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The President Addresses Climate Change at COP21

The President Addresses Climate Change at COP21


The President:
President Hollande, Mr. Secretary General,
fellow leaders. We have come to Paris
to show our resolve. We offer our condolences to
the people of France for the barbaric attacks on
this beautiful city. We stand united in
solidarity not only to deliver justice to
the terrorist network responsible for those
attacks but to protect our people and uphold the
enduring values that keep us strong and keep us free. And we salute the people
of Paris for insisting this crucial conference go on
— an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us
from building the future we want for our children. What greater rejection of
those who would tear down our world than marshaling
our best efforts to save it? Nearly 200 nations have
assembled here this week — a declaration that for all
the challenges we face, the growing threat of
climate change could define the contours of this century
more dramatically than any other. What should give us hope
that this is a turning point, that this is the
moment we finally determined we would save our planet,
is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency
about this challenge and a growing realization that it
is within our power to do something about it. Our understanding of the
ways human beings disrupt the climate
advances by the day. Fourteen of the fifteen
warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000
— and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year of all. No nation — large or small,
wealthy or poor — is immune to what this means. This summer, I saw the
effects of climate change firsthand in our
northernmost state, Alaska, where the sea is already
swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where
permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers
are melting at a pace unprecedented
in modern times. And it was a preview of one
possible future — a glimpse of our children’s fate if
the climate keeps changing faster than our
efforts to address it. Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Political disruptions
that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of
desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of
nations not their own. That future is not one
of strong economies, nor is it one where fragile
states can find their footing. That future is one that we
have the power to change. Right here. Right now. But only if we rise
to this moment. As one of America’s
governors has said, “We are the first generation
to feel the impact of climate change, and the
last generation that can do something about it.” I’ve come here personally,
as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the
second-largest emitter, to say that the United
States of America not only recognizes our role in
creating this problem, we embrace our
responsibility to do something about it. Over the last seven years,
we’ve made ambitious investments in clean energy,
and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We’ve multiplied
wind power threefold, and solar power more
than twentyfold, helping create parts of
America where these clean power sources are finally
cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. We’ve invested in energy
efficiency in every way imaginable. We’ve said no to
infrastructure that would pull high-carbon fossil
fuels from the ground, and we’ve said yes to the
first-ever set of national standards limiting the
amount of carbon pollution our power plants can
release into the sky. The advances we’ve made have
helped drive our economic output to all-time highs,
and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest
levels in nearly two decades. But the good news is this is
not an American trend alone. Last year, the global
economy grew while global carbon emissions from
burning fossil fuels stayed flat. And what this means
can’t be overstated. We have broken the old
arguments for inaction. We have proved that strong
economic growth and a safer environment no longer
have to conflict with one another; they can work in
concert with one another. And that should
give us hope. One of the enemies that
we’ll be fighting at this conference is cynicism, the
notion we can’t do anything about climate change. Our progress should give us
hope during these two weeks — hope that is rooted
in collective action. Earlier this month in
Dubai, after years of delay, the world agreed to
work together to cut the super-pollutants
known as HFCs. That’s progress. Already, prior to Paris,
more than 180 countries representing nearly 95
percent of global emissions have put forward their
own climate targets. That is progress. For our part, America is on
track to reach the emissions targets that I set six years
ago in Copenhagen — we will reduce our carbon emissions
in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year,
I set a new target: America will reduce our emissions
26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels within 10
years from now. So our task here in Paris is
to turn these achievements into an enduring framework
for human progress — not a stopgap solution, but a
long-term strategy that gives the world confidence
in a low-carbon future. Here, in Paris, let’s secure
an agreement that builds in ambition, where progress
paves the way for regularly updated targets — targets
that are not set for each of us but by each of us, taking
into account the differences that each nation is facing. Here in Paris, let’s agree
to a strong system of transparency that gives each
of us the confidence that all of us are meeting
our commitments. And let’s make sure that the
countries who don’t yet have the full capacity to report
on their targets receive the support that they need. Here in Paris, let’s
reaffirm our commitment that resources will be there
for countries willing to do their part to skip the
dirty phase of development. And I recognize this
will not be easy. It will take a commitment to
innovation and the capital to continue driving down
the cost of clean energy. And that’s why,
this afternoon, I’ll join many of you to
announce an historic joint effort to accelerate public
and private clean energy innovation on
a global scale. Here in Paris, let’s
also make sure that these resources flow to the
countries that need help preparing for the impacts of
climate change that we can no longer avoid. We know the truth that many
nations have contributed little to climate change but
will be the first to feel its most
destructive effects. For some, particularly
island nations — whose leaders I’ll meet with
tomorrow — climate change is a threat to their
very existence. And that’s why today, in
concert with other nations, America confirms our strong
and ongoing commitment to the Least Developed
Countries Fund. And tomorrow, we’ll pledge
new contributions to risk insurance initiatives that
help vulnerable populations rebuild stronger after
climate-related disasters. And finally, here in Paris,
let’s show businesses and investors that the global
economy is on a firm path towards a low-carbon future. If we put the right rules
and incentives in place, we’ll unleash the creative
power of our best scientists and engineers and
entrepreneurs to deploy clean energy technologies
and the new jobs and new opportunities that they
create all around the world. There are hundreds of
billions of dollars ready to deploy to countries around
the world if they get the signal that we mean
business this time. Let’s send that signal. That’s what we seek in
these next two weeks. Not simply an agreement to
roll back the pollution we put into our skies, but an
agreement that helps us lift people from poverty
without condemning the next generation to a planet
that’s beyond its capacity to repair. Here, in Paris, we can show
the world what is possible when we come together,
united in common effort and by a common purpose. And let there be no doubt,
the next generation is watching what we do. Just over a week ago,
I was in Malaysia, where I held a town
hall with young people, and the first question I
received was from a young Indonesian woman. And it wasn’t
about terrorism, it wasn’t about the economy,
it wasn’t about human rights. It was about climate change. And she asked whether I was
optimistic about what we can achieve here in Paris, and
what young people like her could do to help. I want our actions to show
her that we’re listening. I want our actions to be
big enough to draw on the talents of all our
people — men and women, rich and poor — I want
to show her passionate, idealistic young generation
that we care about their future. For I believe, in the words
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that there is such a
thing as being too late. And when it comes
to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here,
if we act now, if we place our own
short-term interests behind the air that our young
people will breathe, and the food that
they will eat, and the water that
they will drink, and the hopes and dreams
that sustain their lives, then we won’t be
too late for them. And, my fellow leaders,
accepting this challenge will not reward us with
moments of victory that are clear or quick. Our progress will be
measured differently — in the suffering
that is averted, and a planet
that’s preserved. And that’s what’s always
made this so hard. Our generation may not
even live to see the full realization of
what we do here. But the knowledge that the
next generation will be better off for what we do
here — can we imagine a more worthy
reward than that? Passing that on to
our children and our grandchildren, so that when
they look back and they see what we did here in Paris,
they can take pride in our achievement. Let that be the common
purpose here in Paris. A world that is worthy
of our children. A world that is marked
not by conflict, but by cooperation; and
not by human suffering, but by human progress. A world that’s safer,
and more prosperous, and more secure, and more
free than the one that we inherited. Let’s get to work. Thank you very much. (applause)

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