150 Organizations Urge President Obama to Pledge Greater Climate Action in Paris

December 1, 2015

Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (in Paris), (951) 961-7972, ksiegel@biologicaldiversity.org
Patrick Sullivan (in U.S.), Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 517-9364, psullivan@biologicaldiversity.org
Brandon Wu, ActionAid, (202) 906-0378, Brandon.Wu@actionaid.org

150 Organizations Urge President Obama to Pledge Greater Climate Action in Paris

WASHINGTON— Following President Barack Obama’s opening speech at the Paris climate talks, more than 150 environmental, social justice, indigenous and health groups called on the president to greatly increase U.S. commitments to reducing carbon pollution, keep at least 80 percent of U.S. fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and help finance a just global transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

In a letter sent today, organizations representing several million U.S. members and activists urged the president to commit to the more ambitious actions needed to address the climate crisis. “The actions taken in the next decade will either avert the worst harms from climate disruption by limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius or commit the world to unacceptable harms for billions of people,” the letter states. “You have the capability to negotiate a climate agreement in Paris that will mark the turning point in the world’s efforts to avert catastrophic climate damage and thus protect the human rights of present and future generations.”

“President Obama kicked off the Paris talks with a good speech, but to ensure success he must commit to far bigger pollution cuts from the United States,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Our country must face its responsibility to take stronger steps to avert a climate crisis that our pollution has done so much to create.” 

According to a recent Civil Society Review report, the United States has so far offered only one-fifth of the carbon pollution reductions that it should make based on the country’s historically massive emissions. “Over the past century, the United States has put more carbon into the atmosphere than any other country, and a just transition requires the U.S. to make more ambitious emissions cuts,” said Amanda Starbuck, Rainforest Action Network’s climate and energy program director. “Obama could take a major step toward this by committing to keep fossil fuels in the ground on public lands which are controlled by the federal government.”

The inadequate pollution-cutting commitments made by the United States and other countries ahead of the Paris negotiations will still result in a 2.7 degree to 3.5 degree Celsius global temperature increase, according to independent analysis. 

“An international climate deal must be based on equity and science,” said Benjamin Schreiber, Friends of the Earth U.S.’s climate and energy program director. “If the world’s largest historical polluter refuses to do its fair share then it is no surprise that the final agreement isn’t sufficient to address the problem.” 

The letter outlines additional commitments the president should make, including financing a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 in the United States and contributing its fair share of finance for adaptation, mitigation, and loss and damage in developing countries. In addition, the letter urges the president to ban the destructive process of fracking and stop the federal government from issuing new oil and gas leases on U.S. public lands — a single action that would keep 450 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. The letter also points to a major Stanford study that found the United States could achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. 

Said Brandon Wu, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA: “As a wealthy developed country, a core part of the U.S. fair share, in addition to cutting our own emissions, is providing finance to poorer countries. Many of these countries have done little to cause the problem but are most vulnerable to its impacts, and the U.S. has a moral and legal obligation to support them.”

The groups that signed the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, ActionAid USA, Greenpeace USA, Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Rainforest Action Network, Public Citizen, Progressive Democrats of America, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Christians Caring for Creation, Friends of the Earth U.S., Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. Climate Plan and The Shalom Center.