“The essential task before us is to transform the energy base of our economies from high to low carbon, and this depends on the political will of governments at home setting the rules of the road,” said U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern:
“We need an international agreement to prod countries to take aggressive climate action at home; we need it to supply the essential confidence countries require that, if they act, their partners and competitors will do so as well; and we need it to send a clear signal to businesses, investors, innovators and governments that the world’s leaders have committed their nations to the climate fight.”
Countries are working to reach a global climate agreement at the 2015 climate conference in Paris, France.
A successful international climate agreement must address three pillars. The first is climate mitigation – the United States believes each country should submit its own plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution domestically.
Ambassador Stern outlined U.S. climate mitigation actions, including, among other measures, doubling fuel efficiency of cars, setting efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and proposing a 30 percent cut to emissions of existing U.S. power plants and new emissions standards for new power plants.
Second, each country must plan for adapting to changing conditions. An international agreement should call on countries to integrate climate resilience into economic development planning, which is particularly important for poor countries that may suffer most from climate change.
Finally, an international agreement should reaffirm the importance of financial support for countries in need. The United States and other countries that have the means should continue to support poorer countries.
“The United States,” said Stern, “is trying to achieve an agreement that is ambitious, so that it can start to put us on the track that science counsels; inclusive, because we cannot meet our objectives without broad participation; durable, because our mission now is to negotiate an agreement for the decades, not for five or ten years; and fair, so countries feel their needs are respected.”