Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, delivered the following statement today on the United Nations climate change conference currently being held in Mexico. Below are the Chairman's remarks as prepared for delivery. To view video of the full press conference, click here: http://www.senate.gov/fplayers/CommPlayer/commFlashPlayer.cfm?fn=epw120610&st=2288.
STATEMENT OF U.S. SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
December 6, 2010
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, my message to representatives from around the world meeting in Mexico is clear:
1) First, the work you are doing is vitally important. The world's leading scientists continue to tell us that we must reduce carbon pollution to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change. And they continue to reaffirm those warnings despite the latest attempts by opponents of action to undermine the public's confidence.
2) The US remains committed to supporting cooperative efforts to cut global warming pollution, and we are continuing to make real, steady progress toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and my home state of California continues to lead the way.
Eighteen leading US scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union, have reaffirmed that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway, and it is a growing threat to society. Nevertheless, the special interests in the US and elsewhere have mounted an all-out campaign to convince the public that we are not facing a threat at all. As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I am committed to making sure the public - and my colleagues here in Washington - are exposed to continuing, non-partisan briefings on the true scientific consensus on climate change.
The science is clear and the need to act is urgent. That is why the international process continuing in Mexico is so important. Global warming is a global challenge, and global cooperation is needed to avert disaster. And that is why the United States is already taking important steps to combat global warming and will continue to do more in the future.
From the ground up, the US is taking steps to promote renewable energy, minimize dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce harmful carbon emissions.
Our nation's cities are helping lead the US towards a clean energy future. Over 1,000 mayors have signed the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to reduce each communities' carbon emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
States across the US are also working to promote clean energy and reduce carbon emissions. My home state of California, which would be one of the world's largest economies if it were a separate country, is a great example of America's leadership. In 2006, the State passed a law that requires action to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. California has also adopted a strong renewable portfolio standard. This last election showed us that the voters strongly support these efforts to promote clean energy and curb global warming - and in the process, pulled back the curtain on the special interests who are doing everything they can to stop progress.
Over the past year, Texas oil companies and other special interests spent millions of dollars on Proposition 23, a ballot initiative designed to effectively repeal California's groundbreaking clean energy laws. But on election day last month, those special interests ran into a wall of opposition from the voters of California, who have first hand experience with the jobs and economic opportunity that clean energy has brought to our state. The voters defeated Proposition 23 by an overwhelming margin because they have seen with their own eyes the wind turbines and solar panels and clean vehicles that are the future, and they refused to turn back the clock on California's commitment to combat global warming.
I built my own successful re-election campaign around the promise of clean energy, and on November 2, the voters underscored their continued support for progress by returning me to the United States Senate for another term. California's newly elected governor did the same.
California is not the only state to address global warming. The ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) held their 10th auction for carbon allowances on December 1st. In these states, more than 200 power plants are buying and selling pollution permits under an existing system to reduce carbon emissions.
And many more states are moving forward with efforts to combat global warming through the Western Climate Initiative and other regional initiatives, and through state renewable portfolio standards.
At the Federal level, we are also taking action, although our efforts at a truly comprehensive legislative approach have not succeeded yet. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Congress passed in 2009, provided more than $90 billion in clean energy investments and tax incentives. Other federal programs, such as grants and other investments in clean energy developments also moved forward.
As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I am committed to continuing to work on legislation that reduces pollution, promotes energy efficiency and creates incentives to speed the transition to clean, renewable sources of energy. President Obama has already signed legislation passed out of my Senate committee to train building operators and contractors to improve the energy efficiency of federal facilities, and we have passed through our Committee bills to make schools and other public buildings more energy efficient, and to provide incentives for clean energy development on abandoned or formerly contaminated sites. We plan to continue to work to ensure that the US government facilities are models of clean energy technology and energy efficiency. Other committees, including the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have also approved important clean energy measures.
The Obama Administration is also moving ahead and has made significant progress on addressing the threat of global warming. The Administration has formally acknowledged that greenhouse gas pollution represents a danger to public health and the environment, which provides the foundation for action to address global warming.
The Administration has already taken important steps to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which contributes more than one quarter of annual US emissions. In April of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation finalized new fuel efficiency standards for model year 2012 through 2016 cars and light trucks. The combined standards will cut carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 960 million metric tons and reduce oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels while saving consumers money. The Administration has also begun efforts to develop more stringent fuel efficiency standards for future model year vehicles.
The private sector in the United States is playing a critical part in moving the US to a clean energy economy. The US solar and wind industries continue to grow and new solar and wind capacity is added every year. And billions of dollars in venture capital has been invested in clean technology companies in recent years.
We know that moving to a clean energy economy is good economic policy and will create jobs.
An August 2010 study by the Solar Foundation in cooperation with Cornell University found that job growth in the solar industry over the next 12 months is anticipated to be 26%, significantly higher than the US economy-wide expectation of 2% growth over the same period.
Clean energy and energy efficiency jobs continue to be one of the bright spots in the California economy as well. Last year, an analysis released by Collaborative Economics for the Next 10 organization found green jobs increased by 5 percent -- while total jobs declined by 1 percent -- in California from January 2007 to January 2008. The study also found that between 1995 and 2008, green jobs grew at three times the rate of the overall California economy.
I have confidence that we will continue to move forward. The American people are making changes and are very aware that energy efficiency saves them dollars.
As this year's negotiations proceed in Mexico, I encourage all the parties to look for opportunities to move the ball forward on crucial issues. In particular, ensuring that nations are transparent in reporting their emissions, and that the reductions they report can be verified; strengthening protections for forests; and helping developing nations transition to clean energy and adapt to a changing climate are all promising areas for real progress.
I look forward to progress in Cancun and I know we can continue to find solutions to the threats posed by climate change.
We will not be able to resolve all the issues overnight. But by working together every day, we can take steps that will accomplish the task. Our children and our grandchildren are counting on all of us to rise to this challenge.
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