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  • Paris Climate Change Talks

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    UDALL. Mr. President, I wish to first say to Senator Cardin, who led our delegation--Senator Cardin is the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee. Foreign relations has a lot to do with this issue. He showed great leadership, and I believe he is passionate about this issue and finding solutions.

    So we were somewhat disappointed, the 10 of us who went--all Democrats--that Republicans didn't join us. This is an issue that needs bipartisanship. We need to join--Republicans and Democrats--on an issue that threatens our national security, threatens our economy, and threatens our environment. It is an issue that is looming out there and needs attention. So we look forward to working with our friends on the other side of the aisle to move forward on this issue.

    As I looked over there and saw what was happening, I remembered many of the briefings we have had. Everyone who has looked at this challenge of global warming and climate change says that we need to do two things. First, we need to drive capital to new energy sources, to clean energy sources. We need to innovate is what they are talking about. If you get the capital there and you get the private sector working, you can come up with the solutions. Secondly, we need to put a signal in the marketplace to invest in clean energy and renewable energy.

    I was so proud of what happened over there in terms of the world joining together. More than 184 countries came together, and we are going to see the conclusion of their action this week. They have stepped forward and said: We are going to have targets, we are going to have goals, and we are going to be transparent. We are going to let people know we are moving in the direction of solutions and doing something about this immense problem.

    So it was a major step forward to see those 184 countries step up and decide to do something.

    In addition, Bill Gates led a group of entrepreneurs over to Paris to announce and to challenge the world about energy research and development. As everyone knows, Bill Gates is one of our great entrepreneurs. He and his wife are also philanthropists. He stepped up with 27 other billionaires to say: We are going to put billions into research and development, and we are going to put it into innovation. They called this project Mission Innovation, and they challenged other countries around the world to do the same thing-- double their energy research and budget.

    So seeing 184 countries step up to the plate and say ``We are going to do this''--and I think we will see those announcements in the next couple of days--and seeing these entrepreneurs step forward I think was a signal--and a bold signal--to the marketplace that we are changing and moving in a new [[Page S8577]] direction and that we are going to get this done.

    I am very proud of my State of New Mexico because we have all sorts of energy--uranium, coal, oil, gas--and we have many renewable sources--wind, biomass, solar, geothermal, but we have taken a strong step in New Mexico to push for renewable resources. In our State statutes, we pushed for a renewable electricity standard of 10 percent by 2010. We met that early, so we put another standard in place of 20 percent by 2020.

    We are really in the bull's-eye in terms of climate change in New Mexico because of what we see and what we know happens in the Southwest. The temperatures are twice as high. We have seen those temperatures increase over the last 50 years. So we know there is a crisis, we know there is an issue, we know we need to do something about this, and we are very willing to step forward.

    Mr. President, according to a study at Los Alamos National Laboratory, by 2050--not far away--we may not have any forests left in my State. It will be as if New Mexico were dragged 300 miles to the south. Our climate will resemble land that is now in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert.

    Now, I am not a scientist. Neither are my colleagues. But the experts at LANL--and scientists all over the world--are clear. If we do nothing, global warming will only get worse.

    The nations of the world know this. That is why over 190 nations are in Paris: To meet the challenge of climate change, and to do it together.

    The Paris agreement will not solve the problem of global warming by itself, but it is a major step forward. It is what we need to ensure every country does its part, and does its fair share on climate change.

    The largest emitters in the developing world--China and India--are making serious commitments. They understand, they have to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

    This is about their economy, and it is about a commitment to future generations.

    Opponents of U.S. climate action have argued that other nations-- especially China--would never act to limit their emissions. Well, now they are. This is encouraging--and something we need to encourage further. That is what the world's scientists tell us. That is what our own Department of Defense tells us. We can make progress now--or face ever greater instability later.

    More than 180 nations are on board with individual commitments. They will take concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is historic. This will slow global warming--and it must be done now, not later. The world cannot afford to wait.

    These nations see the threat. They see the mounting danger. A representative from Bangladesh told me that in his country every day, they face the threat of rising sea levels.

    These countries came to Paris with a commitment to succeed.

    And the work began before Paris--such as when the U.S. and China announced major mitigation commitments last year.

    Our task now is to keep up the momentum, to keep moving forward--both at home and abroad. I believe there are two things we can do right now: No. 1, work to drive capital to new energy efficient technologies. We need to renew the Production Tax Credit for renewables. Tax incentives have been in place for decades for oil and gas.

    Wind, solar and biofuels need that investment as well.

    No. 2, send a positive signal to the markets. That means keeping our own climate goals on track, and stopping efforts that would turn back progress. That means encouraging capital investment in sustainable energy--not just in the U.S, but, throughout the world.

    We are seeing a growing investment in new technologies with public and private resources. Last week, 28 of the world's billionaires committed to investing in energy research and innovation.

    And we are seeing a major market signal that there is demand for those technologies--here in the U.S. through the Clean Power Plan and other measures, and across the globe, especially in developing countries, that have demonstrated a commitment to grow their economies in a cleaner, more sustainable way.

    Now is the time for action. America must lead, because we cannot ignore the danger--to our planet, to our economy, and to our security. The science is clear, the threat is growing, and time is running out.

    This is not news to people in my State. In New Mexico, temperatures are rising 50 percent faster than the global average--not just this year or last year, but for decades.

    We have seen historic droughts. When it does rain we have seen terrible flooding. And we have seen the worst wildfires in New Mexico's history. What we have not seen--what we have waited for--is for Congress to act.

    It has not been for lack of trying. There have been many attempts-- including bipartisan ones. But each and every time Congress failed to make it to the finish line, failed to pass comprehensive legislation-- in both Houses--to curb our greenhouse gas emissions.

    Just this week, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science held a hearing focused on whether climate change is real. This is settled science. The world has moved on. The United States Congress should, too.

    So the President and the EPA have used their authority under the Clean Air Act to lead. They have done what needs to be done, with the support of many of us here in Congress--and of the American people.

    The Clean Power Plan is reasonable, and it will make a difference to restrict emissions from new and existing power plants.

    Mr. President, I hope that going forward Congress will work on solutions--rather than wasting time on Resolutions of Disapproval, rather than wasting time on questioning science.

    The American people do not want a science debate. They want action. The world has come together in Paris. Nations are moving forward. The very real question now is--how do we keep that going? As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to fight against dangerous environmental riders.

    I am encouraged by the conference in Paris, and I am confident that the United States will continue to lead--even if our Republican colleagues continue to block.

    With increased U.S. leadership over the last 5 years we have made great international progress. The Paris conference is evidence of that.

    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 and every other State.

    Because in this great challenge, there is also great opportunity. Our country can lead the world in a clean energy economy. We have the technology, we have the resources. We need the commitment.

    That means finding solutions, developing technology, and not denying scientific reality; not wasting time on empty resolutions that come from nowhere and go nowhere.

    There are now more solar jobs in the United States than coal jobs.

    My state has every kind of energy resource: Coal, oil, gas, uranium, solar, wind, algae biofuel and more. We are doing all we can to diversify--and reduce carbon emissions. A clean energy economy protects our communities and creates jobs.

    A renewable electricity standard--which I have long fought for--would create 300,000 jobs. Most of these jobs are high-paying, they are local, and they cannot be shipped overseas.

    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 mandate that 30 percent of our energy come from renewable resources by 2030. Over half the States already have renewable energy portfolios. Many of them are being met and exceeded.

    In New Mexico, we are blessed with great natural resources and with great human resources as well. Researchers at Sandia and Los Alamos national [[Page S8578]] labs are studying climate change--not with an agenda, but with a commitment--to tackling the problem, with real science and with real innovation.

    Together, we can meet this challenge. We can find a path forward that works. We can work with the global community. We can protect our planet. But, America must lead and help drive progress across the world.

    Mr. President, 48 national security and foreign policy leaders-- Democrats and Republicans alike--have sounded the alarm. From Chuck Hagel to William Cohen, from Madeleine Albright to George Schultz, in a joint statement they urge us to fight climate change. They urge us to ``think past tomorrow.'' The Paris agreement is a starting point and a historic opening for a global effort to address climate change. It is an opportunity, it is an obligation, and it is something that history will show was the right thing to do.

    Mr. President, I see my colleagues have joined me on the floor. Senator Schatz, Senator Shaheen, and Senator Cory Booker are down here, and they have done excellent work. I yield at this time to Senator Schatz. I would just say by the way of introduction that I am so impressed with his State and the leadership in his State. Hawaii is going to be a 100-percent renewable State in 2040. A lot of that is due to his leadership and his legislature and Governor stepping up to the plate.

    With that, Senator Schatz.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Hawaii.

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