COPENHAGEN CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE -- (Senate - December 18, 2009)
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to speak briefly as the Copenhagen conference on climate change approaches its final hours.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Clinton announced on behalf of the United States the intention to work with other governments to raise $100 billion in long-term financing by 2020 to help developing countries address global climate change. This is an important commitment and an essential part of any comprehensive approach to global warming. If the United States is to play a leading role in addressing climate change, we must provide not only strong policies and resources here at home in our factories and on our farms, but also help poor countries adapt to rising sea levels and temperatures which affect agricultural productivity, and to reduce their own emissions of the greenhouse gases that affect every American as well as billions of others across the globe.
The United States has been historically the major emitter of CO2, and we clearly have a responsibility to help address this global problem. Those who suggest otherwise ignore history. But this is a win-win situation: By exporting U.S. clean energy technology and expertise, we will also generate jobs here at home, help other countries reduce their emissions in a transparent, verifiable and accountable manner, and help to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
Other nations, particularly China and India, are also major contributors to global warming. The administration is right to insist that they be part of the solution and agree to verifiable limits on their own greenhouse gas emissions. It is encouraging that China is already a major investor in renewable energy technology, but at the same time is building coal-fired powerplants at an alarming rate.
For the past 8 years, the policy of the Bush administration was to ignore this problem. In fact it was worse than that, as the last administration actively sought to discredit the scientific evidence and oppose any efforts both here and abroad to address global warming with anything more than lipservice.
Fortunately, times have changed. We have a President and a Congress that are committed to developing a strategy to invest in clean energy, energy efficiency and new high-tech infrastructure that will bring us to long-sought goals: energy independence, good jobs for our citizens, and a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren. The recently passed fiscal year 2010 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act provides more than $1.2 billion for climate change and environment programs overseas. This is a significant increase over last year. From exports of renewable energy technology to programs to protect tropical forests, these funds will play a part in our bilateral and multilateral efforts to work collectively with other countries.
This and Secretary Clinton's announcement are important steps, but the relentless burning of fossil fuels and destruction of the world's remaining forests call for nothing less than unprecedented commitments to reverse these trends. There is already speculation that Copenhagen will fall far short of what is needed. I am hopeful that before the conference concludes the Obama administration will demonstrate further that the U.S. is going to do what is necessary so future generations will not look back and ask why we failed when faced with this great challenge.