Climate Change - Threat to the World

Climate change is extremely important to Secretary Kerry, President Obama, and me.  A top U.S. priority this year is to conclude a 2015 climate agreement that is ambitious, inclusive, durable, and transparent.  Secretary Kerry recently said that we have to prepare for the consequences of climate change, such as crop failures, water shortages, famine, and outbreaks of epidemic disease.  “Long story short, climate change is …. about all of us in very personal and important ways,” he said in a recent speech on climate change and national security.

From November 30 to December 11, 2015, France is hosting the 21st session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties, also known as COP21.  COP21 is the culmination of a four-year negotiation expected to result in a global climate change agreement (the Paris Agreement).  To meet its commitment at COP21 for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. is taking its largest step ever to combat climate change through the Clean Power Plan.  That plan will cut emissions from the U.S. power sector – which accounts for a third of U.S. emissions – by 32 percent by 2030 and save more than $50 billion in climate and health-related costs in the process. 

Since President Obama took office, the U.S. has more than doubled electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources.  Here is what President Obama said this fall at the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic:

“I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.  And I believe we can solve it.  That’s the good news.  Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means -- the scientific imagination and technological innovation -- to avoid irreparable harm.”

Here at the U.S. Embassy, we are doing our part to take on the issue of fostering cooperation on the issue of climate change.  

Recently, I participated in the Second Seoul Climate-Energy Conference.  This conference was co-hosted by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and a South Korean non-profit organization specializing in climate change issues, the Coalition for Our Common Future.  At the conference I emphasized the U.S. Government’s goal of reaching a new climate change regime at the COP21 meeting. 

At the Seoul Climate-Energy Conference: “On the Road to Paris and Green Big Bang”

I had the opportunity to speak with former Prime Minister Han, Duck-soo, now Chairman of the Climate Change Center.  From the NGO side were Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Assembly President & Council Chair, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and former President of the Republic of Indonesia, as well as Lee Hoesung, Chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, and Yvo de Boer, GGGI Director General.  The high caliber of these individuals speaks to the importance of the issue at hand, and gives us hope for developing and implementing effective measures to combat climate change. 

The ROK is a key partner in these efforts  and during the October Summit between Presidents Obama and Park, both leaders expressed a shared commitment to act decisively to address climate change and they agreed it is one of the greatest threats to global security and economic development.  Both of our countries are committed to achieving a long-term, ambitious climate change agreement in Paris and to phasing out the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  We are also active partners in clean energy development.  The GGGI, which the ROK established in 2010, provides technical support for developing countries to implement green growth policies.  

In January, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Minister of Environment, Yoon Seong-kyu. Minister Yoon stressed the importance of environmental welfare as a precondition for human happiness, as evidenced by his efforts to raise the levels of air and water quality in the ROK to those in the U.S..  Minister Yoon has also worked extensively on recycling and waste-to-energy projects. 

With Environment Minister Yoon Seong-kyu

In April, I visited the Green Climate Fund in Songdo and met with Hela Cheikhrouhou, the Executive Director.  The U.S. has pledged $3 billion to the GCF, and Korea has pledged an impressive $100 million.  The GCF’s purpose is to assist developing countries through funding of climate change projects.

At Green Climate Fund with Hela Cheikhrouhou

The U.S. is taking a leading role in addressing climate change by advancing an ever-expanding suite of measures at home and abroad.  The President’s Climate Action Plan includes unprecedented efforts by the U.S. to reduce carbon pollution; promote clean sources of energy that create jobs and protect communities from the impacts of climate change; and work with partners to lead international climate change efforts.  Recently, the U.S., ROK, and other OECD partners agreed to limit public financing for the least-efficient coal-fired power plants.

This U.S. leadership is working.  Spurred by the historic joint announcement by the U.S. and China last November, roughly 150 countries, representing over 85 percent of global emissions, have now announced long-range country emissions targets.    

Look how many representatives made it to Paris!

With leaders and representatives from almost every nation on earth convening in Paris, there is a historic opportunity to strike a far-reaching and durable climate agreement.  For brighter skies today and a more secure tomorrow – for my son, Sejun, and for his generation around the world – now is the time to act.  I look forward to working with Koreans – from all walks of life – on this critical issue.  

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