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Diplomacy in Action

OECD 3rd Annual Urban Roundtable for Mayors and Ministers: "Cities and Green Growth"

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Paris, France
May 25, 2010


Good morning. As a Representative of the United States and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would like to thank the Ministers, elected officials, the OECD and guests, and OECD Secretary Angel Gurría for all of the hard work you do day in and day out working to create a cleaner global economy.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our planet, and the United States is taking significant action to meet this challenge. Under President Obama, the U.S. has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than ever before; not only by supporting domestic policies that advance clean energy and address climate change, but also by vigorously engaging in international climate negotiations.

The U.S. Department of State, being the United States’ leading foreign affairs agency, and the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, have made international engagement concerning this issue a priority in their work. Our communities the world over are grappling with the same issue – how to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth that makes a difference in people’s lives. Thus the Department of State seeks to build partnerships that will allow local officials to exchange ideas.

As the former first lady of Arkansas, Secretary Clinton worked with Governors for over 30 years, and as the Senator from New York, she understood the importance of working closely with state and local officials to successfully address global challenges. In her current role as Secretary of State, she is responsible for U.S. foreign policy and all of its global challenges. Since Secretary Clinton understands that many solutions are being implemented at the state, city, and local levels, the Secretary created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of State to:

  • Work directly with state and local officials both in the U.S. and with their sub-national counterparts abroad; and
  • Build and enhance global relationships between state and local officials so that they can collaborate on international issues such as urbanization, city planning, food security, global health, trade, investment and economic development, energy, and, of course, climate change.

As I noted earlier, in the past year, the United States has demonstrated a renewed commitment to addressing climate change at home. More specifically:

  • The U.S. is investing over $80 billion in clean energy through the economic recovery act – including the largest ever renewable energy investment in U.S. history;
  • The President is working with Congress to advance comprehensive climate and energy legislation that would promote clean energy investments and lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent below current levels by 2050;
  • The EPA has instituted historic new vehicle efficiency standards that will increase fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas pollution, requiring an average fuel economy of 35.5 mpg by 2016 for model years 2012 to 2016;
  • The EPA continues to develop more stringent efficiency standards for appliances like refrigerators and microwaves, helping Americans reduce their climate impacts at home;
  • The EPA is working on the steps that would form the basis to regulate stationary sources; and
  • President Obama signed an Executive Order on Federal Sustainability, committing the federal government to lead by example and help build a clean energy economy through government operations. The Executive Order, among other initiatives, requires federal agencies to collectively reduce emissions 28 percent by 2020; increase energy efficiency; and reduce fleet petroleum consumption.
  • In many instances, our state and local initiatives have often gone further. The County Climate Protection Program, under the aegis of the National Association of Counties, works to encourage and support counties in their efforts to combat climate change. Several counties have made significant strides in implementing and achieving the objectives of emissions reduction and air quality improvement. The Fresh AIRE Program of Arlington, VA, and The Climate Protection Campaign of Sonoma County, CA are two examples of work being done under the County Climate Protection Program.
  • The National League of Cities (NLC) has been a driving force in strengthening and promoting local government and is in an optimal position to actively participate in the coordination and encouragement of and continued dedication to climate change initiatives. More specifically, NLC supports greenhouse gas reduction, an economy based on sustainability principles, climate change preparedness, and the inclusion of the local government in solving national and international climate change problems.

These commitments are illustrated by NLC’s climate protection agreements and commitments made at the 2009 Congress of Cities, with World Mayors and Local Governments, and its determination to urge Congress and the Administration to study and address climate change issues with appropriate measures. Examples include the Clean and Green Program in Riverside, California, the Cambridge Energy Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Energy Efficiency and Climate Change Rally for residents and local businesses in Waterbury, Vermont.

In order to ensure the success of these efforts, the coordination and participation of state and local and sub-national leaders and governments are key in inspiring interest, compliance, and expanded innovation and initiative. Without comprehensive support and cooperation at all levels of government and their constituents, the goals and objectives of climate protection cannot be realized.

In closing, I would like to highlight that in this new era of U.S. engagement, we seek to draw upon the expertise and to work with multilateral international organizations like the OECD and the United Nations to create a green economy. Secretary Clinton wants to leverage all of our strengths in U.S. foreign policy, working not only nation to nation, but city to city, state to province, and institution to institution, to create partnerships among governments, the private sector, NGOs, and research institutions.=

The Department of State also recognizes that sustainable urban development is an objective of U.S. foreign policy, and is working in a whole-of-government approach coordinating among USAID, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Department of Energy, and The Millennium Challenge Corporation on global urbanization policies and approaches to our international capacity building efforts.

We are very committed to working with the OECD and our partners around the world. And as President Obama said in his speech to the West Point graduates this past weekend, “We have to shape an international order that can meet the challenges of our generation.”

Thanks again for this opportunity to participate in this important dialogue today and I look forward to the work we can do in partnership together.

We appreciate your work on this issue so critical to our common future. Together in partnership we are making a difference.

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