October 20, 2015

Ahead of Paris Conference, Udall Calls for Global Collaboration, US Leadership to Address Climate Change

As ranking member of key subcommittees on both Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations, Udall predicts efforts to block US climate policy via 'riders' will fail

WASHINGTON - Today, during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relation Subcommittee on the upcoming Paris climate summit, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, ranking Democratic member of the subcommittee, underscored the urgent need for U.S. leadership to address global climate change. The hearing examined the economic and environmental impacts of the international climate negotiations, scheduled to take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. Udall argued that the Paris Agreement is an important step toward a historic comprehensive international commitment to reduce the pollution emissions that cause global warming.

"I have led the charge in our Appropriations Committee to fight against dangerous environmental riders. Those riders would do great damage to our efforts in Paris. I will continue to fight them, and I am sure that they will fail," said Udall, also the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. "With increased U.S. leadership over the last five years, we've made great international progress. We've been working on an agreement that will be applicable to all. That is what we need. An agreement that is comprehensive, that is fair, and that ensures every country does its fair share on climate change."

"The United States must lead, and set an example for other countries. This is the right thing to do to protect our economy in the long term. More importantly, it is the essential thing to do for future generations," Udall continued. "The Paris agreement represents a historic opportunity to build a global effort to address climate change. It is an opportunity and an obligation, and one that history will show was the right thing to do."

Below are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Stern, for appearing before our subcommittee today.

We face an urgent task in Paris to bring the international community together to chart a more sustainable future for our children and our grandchildren. NASA estimates that 2015 is 93 percent likely to be the warmest year on record. And the current record holder? Last year - 2014.

Global warming is one of our greatest challenges. It requires a global effort through a comprehensive international agreement. That is the only way we can truly tackle this problem. It is an environmental challenge. It is an energy challenge. It is a public health challenge. It is a national security challenge. It is a challenge to preserve our planet. And no one - no country - is immune from that challenge, or can meet the challenge alone.

For years, the global community has looked for answers to the problem. We have gone through various international agreements and Protocols. Sadly, the U.S. has often failed to lead on this in the past. But today I am more optimistic. I am optimistic even with the tremendous political challenges here in Congress.

I have led the charge in our Appropriations Committee to fight against dangerous environmental riders. Those riders would do great damage to our efforts in Paris. I will continue to fight them, and I am sure that they will fail. And with increased U.S. leadership over the last five years, we've made great international progress. We've been working on an agreement that will be applicable to all. That is what we need. An agreement that is comprehensive, that is fair, and that ensures every country does its fair share on climate change.

The Paris Agreement takes us in the right direction. Signing up countries - developed and developing - to halt the climate crisis. The United States must lead, and set an example for other countries. This is the right thing to do to protect our economy in the long term. More importantly, it is the essential thing to do for future generations.

Over 150 countries will be a part of the Paris Agreement. Each country is setting out how they will tackle the problem on their own terms. This is encouraging, and it is an important change from the past. The largest emitters in the developing world - China and India - are making serious commitments.

Opponents of US climate action have argued that other nations - especially China - would never act to limit their emissions. Well, now they are. This is critical - to ensure we act globally, and fight climate pollution that leads to catastrophic climate change.

Another sign of progress - the world's largest oil and gas companies are supporting a climate agreement. BP, Shell, and the massive state oil companies of Saudi Arabia and Mexico are among the ten major oil companies making commitments.

The United States can help lead this effort - not only at the negotiating table in Paris - but on the front lines in New Mexico, in Florida, and Alaska and every state. We can create clean energy jobs. We can put energy independence and climate stability at the forefront.

My state of New Mexico will benefit greatly from this agreement. New Mexico is at the bullseye for climate change with historic drought and other harsh impacts. But we are also leading in new and innovative ways - for renewable energy and breakthrough technologies. There are currently more than 98 solar companies in New Mexico employing 1,600 people. There are now more solar jobs in the United States than coal jobs. Renewable energy jobs and solutions are in abundance in New Mexico. And this is true for many other states.

Support for renewable energy is strong. Nearly half of the U.S. Senate supported my amendment in January for a Renewable Electricity Standard that would have mandated 25 percent of our energy come from renewable resources by 2025. So while each state faces unique climate impacts and challenges, each state has unique strengths and solutions to contribute. Together, we can tackle this challenge as a unified country. And we can lead the global community as we confront this challenge as a unified planet. Together, we can find a path forward that works.

The Paris agreement represents a historic opportunity to build a global effort to address climate change. It is an opportunity and an obligation, and one that history will show was the right thing to do.