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Chris C.
Democrat DE

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  • Paris Climate Change Talks

    by Senator Christopher A. Coons

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    Read More about Paris Climate Change Talks

    COONS. Mr. President, I wish to express my gratitude to Senator Cardin for leading this great delegation of 10 Senators to the Paris Conference of Parties--the COP21, the global climate change conference in Paris--and to Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire for her tireless leadership on energy efficiency. The least expensive, most powerful way we can reduce our energy consumption is by investing in new technologies and new approaches that help create jobs and manufacturing in the United States and reduce our total energy consumption and footprint.

    I think the Paris conference has already been a success from the outset. As we heard directly from the head of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, 150 heads of state gathered at the very outset of that conference, and 184 countries made voluntary national commitments to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, to reducing their carbon footprint, and to working together to find sustainable solutions to this very real challenge.

    The other thing I found most encouraging about the many conversations we had with governmental leaders, with advocates, with nonprofit leaders was a commitment to bring together developed countries such as the United States and European and Asian allies of ours and the developing world--the very large countries such as India and China which have become major emitters of greenhouse gases--to bring them all together in one common agreement.

    One other comment I wish to make that comes out of what we saw going through an Innovation Fair that was hosted by Secretary Ernie Moniz of our Department of Energy was that governments alone can't solve climate change. Global conferences, such as the one we attended, are important--they are critical--but making real and sustained impact on fighting climate change is also going to require new and innovative approaches, and that requires investment by the private sector and by the Federal Government in clean energy and energy efficiency research and development.

    Commitments made in Paris, such as the announced new mission innovation and the breakthrough energy coalition, which are public- private partnerships to ramp up and accelerate our investment in research and development are more important than ever.

    We also had a chance to attend a meeting of some national leaders, of mayors and county executives, of Governors, and folks who lead regions and provinces around the world where remarkable progress has been made. At the same time that we are moving forward through this global conference as a group of nations, it is also important to recognize what subnational groups have done.

    Senator Shaheen referenced the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which New Hampshire and my home State of Delaware participate in. It has been a remarkable and effective way for a whole group of Mid- Atlantic and Northeastern States to work together. The nine participating States have reduced our emissions by nearly 20 percent while also seeing stronger economic growth than the rest of the country, I think, suggesting it is possible for us to both reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and continue to grow a strong economy.

    In fact, my home State of Delaware has reduced its GHG emissions more than any other State in the last 6 years. That is partly due to the great leadership of my Governor, Jack Markell, and partly due to the deployment of a lot of new solar systems and a lot of investment in energy efficiency.

    If I might, let me mention one important piece of bipartisan legislation that I think is part of solving this challenge of how do we achieve an ``all of the above'' energy future that has sustained long- term investments in clean energy and energy efficiency research and deployment; that is, the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act. This is a very bipartisan bill that has long [[Page S8580]] had the support of Republican Senators Murkowski, Moran, Collins, and Gardner. Even Congressman Ted Poe, of Houston, TX, who represents a great deal of oil and gas in his district, is an advocate for this bill. I have been leading it, along with Senator Stabenow, Senator Bennet, Senator King, and others in this Chamber. It is an important way that we can allow master limited partnerships, long available to the oil and gas industry, to be opened up to all forms of energy to make it a level playing field and to provide opportunities going forward to finance renewable energy products and energy efficiency projects. This small tweak to our Tax Code could make a cumulative big difference going forward.

    In conclusion, let me renew my point that government alone can't solve climate change, but it has a central role to play in bringing together the people who can. Let's pass the MLP Parity Act, and let's make long-term, sustained investments in Federal R&D. Let's bring together public, private, and nonprofit leaders because there is no limit to what we can accomplish when our brightest scientific minds, business leaders, and our diplomats working for us in Paris come together to lay out a positive, sustained goal.

    I wish to yield the floor to my colleague, the junior Senator from the State of Rhode Island, who has been a tremendous and tireless champion for conservation and in particular for our oceans, which are such a vital part of our climate future.

    I yield the floor to Mr. Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.

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