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Combating Climate Change at Home and Around the World

The President and key officials are preparing to attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next month, continuing the Administration's commitment to tackling climate change and building a clean energy economy.

Some exciting announcements today from the White House on our efforts to combat climate change and lay the foundation for a clean energy economy!   The President will be attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP 15) next month, and he will take with him an emissions reduction target to drive progress toward a comprehensive and operational Copenhagen accord.

Over the last 10 months, the Administration, under the President’s active leadership, has made remarkable progress in addressing climate change and accelerating a clean energy renaissance domestically and abroad (see a list of accomplishments below).  These aggressive initiatives have laid the foundation for a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen and longer term for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future.

The international climate summit will bring together delegations from 192 nations and will be visited by approximately 15,000 people.  For the first time in the series of these conferences, the U.S. delegation will have a U.S. Center, providing a unique and interactive forum to share our story with the world.  The Center will host over 70 events during the two-week conference that will highlight the strong actions the U.S. is taking at home as well as the leadership role the U.S. is pursuing internationally to combat global climate change. 

Activities in the Center will include a series of presentations by senior Cabinet and Administration officials including: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, along with Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner.  Topics will range from energy efficiency investments and global commitments to renewables policy and clean energy jobs.

To help bring the events from Copenhagen back home, the State Department will be running a website dedicated solely to COP 15 events, as well as a Facebook page.  More info coming on all the ways you can keep up will follow soon.

These are definitely exciting times as we work collectively to address the challenge of climate change and advance the opportunities of a new clean energy future.

Highlights of actions and accomplishments on climate change and energy by the Obama Administration in the last 10 months.

Domestic Leadership

Recovery Act: The U.S. is investing more than $80 billion in clean energy through its Recovery Act – including the largest-ever investment in renewable energy, which will double our generation of clean renewable energy like wind and solar in three years.

Efficiency Standard for Automobiles:  President Obama announced the first ever joint fuel economy/greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks in May.  The new standards are projected to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program with a fuel economy gain averaging more than 5 percent per year and a reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions.

Advancing Comprehensive Energy Legislation: Passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation is a top priority for the Administration and significant progress has been made.  In June, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act that will promote clean energy investments and lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent by 2050.  The Senate continues to advance their efforts to pass comprehensive legislation and move the U.S.  closer to a system of clean energy incentives that create new energy jobs, reduce our dependence on oil, and cut pollution.

Appliance Efficiency Standards: The Administration has forged more stringent energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential appliances, including microwaves, kitchen ranges, dishwashers, lightbulbs and other common appliances.  This common sense approach makes improved efficiency a manufacturing requirement for the everyday appliances used in practically every home and business, resulting in a significant reduction in energy use.  Altogether, about two dozen new energy efficiency standards will be completed in the next few years.

Offshore Energy Development:  Within the Administration’s first 100 days, a new regulatory framework was established to facilitate the development of alternative energy projects in an economic and environmentally sound manner that allows us to tap into the vast energy potential of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  The National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that development of wind energy alone on the OCS may provide an additional 1,900 gigawatts of clean energy to the U.S.

Emissions Inventory Rule: For the first time, the U.S. will catalogue greenhouse gas emissions from large emission sources – an important initial step toward measurable and transparent reductions.

International Leadership

The Major Economies Forum (MEF): President Obama launched the MEF in March 2009, creating a new dialogue among developed and emerging economies to combat climate change and promote clean energy. At the July L’Aquila summit, MEF Leaders announced important new agreements to support the UN climate talks and launched a new Global Partnership to promote clean energy technologies.

Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies: The President spearheaded an agreement at the Pittsburgh G20 summit for all G20 nations to phase out their fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term and to work with other countries to do the same.  Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations followed the G20 lead at their summit in Singapore, expanding the number of countries committing to these subsidies.  According to the International Energy Agency, this measure alone could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent or more by 2050.

Bilateral Energy and Climate Partnerships: The U.S. is accelerating its collaboration with China, India, Mexico, Canada and other key international partners to combat climate change, coordinate clean energy research and development, and support the international climate talks.

Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas: President Obama proposed a partnership with our neighbors in the western hemisphere to advance energy security and combat climate change.  An early product of this cooperation is Chile’s Renewable Energy Center, which receives technical support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Phasing Down HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons): The U.S. joined Canada and Mexico in proposing to phase-down HFC emissions, a very potent greenhouse gas, in developed and developing countries under the Montreal Protocol.  This represents a down payment of about 10% of the emission reductions necessary to cut global greenhouse gas emissions to half their current levels by 2050.

Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change