Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 21, 2016

Contacts:  Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7139,  
Darcey O’Callaghan, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2523,  
Virali Modi-Parekh, Rainforest Action Network (510) 747-8476,
Tim Judson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, (301) 270-6477,
Karen Orenstein, Friends of the Earth U.S., (202) 640-8679,
Allison Fisher, Public Citizen, (202) 454-5176,
Brandon Wu, ActionAid USA, (202) 906-0378,
Katherine Sawyer, Corporate Accountability International, (617) 695-2525,
Tom Athanasiou, EcoEquity,(510) 859-4864,
Elaine de Leon Ahn, Institute for Policy Studies, (202) 787-5271,

Obama Administration Urged to Do Fair Share to Fight Climate Crisis

U.S. Must Transition to Clean Energy Future, Provide Climate Finance to Developing Nations

NEW YORK— As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to celebrate the signing of the Paris climate agreement with other world leaders in New York, public-interest leaders today urged the Obama administration to take immediate, aggressive action in order to give the world a fighting chance to meet the agreement’s goals.  

The Paris agreement acknowledges the urgent need to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels to avoid catastrophic climate change, but the greenhouse gas pollution-cutting pledges of signatory countries fall critically short of meeting this goal.

The United States has played a major role in the agreement’s inadequacy. It has refused to do its fair share and take responsibility for the country’s historical contribution to today’s global climate emergency. Instead the country has unjustly shifted this burden to the developing nations in the Global South. Along with other developed countries, the United States is also falling far short of providing its fair share of financial support to enable developing countries to take meaningful climate action.

To fight the climate crisis, the United States must keep fossil fuels in the ground, undertake a clean-energy revolution, and provide the Global South with the financial and technological assistance demanded by science, equity and justice.  

Said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute: “After saying yes to the Paris treaty, President Obama must say no to the fossil fuel industry's plans to drill, mine and frack America into climate chaos. He's got to stop auctioning off public lands to oil companies and take emergency action to halt crude exports. The United States just can't do its fair share to fight global warming unless we keep the vast majority of our dirty oil, coal and natural gas in the ground. The president has just months left to take stronger, bolder action that will protect our climate for generations to come and support America's claim to real climate leadership.”

“The Paris Treaty is largely symbolic and wholly toothless in dealing with the threat of climate change. The only thing that will avert climate catastrophe is swift action on behalf of global leaders to keep fossil fuels in the ground and move decisively towards renewables and increased energy efficiency. False ‘solutions' like market-based schemes and carbon pricing will only keep us using and abusing fossil fuels when what we need is a clean-energy revolution,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

“The Paris agreement acknowledges the urgent need to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but lacks the clear roadmap the world desperately needs to get us there. Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change is a moral imperative that will require transformational change. We call on President Obama to keep fossil fuels in the ground and provide the regions of the world most impacted by climate change with finance and technology to support a just transition to clean energy,” said Amanda Starbuck, program director of Rainforest Action Network.

“The commitments in the Paris agreement must move beyond symbolic goals to eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases and the use of fossil fuels and other dirty energy sources. We have the tools to power the world 100% with clean, renewable energy, the costs of which are dropping while the environmental and economic costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power are increasingly unsustainable. Secretary Kerry and other global leaders simply need to commit to a carbon-free, nuclear-free path to reducing emissions,” said Tim Judson, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

“The pitiful outcome on climate finance must not be lost amidst the euphoria surrounding the signing of the Paris Agreement. Developed countries fell painfully short of their moral and legal obligation to provide money for developing countries to take climate action, in line with what science and justice demand. With the Paris Agreement, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable got the short end of the stick, which is no cause for celebration,” said Karen Orenstein, senior analyst at Friends of the Earth U.S.

“The Paris climate agreement needs to be accompanied by bold and immediate action. In the U.S. we need to knock down the barriers that stand in the way of this mandate starting with defeating obstructionist lawsuits that delay implementation of even the most modest actions to reduce climate disrupting pollutants. Big polluters and their allies need to be put on notice that people and the planet, not corporate profits, drive our leaders decision-making,” said David Arkush, climate director of Public Citizen’s Energy and Climate Program.

“The Paris Agreement is a breakthrough but not yet a success. Not by a long shot. It marks the end of a long international stalemate, but the emergency mobilization we need is still only a hope.  What we know for sure is that the Paris regime is nationally driven. As the wealthiest nation on Earth, the U.S. has the responsibility to lead.  We certainly have the capacity, and the technology, to do so. The question now is if we can wrest back control of our democracy, and finally act,” said Tom Athanasiou, executive director of EcoEquity.

“We must be under no illusion that the job is anywhere near complete with the signing of the Paris Agreement. The emissions cuts that all countries committed to in Paris last December, and the money that rich countries have pledged, fall far short of what’s needed to protect the lives of the world’s poorest people who are already feeling the impacts of the changing climate. As the world’s leading historical polluter and the world’s wealthiest nation, the Obama administration and the U.S. must make good on the promises we made in Paris, but we also have to do much more than we’ve currently committed to do,” said Brandon Wu, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA.

“The U.S. signing the Paris climate agreement is like an addict admitting he has a problem. It’s a good first step, but it in no way guarantees the problem is solved. The United States has to break its addiction to fossil fuels, evolve quickly past a dig, burn, dump economy, and harness the clean power innovation emerging from communities across our nation. And, as the wealthiest nation on earth, we must keep the promise made in Paris to move money in support of communities in the global South who are most impacted by, but least responsible for, the unfolding climate crisis. Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s a moral imperative,” said Janet Redman, climate policy program director at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“While the Paris Agreement was an historic diplomatic achievement, the true historic moments are to follow when Parties not only implement the agreement, but increase national action and ambition beyond the agreement. In order to ensure this rapid implementation and ambitious action is taken, governments must first eliminate the primary obstacle to progress: the corrosive interference of big polluters like the fossil fuel industry. Only then can we be sure that policy processes hold people and the planet over corporate profits,” said Katherine Sawyer, senior international organizer at Corporate Accountability International’s Kick Big Polluters Out campaign.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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