Barack Obama Commits to “New Chapter” on Climate Change

Cross-posted from WattHead – Energy News and Commentary

In a prepared video address delivered today at the Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, CA, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to turn over “a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change.”

In the short address, viewed by an audience that includes leaders from around the nation and the world, Obama emphasized the importance of the upcoming international climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland, and said he was “looking forward to working with all nations to meet [the climate] challenge in the coming years.”

Obama reconfirmed his campaign commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 through a national cap and trade program and again pledged to “invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future.”

Convened by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other US governors on the forefront of global warming solutions, the Bi-partisan Governors Global Climate Summit convenes in Los Angeles today and begins two days of dialog designed to spur global cooperation on climate change in advance of the UN-sponsored talks in Poland next month. To this crowd of climate leaders, Obama said:

“Few challenges facing America — and the world — are more urgent than combating climate change. Many of you are working to confront this challenge….but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office.”

Watch the short video address below (full transcript below the fold):



Remarks as Delivered:

Let me begin by thanking the bipartisan group of U.S. governors who convened this meeting.

Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season.

Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.

I know many of you are working to confront this challenge. In particular, I want to commend Governor Sebelius, Governor Doyle, Governor Crist, Governor Blagojevich and your host, Governor Schwarzenegger –all of you have shown true leadership in the fight to combat global warming. And we’ve also seen a number of businesses doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies.

But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

That will start with a federal cap and trade system. We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050.

Further, we will invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future. We will invest in solar power, wind power, and next generation biofuels. We will tap nuclear power, while making sure it’s safe. And we will develop clean coal technologies.

This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.

But the truth is, the United States cannot meet this challenge alone. Solving this problem will require all of us working together. I understand that your meeting is being attended by government officials from over a dozen countries, including the UK, Canada and Mexico, Brazil and Chile, Poland and Australia, India and Indonesia. And I look forward to working with all nations to meet this challenge in the coming years.

Let me also say a special word to the delegates from around the world who will gather at Poland next month: your work is vital to the planet. While I won’t be President at the time of your meeting and while the United States has only one President at a time, I’ve asked Members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there.

And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.

Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious.

Stopping climate change won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But I promise you this: When I am President, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America. Thank you.

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4 Responses to “Barack Obama Commits to “New Chapter” on Climate Change”


  1. 1 Anna da Costa Nov 18th, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    This is momentous! Thank you Jesse for sharing this with us, who all around the world have been waiting and hoping for signs that America will step up and take this problem seriously. Perhaps it is possible to hope now?

  2. 2 Alex Tinker Nov 19th, 2008 at 4:08 am

    Damn you’re fast Jesse.

  3. 3 Robbie Nov 19th, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Great to see that we might finally have real political leadership on this issue here in the US!

  4. 4 Jake Schmidt Nov 25th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Restoring America’s leadership on global warming is no easy task. US leadership has been lost over a sustained period as the current Administration has failed to make progress on global warming. (Sadly this is time we don’t have.) So, becoming a leader isn’t something that can be done overnight, but it will need to start from day one. President-elect Obama has already signaled that he will Restore American Leadership on Global Warming. So, what more does he have to do?

    Well, a coalition of groups — including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — has just released a detailed plan Transition to Green which outlines actions for the new Administration and Congress on environmental issues. For more details on the recommendations for key elements of the international climate debate, see my new post: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jschmidt/actions_to_restore_leadership_on_global_warming.html.

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About Jesse


Jesse Jenkins is an energy and climate policy analyst, advocate, and blogger. Jesse is the Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, California, where he works to develop and advance new energy solutions to power America's future, secure our energy freedom, and halt global warming. He joined Breakthrough in June 2008 and previously directed the Breakthrough Generation fellowship program for young clean energy leaders. Jesse worked previously as a Research and Policy Associate at the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, OR, helping to advance the development of the Pacific Northwest's abundant renewable energy potential. A prolific author and blogger on clean energy issues, Jesse is the founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary, a featured writer and advisory board member at the Energy Collective, and a frequent contributor at Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and Grist.org.

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