Ambassador’s Remarks at the Indonesia Climate Change Center @america Event

Selamat sore semua.  And thank you all for joining us this afternoon.  Bapak Rachmat Witoelar, it is my privilege to be with you here today.  Your commitment to countering climate change is inspirational.  A special thank you to the students from the University of Indonesia who are here today.  It is important for us to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and actions that we take in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.

Congratulations to the staff and leadership of the Indonesia Climate Change Center for hosting the second annual Indonesia International Peatland Conversation.  To Pak Farhan, Ibu Eli, and the many scientists who traveled from outside Jakarta and around the world, thank you for contributing to this endeavor.

The Climate Change Center is near and dear to our hearts.  As many of us know, in 2010 President Obama and President SBY made a commitment to establish this center of excellence that offers scientific analysis to policy makers on the leading issues of our times.  I’m proud that the U.S. committed some $7 million to support this center that is guided day-to-day by our partners at the Indonesian National Council on Climate Change with technical assistance provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

This center bears the name of one of the leading issues of our times.  Climate change is real, is happening now, and we human beings are the cause.  You know the statistics: oceans are 30 percent more acidic than they were a century ago.  Summertime Arctic sea ice volume has shrunk by 70 percent since 1979.  And this isn’t new knowledge.  Scientists have known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air.  But it was in the late 1950s that the U.S. National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet a suitable host for life as we know it.  And what we’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.  And loss of high carbon value peatland contributes to that.

So, the question is no longer “Is climate change happening?” it is “What are we doing about it?”  And that’s why President SBY made his famous pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions by 26 percent from business as usual by 2020.  But the solution to climate change is not going to be provided by one nation alone.  That’s why President SBY pledged an additional 15 percent reductions with international assistance – I’m stealing all of Pak Rachmat’s lines here.  Ma’af, Pak.

We all need to take on this challenge together and the United States is absolutely committed to doing our part.  Support to the Indonesia Climate Change Center is part of that.  In addition, last month the United States released our first-ever UNFCCC Biennial Report under our Cancun commitment.  It shows that under President Obama’s leadership we have doubled wind and solar electricity generation; adopted the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history; advanced environmental standards to expedite the transition to cleaner and more efficient fuels in power plants; and increased the efficiency of our homes, industries, and businesses.

These policy changes are already having results.  Since 2005, our emissions have fallen 6.5 percent, even as our economy continues to grow.  We’ve done even better when it comes to CO2 emissions from the energy sector – the single largest contributor to U.S. emissions.  In 2012, emissions from the energy sector were down 8.8% from 2005.

We know we must do more.  And President Obama’s Climate Action Plan will keep the United States on track to reach our goal of reducing greenhouse emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  Commitments like this are an important signal to the world that America is ready to act.

And action like this requires political leadership informed by science.  I commend the Indonesia Climate Change Center for hosting this second annual conference on peatlands.  I ask all of you that have joined us here to help answer the questions about how to manage peatlands more effectively; how to grow Indonesia’s economy in a sustainable manner; how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use and land use change; and how to preserve these high carbon value natural resources.

Thank you.