Senator Joe Lieberman
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing today on an essential topic – our nation’s implementation of our international commitments on the environment. I regret that I am unable to attend today, but I must preside over the markup of the homeland security bill in the Governmental Affairs Committee.
Ten years ago, the world took a dramatic step towards a sustainable future when it convened the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro during the tenure of the first President Bush. The Summit resulted in several of our most critical environmental agreements, including the Conventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity.
Unfortunately, as we prepare for the next “Earth Summit” a decade later, this Bush Administration does not appear to have taken as aggressive an approach to our global commitment to environmental protection as its predecessor did. In fact, we appear to be going to the summit in Johannesburg with little more than a plan to delay enforceable action on the planet’s critical needs.
The most visible – and most integral – of the Rio agreements for our sustainable future may be the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. As is well-known by now, however, this Administration has abdicated our nation’s leadership on the issue, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol and offering no alternative path forward. That’s disturbing enough. But now we also appear ready to distract the world’s attention from addressing this problem.
As I understand it, the United States has affirmatively stated to the world community that President Bush will not attend the conference in Johannesburg next month if the climate change treaty is discussed. It is one thing to ignore this pressing problem domestically, as President Bush’s business-as-usual proposal is essentially doing. But it is entirely another to ask the rest of the world to put it aside as well.
Luckily, in lieu of executive leadership, we have other branches and levels of government that can act, and are acting. The Environment Committee recently passed the Clean Power Act, legislation limiting the release of greenhouse gases from power plants. Governor Gray Davis of California just this week signed legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. And many other proposals are in the works. The world understands we need to move ahead on this issue, the states understand we need to move ahead on this issue, and American citizens understand we need to move ahead on this issue. It is time for the President to understand.
I therefore call on him to attend the Johannesburg summit and take the climate change issue on, head on. Perhaps, when he does, he will see the light.