Arlington, VA – As a major economy and one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States has a responsibility to lead the world in confronting the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change. Conservation International (CI) believes this leadership requires a firm commitment from the United States to immediately reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and help other countries tackle climate change through both adaptation and mitigation measures.
Based on assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientific bodies, overall levels of greenhouse gases must be held at 400 parts per million or lower to avoid catastrophic climate change. At current rates, we will exceed that level in the next five years, or well before 2025. The strategy outlined today by President Bush – waiting until 2025 to begin reducing U.S. emissions – falls far short of the U.S. leadership required.
CI is calling for the United States to set a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2025. In real figures, that means U.S. emissions of 4.6 billion tons in 2025. By comparison, the U.S. figure for 2005 was 5.9 billion tons, and President Bush’s strategy would permit that figure to exceed 7.4 billion tons by 2025.
Lowering emissions from energy production and use must be central to any climate change strategy. However, much more can and should be done. A key priority is halting the destruction of tropical forests. The burning and clearing of these equatorial jungles causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains, ships and airplanes combined. In addition, tropical forests are home to most of the planet’s diversity of life, and provide natural resources and essential services to hundreds of millions of people.
We stand at a critical point in history. The twin challenges of climate change and energy security require innovation to reduce our environmental footprint and become more efficient and productive in the way we use energy and natural resources. As we pursue new technologies to tackle these challenges, we must not overlook the opportunity to harness nature’s own technology – the biological diversity of species, genes, and ecosystems – as an immediate and cost-effective way to help the global community mitigate and adapt to climate change. If we don’t take immediate action to incorporate forests and biodiversity in our approach to climate change, we run the risk of missing major opportunities to reduce emissions and undermining the ability of poor communities to adapt.
Currently, less than 1 percent of carbon market investment created by the Kyoto Protocol targets deforestation, which releases at least 20 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Investments must be proportionate to the source of the problem, and the proper incentives must be provided to encourage such investment.
Climate change is a global issue, and the United States has a duty to lead. CI calls on the current administration, Congress and the presidential candidates to meet this historic challenge.
Senior Director, Global News Media
Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the biodiversity hotspots, high-biodiversity wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information about CI, visit www.conservation.org.