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Sheldon W.
Democrat RI

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  • Student Success Act—Conference Report—Continued

    by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, thank you very much. I ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes as in morning business.



    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Paris Climate Change Negotiations Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, led a delegation of 10 Senators to Paris this past weekend. We went to support the ``high- ambition coalition'' on the international climate agreement. It was truly impressive to see so many nations represented at the meeting, active and trying to help. All of us in the codel came away from Paris with a good feeling about the prospects for a strong climate agreement.

    I had the chance to speak at Oceans Day, where people were keenly aware that the effects of carbon pollution on our oceans are undeniable. You can measure the warming oceans with thermometers. You measure sea level rise with basically a yardstick. You can measure acidification of the seas with simple pH tests. You can replicate what excess CO2 does to seawater in a basic high school science lab. That is why the big, phony climate denial apparatus the fossil fuel industry is running never talks about oceans. It is undeniable there.

    I also had a chance in Paris to cheer on our bright, young negotiating team staff, who worked late hours in their windowless common workspace but were very enthusiastic and made me very proud.

    The delegation also met with Todd Stern, who was leading the U.S. negotiating team, and we visited the NOAA scientists who were at the U.S. Pavilion. The U.S. presence there was great.

    One thing was sad, and that is that our Senate delegation of 10 Senators was all Democrats. The last political bastian of the fossil fuel industry worldwide is now the American Republican Party. No Republican was able to come with us. The fossil fuel industry would never let them.

    I will say the fossil fuel industry is behaving reprehensibly. The power it exerts over Congress is polluting American democracy. The spin and propaganda it emits through a vast array of front groups are polluting our public discourse. Of course, its carbon emissions are polluting our atmosphere and oceans.

    These fossil fuel companies are sinning, and on a monumental scale. Remember what Pope Francis said in his encyclical: ``Today . . . sin is manifest in . . . attacks on nature. . . . [A] sin against ourselves and a sin against God.'' Their behavior is truly reprehensible. They have a lot to atone for.

    But this is not exactly the American Republican party's finest hour, either. It is the world's only major political party so in tow to the fossil fuel industry that it cannot face up to the realities of carbon pollution and climate change. Some ``city on a hill'' that leaves us.

    Notwithstanding all the Republican intransigence, we were able to tell the world that we would have the President's back, and we will. We will protect the Clean Power Plan, we will protect the Clean Air Act, and we will protect any agreement that comes out of Paris.

    One nice thing in Paris was the presence of American companies, such as PG&E of California, VF Corporation of North Carolina--one of our biggest apparel manufacturers--Citigroup of New York, Kellogg of Michigan, Ben and Jerry's of Vermont, and Facebook of basically everywhere. They were there to cheer on a good deal, and so was the American Sustainable Business Council. And they have been doing this for a long while.

    Some of America's leading food companies took out this ad in the Washington Post and Financial Times on October 1 urging a strong agreement in Paris. The companies that have signed it include Mars--if you like M&Ms, you know about Mars--General Mills, Nestle USA, Unilever Corporation, Kellogg Company, Stonyfield Farm, and Dannon USA. On November 24, it was updated with new signatories, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Hershey.

    Quoting from the ad: Dear US and Global Leaders: Now is the time to meaningfully address the reality of climate change. We are asking [[Page S8478]] you to embrace the opportunity presented to you in Paris. . . . We are ready to meet the climate challenges that face our businesses. Please join us in meeting the climate challenges that face the world.

    This is an ad taken out in Politico by another group of well-known apparel companies, including Levi's--if you know blue jeans, you know Levi's; Gap; Eileen Fischer, VF Corporation, which makes Timberland, North Face, and a number of other well-known brands, urging a strong agreement in Paris. This ad ran during talks on Thursday, November 3: To US and Global Leaders: As the world gathers in Paris this week for the 2015 United Nations Conference of the Parties, we come together, as some of the largest, best known global apparel companies, to acknowledge that climate change is harming the world in which we operate. . . . We recognize that human-produced greenhouse gas emissions are a key contributor to climate change. . . . We support a strong global deal that will accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.

    Those industries are not alone. Here is an ad from a coalition of about 70 major American corporations again urging a strong agreement in Paris. They include Coca-Cola, Adidas, Intel, Colgate Palmolive, the Hartford Insurance Company, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, National Grid, DuPont, the Outdoor Industry Association, and others. They say: Failure to tackle climate change could put America's economic prosperity at risk. But the right action now would create jobs and boost competitiveness. We encourage our government to . . . seek a strong and fair global climate deal in Paris.

    Seventy major American corporations, every single one whose name you know, are saying: We seek a fair climate deal in Paris.

    Finally, this is a financial sector statement on climate change from the financial giants: Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo, again calling for a robust global agreement out of Paris. They state: We call for leadership and cooperation among governments for commitments leading to a strong global climate agreement.

    They want frameworks ``that recognize the costs of carbon.'' They say: We are aligned on the importance of policies to address the climate challenge.

    It is time people started listening.

    And let's not forget the more than 150 American companies that have signed on to the White House's American Business Act on Climate Pledge, joining that call for a strong outcome on the Paris climate negotiations. Those companies on the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge have operations in all 50 States, employ nearly 11 million people, represent more than $4.2 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $7 trillion. Yet, if you believe some of my friends on the other side, they are all just part of a big old hoax trying to fool everybody. Really? Unfortunately, while the world is listening to these strong corporate voices for a strong Paris agreement, these companies' own home State Republican Senators are right here in Congress trying to undercut their home State companies' work. But the world listens to the companies, not the deniers.

    One of their best voices is Unilever, whose CEO Paul Polman met with our delegation to express the growing support in the corporate community for climate action and to describe Unilever's work to catalyze that support.

    We met with Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and heard about a meeting scheduled for May here in Washington, DC, for corporate CEOs to come to Congress and let us know they want climate action.

    The grip of the fossil fuel companies on Congress will slip, as other corporate leaders come forward to urge strong climate action. Pretty soon, there is going to be a very small island of denial and obstruction left in a rising sea of reality. Pretty soon, there will be nobody left on the shrinking Denial Island but the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers and their front groups, and the Republican Members of Congress--oh yes, of course, can't forget the Republican Presidential candidates who are so desperate to toady up to the fossil fuel industry that they won't acknowledge this issue. Mark my words: As the rest of corporate America stands up, the fossil fuel industry's fortress of denial and deceit will tumble down.

    Paris sends a strong message of hope that echoes Pope Francis's strong encyclical on climate change. Governments, corporations, and civil society groups are a gathering force behind that message.

    Vice President Gore, who has labored long in these vineyards, met with us in Paris and had a strong message of hope. Against the gloomy falsehoods the fossil fuel industry propagates, hope burns bright for this gathering force.

    The Vice President observed to us that ``things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.'' From a man who has been through--uniquely--this all taking a long, his confidence in fast happenings was heartening.

    So not only is it time to wake up, but the world is waking up. Corporate America is waking up outside of the narrow, selfish confines of the fossil fuel industry. Wise Republicans are starting to stir--and the sooner the better.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record materials I referred to during my remarks.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: Dear US and Global Leaders: This could be a turning point.

    When you convene in Paris later this year for climate negotiations, you will have an opportunity to take action that could significantly change our world for the better.

    As heads of some of the world's largest food companies, we have come together today to call out that opportunity.

    Climate change is bad for farmers and for agriculture. Drought, flooding and hotter growing conditions threaten the world's food supply and contribute to food insecurity.

    By 2050, it is estimated that the world's population will exceed nine billion, with two-thirds of all people living in urban areas. This increase in population and urbanization will require more water, energy and food, all of which are compromised by warming temperatures.

    The challenge presented by climate change will require all of us--government, civil society and business--to do more with less. For companies like ours, that means producing more food on less land using fewer natural resources. If we don't take action now, we risk not only today's livelihoods, but also those of future generations.

    We want the women and men who work to grow the food on our tables to have enough to eat themselves, and to be able to provide properly for their families.

    We want the farms where crops are grown to be as productive and resilient as possible, while building the communities and protecting the water supplies around them.

    We want to see only the most energy-efficient modes of transport shipping products and ingredients around the world.

    We want the facilities where we make our products to be powered by renewable energy, with nothing going to waste.

    As corporate leaders, we have been working hard toward these ends, but we can and must do more.

    Today, we are making three commitments--to each other, to you as our political leaders, and to the world.

    We will: Re-energize our companies' continued efforts to ensure that our supply chain becomes more sustainable, based on our own specific targets; Talk transparently about our efforts and share our best practices so that other companies and other industries are encouraged to join us in this critically important work; Use our voices to advocate for governments to set clear, achievable, measurable and enforceable science-based targets for carbon emissions reductions.

    That's where you come in.

    Now is the time to meaningfully address the reality of climate change. We are asking you to embrace the opportunity presented to you in Paris, and to come back with a sound agreement, properly financed, that can affect real change.

    We are ready to meet the climate challenges that face our businesses. Please join us in meeting the climate challenges that face the world.

    Signed, Grant Reid (President & CEO; Mars, Incorporated), Kendall J. Powell (Chairman of the Board & CEO; General Mills, Inc.), Muhtar Kent (Chairman & CEO; The Coca-Cola Company), Paul Polman (Chief Executive; Unilever), Mariano Lozano (President & CEO Dannon & Regional VP; Danone Dairy North America), John P. Bilbrey (Chairman of the Board, President & CEO; The Hershey Company), Jostein Solheim (CEO; Ben & Jerry's), John Bryant (Chief Executive Officer; Kellogg Company), Indra K. Nooyi (Chairman & CEO; PepsiCo), Paul Grimwood (Chairman & CEO; Nestle USA), Kimberly Jordan (Cofounder & CEO; New Belgium Brewing Company), Irwin D. Simon (Founder, President, [[Page S8479]] CEO & Chairman of the Board; The Hain Celestial Group, Inc.), Esteve Torrens (President & CEO; Stonyfield Farm, Inc.), Kevin Cleary (CEO; Clif Bar).

    ____ To US and Global Leaders As the world gathers in Paris this week for the 2015 United Nations Conference of the Parties, we come together, as some of the largest, best known global apparel companies, to acknowledge that climate change is harming the world in which we operate.

    From the farmers in cotton fields to the workers in garment factories, we know that people in some of the least climate- resilient regions are being negatively impacted by a warming world. Drought, changing temperatures and extreme weather will make the production of apparel more difficult and costly.

    We recognize that human-produced greenhouse gas emissions are a key contributor to climate change. Climate change mitigation and technological innovation are vital to the health and well being of those who make and use our products, as well as to the future supply of materials needed to make those products.

    Therefore . . .

    We call upon you to reach a global agreement that provides the certainty businesses need and the ambition that climate science demands.

    We support a strong global deal that will accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy and that includes: A global goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century.

    National carbon emission mitigation commitments that are strengthened every five years starting in 2020 with a clear timetable for new commitments in 5-year blocks from 2030 onwards.

    Adaptation funding to build climate-resilient economies and communities.

    Today we pledge to: I. Continue to reduce our emissions while increasing the purchase of renewable energy and pursuing energy efficiency in our operations.

    II. Advocate for climate and energy policies that meaningfully address climate change at the global, national and state/regional levels.

    III. Engage our respective trade associations in thoughtful discussions on meaningful climate and energy policy and advocacy that promotes the long-term growth and prosperity of our sector and the health of the global economy.

    We are prepared to be held accountable to our pledge.

    We are ready to meet the climate challenges that face our businesses. Please join us in meeting the climate challenges that face our world.

    Eric Wiseman (Chairman & CEO; VF Corporation), Herbert Hainer (CEO; Adidas Group), Jake Burton Carpenter & Donna Carpenter (Founders; Burton Snowboards), Eileen Fisher (Founder & Chairwoman; Eileen Fisher), Chip Bergh (President & CEO; Levi Strauss & Co.), Art Peck (Chief Executive Officer; Gap Inc.), Karl-Johan Persson (CEO; H&M).

    ____ [lowcarbonusa.org] PAID ADVERTISEMENT Business Backs Low-Carbon USA We are some of the businesses that will help create the future economy of the United States.

    We want this economy to be energy efficient and low carbon. We believe there are cost-effective and innovative solutions that can help us achieve that objective. Failure to tackle climate change could put America's economic prosperity at risk. But the right action now would create jobs and boost competitiveness.

    We encourage our government to 1. seek a strong and fair global climate deal in Paris that provides long-term direction and periodic strengthening to keep global temperature rise below 2 C 2. support action to reduce U.S. emissions that achieves or exceeds national commitments and increases ambition in the future 3. support investment in a low-carbon economy at home and abroad, giving industry clarity and boosting the confidence of investors We pledge to continue efforts to ensure a just transition to a low-carbon, energy efficient U.S. economy and look forward to enabling strong ambition in the U.S. and at the Paris climate change conference.

    Autodesk, Inc.; The Coca-Cola Company; Unilever; Adidas Group; Johnson Controls, Inc.; Clif Bar & Company; Intel; Kingspan Insulated Panels; Microsoft; Qualcomm; Sprint; Colgate-Palmolive Company; Smartwool; The Hartford; Volvo, Volvo Group North America; Burton; Snowbird; eBay; Seventh Generation; Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies; Vail Resorts; Levi Strauss & Co.; EMC; New Belgium Brewing Company; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows; Annie's; Alta; General Mills; Dignity Health; BNY Mellon; Jupiter Oxygen Corporation; Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Outdoor Industry Association; Procter & Gamble; Ben & Jerry's; Schneider Electric; Xanterra; Nike; The North Face; Symantec; JLL; Powdr Corporation; Gap Inc.; Owens Corning; EnerNOC; Hilton Worldwide; VF Corporation; Guggenheim; Timberland; L'Oreal; IKEA; Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Skiing Company; Vulcan; Eileen Fisher; DuPont; CA Technologies; Nestle; Pacific Gas and Electric Company; Catalyst; Sealed Air; National Grid; Saunders Hotel Group; Hewlett Packard; Kellogg's; Teton Gravity Research; Dell; Mars, Incorporated; NRG; Ingersoll Rand.

    ____ In Support of Prosperity and Growth: Financial Sector Statement on Climate Change Scientific research finds that an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is warming the planet, posing significant risks to the prosperity and growth of the global economy. As major financial institutions, working with clients and customers around the globe, we have the business opportunity to build a more sustainable, low-carbon economy and the ability to help manage and mitigate these climate- related risks.

    Our institutions are committing significant resources toward financing climate solutions. These actions alone, however, are not sufficient to meet global climate challenges. Expanded deployment of capital is critical, and clear, stable and long-term policy frameworks are needed to accelerate and further scale investments.

    We call for leadership and cooperation among governments for commitments leading to a strong global climate agreement. Policy frameworks that recognize the costs of carbon are among many important instruments needed to provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs. Over the next 15 years, an estimated $90 trillion will need to be invested in urban infrastructure and energy. The right policy frameworks can help unlock the incremental public and private capital needed to ensure this infrastructure is sustainable and resilient.

    While we may compete in the marketplace, we are aligned on the importance of policies to address the climate challenge. In partnership with our clients and customers, we will provide the financing required for value creation and the vision necessary for a strong and prosperous economy for generations to come.

    Bank of America; Citi; Goldman Sachs; JPMorgan Chase; Morgan Stanley; Wells Fargo.

    Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

    ____________________

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