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Action at Home, Leadership Abroad: Our Path to Climate Progress

After returning from COP 20 in Lima, Peru, where countries are meeting to pave the way for an international climate change agreement, Mike Boots highlights how the U.S. has played a leading role in domestic and international efforts to combat climate change.

This week I traveled to Lima, Peru, for the United Nations climate negotiations (COP 20), an important meeting in the effort to achieve an international climate agreement. Here in Lima, representatives from countries all over the world are gathering to highlight their progress in curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and lay the groundwork for an international climate agreement.

Throughout the week, I shared with our international partners the impressive progress the United States has made since COP 19, held in Warsaw last year. We have worked with states and industry leaders to propose new national limits on harmful carbon pollution from power plants, and we’ve collaborated with governors, mayors, Tribal leaders, and county officials to support communities preparing for the impacts of climate change.

We have also played a leading role in international efforts to combat climate change. Just last month, in an historic joint announcement, President Obama and Chinese President Xi announced our two countries’ respective post-2020 carbon pollution reduction targets. And that same week, President Obama pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, reflecting the U.S. commitment to reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience in developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

So it’s clear that the U.S. commitment to leadership on climate change is stronger than ever. Over the past few days, I have been highlighting that leadership in discussions with environmental ministers and government officials from around the world, as well as scientists, state and local leaders, business leaders, and advocates who share the President’s belief that we have a moral obligation not to leave behind a planet that is polluted and damaged.

Some of the sessions throughout the week addressed the already apparent impacts of climate change, including to our most treasured and vulnerable places like the Arctic. Other panels focused on progress in implementing the President’s Climate Action Plan, including EPA’s Clean Power Plan. I also heard about action taken at the subnational level in other countries, and shared how states, cities, and tribes have demonstrated bold leadership in the face of climate change here in the U.S.  And one of the discussions explored actions that reduce emissions and build resilience at the same time, such as advancing green stormwater infrastructure and investing in sustainable and resilient transportation.

As part of the week’s events, CEQ hosted two events aimed at getting the word out about President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The first brought together a group of Administration and White House officials to share how the U.S. is staying on track to meet the President’s bold goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020. The other event addressed our efforts to support communities as they prepare for the impacts of climate change and highlighted the work of members of the President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, including Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, who participated via video, and Governor Jerry Brown of California.

The steps we’ve taken at home to tackle climate change have made the U.S. a credible voice for climate action on the international stage. And that’s important, because climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response. COP 20 in Lima will help pave the way for an international agreement to be reached at COP 21 in Paris in December of 2015.

As we move towards Paris, the Administration is going to keep pushing forward on all fronts at home to cut carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, boost energy efficiency, and build community resilience. We’ll continue to set ambitious goals, and we’ll remain on track to meet them. Because, as the President said at the UN Climate Summit this year, our children deserve such ambition.

Mike Boots leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality