US leaders, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing, attended a number of meetings related to climate change in the past week, engaging with their counterparts at the second US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) and at the 10th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders meeting.
2 September 2016: US leaders, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing, attended a number of meetings related to climate change in the past week, engaging with their counterparts at the second US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) and at the 10th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders meeting.
The S&CD convened on 31 August 2016, in New Delhi, India, and was co-chaired by Kerry, US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman. Pershing was in India as well, to co-chair the US-India Joint Working Group on Combating Climate Change, held in conjunction with the S&CD.
During the S&CD, climate change-related discussions centered on the US-India relationship in implementing the Paris Agreement and in cooperating in other multilateral climate fora. In a joint statement released following the event, the two parties reaffirm their commitment to joint initiatives on climate, clean energy and the environment, and reported on progress on a number of initiatives. Notably, the two sides announce the creation of a Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) Fellowship and their intention to expand the US-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force to include new clean energy finance initiatives. They also resolve to increase collaboration between national labs.
The Joint Working Group discussed the two countries’ collaborative work on climate resilience, air quality, forestry, capacity building and clean energy, as well as other potential joint activities to advance climate-related priorities. Pershing also traveled to Mumbai, India, on 2 September, to meet with financial sector representatives on spurring clean energy investment.
While in New Delhi, India, Kerry delivered remarks at the India Institute of Technology (IIT) – Delhi, addressing climate change in the context of security and economic growth. Noting that the “stakes could not be higher,” Kerry underscored that every decade, year, month is getting hotter than the last. Emphasizing that the solution to climate change is energy policy, he underlined India’s opportunity to underpin its growing demand for energy with renewable energy. Urging “real cost accounting,” he said, “because if you think…coal is cheaper today, you’re absolutely not accounting correctly, because…all of the attendant problems that come with it vastly outstrip…the cost of putting renewable, alternative energy in place today.”
In the Pacific, leaders met from 30-31 August 2016, in Honolulu, Hawaii, US, with Obama hosting an event at the East-West Center. At the Conference of Leaders, representatives from the Pacific released a statement to Obama and the Government of the US, sharing concerns on climate change, oceans, fisheries, trade and upper airspace management. In the statement, they seek the “US’s political support to facilitate simplified access to climate finance for the Pacific island region” and “encourage the US Government to meet its pledge under the Green Climate Fund [GCF].” The Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders (PIC) is made up of the 20 Heads of Government from the Pacific islands region. The Conference meets once every three years.
In his remarks at the East-West Center, Obama highlighted “there’s no conflict between a healthy economy and a healthy planet,” referencing US efforts to usher in clean energy while still experiencing uninterrupted job growth. He noted that in conversations with Pacific leaders, he acknowledged that “we could not have gotten a Paris Agreement without the incredible efforts and hard work of the Island nations.” He announced US$30 million in new commitments for the Pacific for funding stronger infrastructure, more sustainable development and safer drinking water. He added that climate change would be the centerpiece of the US agenda at the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in China on 4-5 September 2016.
With the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress beginning in Honolulu on 1 September, Obama also drew connections between conservation and climate change. He highlighted his extension of the Marine Natural Reserve of Papahānaumokuākea, a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, to make it the largest marine reserve in the world. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called extension of Papahānaumokuākea “a way to strengthen the resilience of societies threatened by climate change.” [Joint Statement on the Second India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue] [US State Department Press Release] [US Secretary of State Remarks] [UNFCCC Press Release] [Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Press Release] [10th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders Statement to President Barack Obama and the Government of the United States of America] [US President Remarks] [UNESCO Press Release] [IISD RS Story on the Extension of the Marine Natural Reserve of Papahānaumokuākea] [IISD RS Story on the G20 Summit in China]