Remarks by Ambassador Blake at the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia Conference on Climate Change, Jakarta

Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Climate Envoy Rachmat Witoelar, Climate Change Steering Committee Chair Pak Sarwonon Kusumaatmadja, fellow Ambassadors, Pak Dino Patti Djalal, distinguished guests,

I appreciate the opportunity to address this gathering on the importance of acting on climate change.  I thank the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia for organizing this event and bringing us all together.

Climate change is one of the most serious and pressing challenges facing all of us today: as government officials, private citizens, parents – all of us have a reason to address this challenge and take actions to mitigate the danger coming from the rising concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Just a few weeks ago, when President Obama was in Alaska to address the GLACIER conference on the Arctic, he pointed out that climate change is the “challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.”

President Obama chose to speak about this topic in Alaska because the Arctic is one of the areas of the world that is showing the impacts of climate change most clearly.  But those impacts are not limited to the Arctic, or to developing countries.

These impacts are affecting Indonesia already, and will worsen, undermining development and exacerbating ‎poverty, jeopardizing President Jokowi’s priorities of improving Indonesians’ standards of living.

Let me share a few clear indicators of climate change that are particularly relevant to Indonesia.

The average sea surface level has risen by about 20 centimeters since the end of the 19th century.  Forty percent of Jakarta is already below sea level and vulnerable to flooding – imagine the costs to protect this city against a sea that is another 20, 40, or even 60 centimeters higher by the end of this century.

Indonesia is world-famous for its spectacular coral reefs, the heart of the Coral Triangle.  Yet carbon dioxide in the air is increasing ocean acidity, making it harder for corals to build their structures.  If carbon dioxide concentrations continue their current path, the region could lose 30% of its corals by 2050.  Imagine the loss to Indonesia’s natural heritage, to the fisheries industries dependent on healthy reefs, and to the multi-billion dollar tourism industry anchored by these reefs.

Rainfall will become more unpredictable and intense.  Think of the damage already caused by storms, flooding, and mudslides, and imagine the losses as these events become more frequent and more intense.  The unpredictability of the rainfall, even if the amount does not change, will also challenge farmers who already are under pressure to increase yields to feed Indonesia’s population.

Speaking of rainfall, we are expecting an increasingly severe El Nino event this year, reducing rainfall in much of Indonesia.  Climate change models predict that El Nino events will double in frequency.  The El Nino-induced droughts will stress Indonesia’s farmers and food security and cause more frequent forest fires.

That’s why the U.S. has a $500 million program in Indonesia both to help catalyze investment in renewable energy and to partner with Indonesia to preserve carbon-rich primary forests and encourage sustainable forest management.

With that context of the urgency of this challenge, I would like to outline my Government’s perspective on the upcoming Conference of Parties.

Securing a new Climate Agreement in Paris is one of President Obama’s top priorities this year.  Reaching a new international agreement in Paris would be an historic step.  It would establish, for the first time, an ambitious, durable climate regime that applies to all countries, is fair, focuses both on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience, includes strong accountability measures, and ensures financial and technical assistance to those in need.

The deal is there to be done in Paris if we are smart, make compromises, find common ground and work together.

The U.S. announced our INDC in March of this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels in 2025.  This target is consistent with achieving deep, economy-wide reductions of over 80 percent by 2050.  It roughly doubles the pace of emission reductions for the period 2020-2025 as compared to 2005-2020.

The United States is leading on the domestic front too.  Since President Obama took office, the United States has taken historic steps to sharply reduce its emissions, especially through the President’s Climate Action Plan, putting us on track to meet our goal of reducing emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020.  We have:

  • More than tripled electricity generation from wind, and increased solar energy generation by more than twenty fold;
  • Established the toughest fuel economy standards in U.S. history for cars and trucks, which will double average fuel efficiency from 2025; and
  • Proposed groundbreaking regulations to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent from U.S. power plants, which account for a third of U.S. emissions.

And now, with Paris fast approaching, we are very pleased that Indonesia is about to submit a clear target, one that Minister Siti and others have noted has an “unconditional” core that is not contingent on external finance.

With major economies such as Indonesia signaling they are on board, we can send a powerful signal of leadership and inject important momentum into the climate negotiations.

Features for Final Agreement in Paris

Allow me to share our objectives for the final agreement that we seek to obtain from the Conference of Parties:

First, the outcome needs to be ambitious.  The core objective of the 1992 Framework Convention is to avoid dangerous climate change, so we need to reduce emissions as effectively as possible.  The first step is for countries to come forward with strong, timely INDC targets.  And the agreement also needs to include solid accountability measures so everyone can see how countries are doing in implementing their targets.

Second, we need to elevate the importance of adaptation. Countries need to do sound adaptation planning and to implement those plans in order to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Third, the agreement needs to be fair to all and relevant to a dynamic and evolving world.  What we expect from countries should be differentiated to capture their varying circumstances and capabilities.  But an agreement for the 2020s and beyond cannot be bifurcated on the basis of fixed 1992 categories or equivalents, such as developed versus developing countries.

Fourth, the outcome needs to ensure strong, ongoing financial assistance, especially aimed at adaptation for the most vulnerable, like small islands and African states, consistent with the robust measures taken in recent years.

U.S. Actions to Support Developing Countries

Let me assure you that we are prepared to do our part not only on our own commitments, but also to assist other countries to meet their commitments.  I know my time is short, so I will only mention a very few items to note our international and domestic efforts here.

  • We have significantly increased financial support for developing country efforts to reduce emissions and increase adaptation .  Last weekend in Paris, the United States and Switzerland hosted senior officials from 18 developed countries to discuss our collaborative efforts to scale up climate finance, and to provide increased transparency on our progress.  The data from the World Bank and the IPCC show that we are well on our way toward the goal of mobilizing $100 billion of funding from public and private sources by 2020.
  • Late last year, the United States announced a $3 billion pledge to the new Green Climate Fund, and worked with others to secure total pledges of over $10 billion.
  • And we are committed to ensuring a strong, ongoing program of financial and technical assistance in the post-2020 regime.

To sum up – the United States under President Obama is fully engaged both domestically and internationally to meeting the challenge posed by climate change.  We are totally committed to reaching an effective Paris deal that launches a major climate effort for the decades to come, and as the third and fourth largest countries in the world, and among the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, we look forward to working in tandem with our Indonesian partners to help make this happen.

As Prepared.