As the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) is taking place in Paris, our thoughts and prayers are first with all those affected by the recent terrorist attacks there. The United States joins with Slovakia to stand in solidarity with France. Terrorists will not intimidate us nor disrupt our plans to gather as an international community in Paris to confront the effects of global climate change.
Forging an agreement on climate change has never been more critical. As Secretary Kerry recently said, “Climate change is not simply a threat to the environment. It is a threat to the security and stability of countries everywhere.” The prospect of severe droughts, rapid sea level rise, and shocks to the global agricultural system will impact all regions of the globe.
One climate change economist Nicolas Stern recently noted that Europe is warming faster than many other parts of the world. Southern and central Europe has seen more frequent heat waves, forest fires, and droughts. In Slovakia, U.S. and Slovak scientists have already documented changes to Slovak forests and Slovakia’s increased vulnerability to extreme weather phenomena.
In Paris, we can not only address this urgent crisis, but also seize an opportunity to transform our global energy economy. By reducing carbon pollution we can foster innovation, develop new markets, and create new jobs. Success in Paris would reflect a new global partnership between government, the private sector, and civil society to address an enormous challenge no one can solve alone.
To address climate change, the United States has tripled wind energy, increased solar power twenty fold, and achieved record fuel efficiency standards. Working with China, India, Mexico, and Brazil, the United States has brokered diplomatic agreements to cut the carbon pollution of these large emitters. The EU has also shown leadership by committing to a 60 percent emissions reduction by 2050 in advance of COP 21.
As we head to Paris, we need continued solidarity within Europe and partnership with the United States to achieve an ambitious agreement worthy of what is at stake: the world which we will bestow upon future generations.