TOMORROW, the US President Barack Obama will speak to world leaders on climate change during a special UN summit in New York on the eve of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.
The nations of the world are working hard right now to negotiate a new international agreement to combat climate change.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our world today. Already its impacts are apparent and consequences severe. The science sends a simple and stark message: All countries must work together to combat climate change and the time for action is now.
President Obama recognises that the US must be a leader in the global effort to combat climate change. We have a responsibility as the worldâ€™s largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases. We know that without US emission reductions, no solution to climate change is possible, so the US will take the lead in building a 21st Century clean energy economy.
President Obama is taking the US in a new direction. The president called on the US Congress to develop a comprehensive clean energy legislation to cut emissions by 14% from 2005 levels and 83% in 2050. A bill has passed the House of Representatives and is making its way through Congress. The presidentâ€™s economic stimulus package includes over $80b (sh176 trillion) for clean energy, and recently instituted vehicle standards will increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.
But action by the US and other developed nations is not enough. To preserve a safe and livable planet, all major emitting nations have to join together to take strong action. Developed countries need to reduce their emissions substantially by 2020 on an absolute basis, compared to a 2005 or 1990 baseline.
Major developing nations must take actions that will substantially reduce their emissions by 2020 on a relative basis, compared to their so-called â€œbusiness as usualâ€ path. There is no other way to contain climate change â€” the International Energy Agency estimates 97% of future emissions growth will come from the developing world.
Other developing countries have a much different role to play. They should focus on preparing low carbon growth plans â€” with financial and technical assistance where needed â€” to guide their longer-term development path.
The reality is that a new agreement is critical for all countries and especially important for those most vulnerable to the dangerous impacts of climate change. And a new agreement will benefit developing countries.
It will provide financial and technological assistance both to lower emissions and to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. Be assured, a new agreement will not require developing countries to take steps that would stifle their capacity to develop and grow. All countries deserve the opportunity to lift their people out of poverty and raise their standard of living.
Ultimately, a climate change agreement must be not just about limiting carbon emissions but about providing a safe pathway for sustainable development. A new agreement must help answer the question of how the world can develop in the decades ahead without endangering our planet. Clean energy development is the only sustainable way forward.
To facilitate this path, countries with advanced capabilities must stand ready to develop and disseminate technologies to countries in need.
If we work together, the effort to build a clean energy global economy can provide significant opportunity, driving investment, economic growth and job creation around the world. And it can be a means to bring energy services to hundreds of millions of the worldâ€™s poor. In the world of communications, many developing countries skipped the stage of expensive and often inaccessible wired phone service, going directly to mobile phones. We can do the same in the world of energy â€” with the right support, developing countries can leapfrog dirty phases of development to low-carbon technologies and clean energy opportunities. We recognise that climate change has already had a dramatic impact on the lives of Ugandans. The US is working with the Government and people of Uganda to address areas linked to changes in the local climate and mitigate their effects. For example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has completed tree-planting programmes by reforesting large tracts of land and trained farmers on irrigation and soil conservation techniques.
The new Agriculture and Food Security Initiative being launched by the Obama administration will invest millions of dollars over the next five years to help farmers adapt to the changing climate in Uganda. This programme will help develop drought-resistant seeds, train farmers in new technologies, and develop irrigation infrastructure. The US government has also launched programmes this year to help Uganda take advantage of carbon sequestration credits to foster future development in the country.
Additionally, the US will work with Ugandan authorities to preserve the natural biodiversity in Uganda and the region for future generations. The US is clear in its intent to secure a strong international agreement, and I am confident that together we can meet the climate change challenge.
The writer is the US ambassador to Uganda
United States takes steps to combat climate change