Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks U.S. Center at COP21 in Paris, As Prepared
Hello everyone. It’s great to be in Paris.
I want to thank our hosts for their hospitality and their extraordinary work putting together this fabulous conference, and all the U.S. Center staff who are making each of these events possible.
Since the day he took office, President Obama has understood that climate change is not a distant environmental concern. It’s a problem here and now. It’s a problem for your family, and mine, and families all across the globe. It’s a matter of public health, our economy, and national security.
Acting on climate is our moral obligation. As Pope Francis said in his landmark encyclical, the global community must act together—for the sake of our kids and vulnerable populations around the world—to protect our common home.
You know the facts. 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year of all. In the U.S., rising temperatures are bringing more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons. These impacts threaten the health of our kids and our seniors, while extreme storms, fires, and floods put our farms, businesses, and coastlines at risk.
And we’re certainly not alone. In Bangladesh and the Pacific islands, citizens are retreating from sea level rise. In parts of Africa, drought is threatening the food supply. And across the Arctic, summer sea-ice is receding to unprecedented levels, coastlines are eroding, threatening homes in villages that have withstood challenging arctic temperatures for hundreds or thousands of years.
These impacts add up to real suffering, and real instability. In the U.S., our Pentagon has already told us that climate change poses immediate risks to national security. Countries are recognizing the urgency of this challenge like never before. We don’t have any choice but to act together, and to act now.
As the world’s largest economy and second largest emitter, the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem of climate change, and we’re embracing our responsibility to do something about it. To get there, we’re going to have to support developing nations through the transition to a cleaner energy economy.
We’ll have to make sure that the job opportunities, technologies, and innovations that come along with a clean, low-carbon economy are available for everyone. Because development needs to continue using the full range of cleaner solutions that are at our fingertips. We have an opportunity to share our experience and work together with developing nations to make this happen.
Today, I’d like to focus on how the U.S. has been making progress domestically and why it has been so important for us to stand up and put real reductions on the table. President Obama signaled his intention to lead on this issue with the launch of his Climate Action Plan in 2013.
We’ve made serious progress already—from the way we produce energy in the United States, to the way we use it. Over the last decade, the U.S. has cut its total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. And last November, we set a goal of reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 26 - 28% by 2025.
We’re already seeing results that prove we can get the job done while growing the economy. Today, the U.S. Is generating 3 times as much wind power, and 30 times as much solar power, as we did when president Obama took office.
Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system in the U.S. has dropped by 50 percent.
Today, every major U.S. automaker offers electric vehicles. And since 2009, our auto industry added more than 250,000 jobs.
And private-sector investors—including many of the biggest American companies—have already committed billions of dollars to fight climate change and scale up clean energy innovation. I’m talking about Apple, Google, Goldman Sachs, and so many others, who see climate action not as a business threat, but as a real opportunity.
Just look at last week’s announcements of Mission Innovation and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. It’s incredible to see the way the private sector is embracing climate action.
These are clear signals about where our markets are heading. Clean energy innovation is being rewarded. That’s the trajectory we’re already on, and that’s the market signal we need to open up the door to innovation.
The President’s Climate Action Plan is driving and accelerating this clean energy, low-carbon trend even more. And the whole of the U.S. Government has mobilized turn the plan into reality on the ground.
The Department of Agriculture’s Climate Smart Agriculture initiative will reduce carbon pollution by over 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2025 - about 2% of economy-wide emissions.
The Department of Interior has permitted more than 50 utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands that will provide more than 24,000 jobs and power more than 4.9 million homes. And they’re doing critical work in to build resilience in arctic communities that are on the front lines of climate impacts.
NOAA is developing sophisticated models to predict weather patterns under different climate scenarios. NASA is using cutting-edge technologies to observe Earth-system changes. Agencies are working together to unleash data and provide tools to directly support climate-relevant decision making on the ground—for mayors, for states, for the business community, and NGOs. And that’s just the start.
At EPA, we’re using the regulatory authority that congress gave us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, taking advantage of technological advancements and spurring the next generation of climate solutions. We’re partnering with communities on the ground. And we’re collaborating across all levels of government and sectors of industry. We are using every tool in our toolbox, and there are many.
Six years ago, EPA scientists documented that greenhouse gases were posing a threat to public health and welfare. This opened the door to not just allow, but require greenhouse gases to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. This was a pivotal legal and scientific step forward to address climate change using one of the most successful public health statutes of all time.
The finding was confirmed by the United States Supreme Court—more than once—and there’s no going back. American law requires that we act to reduce greenhouse gases, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.
Since then, we’ve been incredibly busy. We set historic greenhouse gas standards that will send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade—saving American families money at the pump, and revitalizing our auto industry.
We already set standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and are now going even further with a new rule to reduce 1 billion tons of emissions while saving consumers billions of dollars’ worth of fuel.
On methane, we took four separate actions that together will reduce up to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025. That’s equal to cutting 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
We’re moving forward on hydrofluorocarbons – or HFCs. Commitments already made by the U.S. Government and private sector will reduce cumulative global HFC consumption by the equivalent of more than 1 billion metric tons of co2 through 2025. That’s equal to taking 210 million passenger vehicles off the road for an entire year.
And internationally, the recent meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai was a major step forward. Countries across the world took the historic step to work together on a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of the HFCs harming our climate. So we know the global community can come together to act on climate in ways that make sense for everyone.
And last summer, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA launched our Clean Power Plan—the single biggest step America has ever taken to fight climate change.
With our plan, the U.S. is on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And the cuts to smog and soot that come along with these reductions will bring major health benefits for American families.
Our plan — building on 6 years of effort by the Obama administration—means that in the year 2030, the U.S. will avoid thousands of premature deaths and trips to the hospital, tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and hundreds of thousands of missed school days and missed work days.
But that’s not all. We’ll also drive $45 billion a year in net climate and health benefits in 2030. And in that same year, the average American family will see about $85 in annual savings on their utility bills.
So don’t tell me a clean energy economy cannot happen. We’re doing it today.
We recognize there’s no single path to a clean energy economy. Even within the United States, not every state is starting in the same place. Some generate more power from renewables, some from natural gas, nuclear, or coal.
That’s why the Clean Power Plan gives individual U.S. states the flexibility they need to meet pollution reduction requirements in whatever customized ways works best for them. The key is flexibility.
And that’s a theme that applies inside the U.S. and beyond. We know that zero-carbon renewables and clean, low-carbon solutions are going to be an important and growing part of the energy mix. That’s where the jobs of future are heading. But every fuel will continue to play a part.
Under the Clean Power Plan, all low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, carbon-capture and storage, and more, can be used by states to meet their requirements. We’re seizing those diverse opportunities.
America’s approach is not the only approach. Countries are acting in ways that are nationally appropriate for them, and that’s how it should be.
The U.S. is eager to share our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We’re looking look closely at what has helped us grow, and we want to share those lessons to help make sure clean energy innovation and job opportunities can flourish everywhere.
Our success will be judged by how well we take advantage of new, cleaner energy technologies and how well we sending clear market signals for the private sector to see and follow. The Clean Power Plan works because it follows market trends that are already underway. The technologies and innovations that are going to be the engines of our low carbon economy are already at our doorstep.
We’ve seen that innovation is turning what were once impossible challenges into profitable opportunities. Just look at the U.S. solar industry—where we’re now creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.
We know this can work because at EPA, we’re building on a 45-year legacy of environmental protection and economic growth. In that time, we’ve cut air pollution in the U.S. by 70 percent—all while our national GDP has tripled.
And we know the jobs that will carry us toward cleaner energy are the very same ones that will make for a more inclusive society—in the United States and around the world—growing the middle class and lifting people out of poverty to promise.
I’m talking about retrofitting homes. Installing solar panels. Making buildings more efficient. Developing the technologies of the future. The jobs and the efficiencies are all aligning.
Countries who lead in these areas will be winners. That’s why EPA’s Clean Power Plan makes sense on so many levels.
I also want to assure you that our plan will stick, and it will stand the test of time. First, it’s based on science and the law. Second, when I go out on the road to cities and towns across the U.S., it’s crystal clear that the American people want climate action. I see it at the community level all the way up through polls at the national scale.
We heard from millions of people on our initial proposal for the Clean Power Plan. We heard from states, utility companies, environmental organizations, and communities across our country. What we heard is that people want to stop talking and start doing. They want to act and they want the U.S. to lead.
The way people understand the magnitude of this challenge is not by focusing on polar bears or melting ice sheets. That makes the issue seem way too remote. Don’t get me wrong, I love polar bears. But you know what? I love my three children more.
And when the Pope and faith leaders across the world stand up and demand that we accept our moral responsibility to act for the sake of our children and the most vulnerable people everywhere, it goes well beyond politics. It speaks to our core values, and to what matters most to all of us—no matter your politics or religion, we share a common home.
We’re well past the days of debate. People are seeing health impacts in their own communities. They’re seeing effects on jobs and the economy. And those realities are being reflected in public opinion.
A large majority of Americans see climate change as a serious threat and they support the policies in our Clean Power Plan—even in places you wouldn’t expect. States, utilities, and communities are working together to get the process started on compliance plans.
That’s how we know our actions will stand the test of time, no matter what happens politically.
But we also know that no country can solve this challenge alone. I’m so encouraged by the ambitious commitments we’re seeing from nations around the world. Here in Paris, our collective efforts are aligning.
The U.S. is serious and committed. We’ve taken durable steps that are rooted in science, codified in our laws, and broadly supported by our citizens. The right market signals are there. And the technologies we need to make solutions profitable are at our fingertips.
For the first time in history the world community is ready to act together. The opportunity for an agreement is ours to take. Now is our time. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, it’s time to come together and do what’s necessary to protect our common home. Thank you.