Remarks by Elizabeth Cousens, Principal Policy Advisor, at the Informal Meeting of the General Assembly on Climate Change

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
Principal Policy Advisor 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 19, 2009


Mr. President,

The United States is committed to meeting the climate change challenge and forging a robust outcome in Copenhagen.  Since President Obama took office, the United States has taken more steps to combat climate change than at any time in our history. We have demonstrated our firm commitment through strong action at home, including unprecedented investments in clean energy, strengthened efficiency and appliance standards, and support of clean energy and climate legislation that will transform the United States from a high carbon to low carbon economy. 

But success will depend only in part on what we – or any other single nation – does at home.  We need a collective, international effort.  To that end, we are working actively and intensively for success in Copenhagen.   For us, a successful outcome in Copenhagen will constitute a crucial step toward a low carbon future.  To this end, the United States supports the concept of an operational prompt start accord in Copenhagen that would enable us to begin action immediately – and that would move us significantly closer to the legal agreement we seek. Such an accord will build confidence and trust between countries, and establish a foundation for the full legal agreement that we will work for as quickly as possible. Key elements of the Copenhagen outcome include emissions reductions for all major emitters –  targets for developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions for major emerging economies.  The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, and promote technology development and dissemination.  It should pay particular attention to the adaptation needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. It should promote steps to preserve and enhance forests.  

A successful Copenhagen outcome must also provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and the provision of financial, technology, and capacity building support.   It is not enough for countries merely to say that they will act.  It is essential that all major emitters “internationalize” their targets or actions by reflecting them in a Copenhagen outcome, and provide for full transparency in fulfilling these targets or actions.  Transparency is critical, so that everyone can have confidence that others are living up to their undertakings, and the world can have confidence that emissions are being reduced adequately.  
During his recent trip to Asia, President Obama made clear both his understanding of the urgency of the problem, and his commitment to achieving a successful outcome in Copenhagen.  Copenhagen presents an opportunity to move us closer to our goal of a fully implemented international legal agreement, to take global action immediately, and to build the institutions that we need to combat climate change.

Mr. President,

We must make Copenhagen a decisive landmark meeting in our sustained effort to meet the climate challenge.  It is part of our larger collective commitment to meeting one of mankind’s greatest challenges – sustainable, climate-friendly development. As we emerge from Copenhagen, we must stay the course toward a new legal agreement with urgency and resolve. We have in Copenhagen the opportunity to reach a deal that can spur us on this path immediately and speed the transition to a low-carbon global economy. It is crucial that we seize it.

Thank you.


PRN: 2009/278