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Diplomacy in Action

Using All Tools at Our Disposal: Importance of Subnational Collaboration


Remarks
Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
U. S. Center
Cancun, Mexico
December 6, 2010

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Thanks so much to Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, our keynote speaker for this panel, Deputy Secretary Ricardo Martinez, Deputy Secretary for Border Affairs for the California Environmental Protection Agency, Assistant Commissioner J. Jared Snyder, Assistant Commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and Director Doug Scott, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for agreeing to share their states’ stories related to economic recovery and job creation and energy and climate change. Let us give them a big round of applause. Thanks to all of you for your participation.

It is such a pleasure to be organizing this COP 16 side event as a member of the delegation of the United States of America.

On behalf of the U.S. Department of State and Secretary Clinton, I would like to thank all the state and local elected officials including Governors, Mayors, City Council Members, Education, Health, Climate, and Environment Secretaries and Ministers at the national and the subnational levels.

Thanks to the Honorable Mayor of Cancun, the host city and also a sister city to Wichita, Kansas in the USA. Cancun’s sister-city Wichita also hosts an EcoPartnership with Wuxi City in Jiangsu province in China. The partnership between Wichita and Wuxi is focused on demonstration and implementation of advanced technological solutions for clean air and clean water. EcoPartnerships, like the Wichita-Wuxi partnership, between cities and local governments are expected to grow in number, size, and influence.

The elected Governors or Chief Ministers of states and provinces across the globe have been leaders in recognizing climate change as an issue that the world must address regionally, nationally and globally. They have particularly recognized that to reduce greenhouse gases, the world is going to need Sub-national action particularly involving elected leaders. In creating my office, Secretary Clinton said that we will lead State Department’s efforts to build relationships between state and local officials in the United States and their counterparts around the world. That is why it is so important for me to be here today, in this important global meeting on Climate Change.

Secretary Clinton spoke at the April 20th Energy and Climate Change Partnership of Americas (ECPA) conference and she emphasized the benefits of the diversity of resources, needs, economies and opportunities. The Secretary underscored the need for collaboration between countries around the world including both hemispheres and gave many examples of regional projects. Secretary Clinton recognizes that state and local officials around the world face so many daily challenges: providing security, health, food and water, education, and jobs. Climate change can exacerbate those challenges.

Global climate change, like many other global grand challenges, has local impacts: floods and hurricanes, excess rainfall and more severe tornadoes, shortages of food and water supplies and a general deterioration of human comfort for millions of climate-stressed communities.

Every so often, the local impacts of global challenges are so severe that regional, federal and globalresponses become necessary for: fighting forest fires, capping oil wells, rebuilding after earthquakes, tornados, and tsunamis, and, protecting biodiversity.

The United States is committed to working with our partners around the world to continue the effort to build a comprehensive global approach to combating climate change. Climate change is a global problem. Its solution will require all major economies to take national action.

And, as we will talk about extensively today, solutions to climate change will also require subnational actions. The United States has also fostered international cooperation and partnerships at the subnational level, to strengthen the execution of initiatives to address climate change. What we have realized is that issues like local energy sources, electric grid, and transportation infrastructure are inherently intertwined with climate change issues. Each state, city and local community of course has different needs and basis for approaching some of these challenges.

Local actions to address climate change and other environmental issues are typically highly relevant to the community and responsive to the demands of the local constituency. This grassroots response to a global problem can be especially effective. Since the inception of our work, recognizing the state and local impact of climate change, we have been working closely with other offices within the U. S. Department of State. Special Envoy Stern spoke a couple of months back in a speech entitled “A New Paradigm: Climate Change Negotiations in the Post-Copenhagen Era.” In his speech, he emphasized “Much needs to be done, much is uncertain, and the future of climate diplomacy is still waiting to be made.”

Our grand challenges require local responses. Within the United States, a small sea level rise has a very different meaning to Gulf residents in Louisiana than it does to soybean farmers in Missouri. However, a few meters’ rise in the Mississippi river’s water level may mean the same thing to the people from the two States. The world is connected by waterways and oceans, canals, and channels and roadways and passes through many mountains. Island nations and states that have lost shore lines have very different responses to the issue of global warming than do nations and states that may have experienced longer crop growing seasons as a result of overall warming.

It takes trusted partnerships and collaborations between state, local, and global communities to work with each other, in spite of the differences in regional climate changes and their resulting impacts. Infrastructure development requires State Governments within the United States to work together in bilateral and regional groups. For example, the Council of State Governments (CSG) brings together the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. State Governments to work on important issues with the help of the Federal Government.

My office works with Bureaus and Offices within the U. S. State Department to facilitate collaborations and partnerships among U. S. state and local organizations such as International Council for Local Environmental Initiative- US chapter (ICLEI- USA), (note: ICLEI has changed their name to – “ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability”) 'the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), National League of Cities (NLC), the National Governors Association (NGA) as well as global organizations such as International Council for Local Environmental Initiative (ICLEI), International City Management Association (ICMA) and the Centre for Climate Strategies (CCS), just to name a few. These organizations have been combining expertise in facilitation, communications, technical analysis, and policy development to provide cutting edge collaborative solutions to build capacity and advance community resilience and sustainability.

We have worked with the office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change (S/SECC) by hosting a Smart Partnership Dialogue with Deputy Special Envoy Dr. Jonathan Pershing as a part of our Global Engagement Series. We work with Dr. Griffin Thompson and Mr. Eric Maltzer of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs (OES) to support programs such as the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships. Some EcoPartnerships involve subnational organizations such as counties and cities working with their counterparts in to address specific problems associated with global disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Other EcoPartnerships involve communities, universities and corporations collaborating on opportunities such as renewable energy development.

Many of us participated in a world summit in Mexico City organized by the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) for sharing information and promoting collaboration on addressing the most serious issues. And here at Cancun, my office is participating in at least three panels with U.S. state officials to discuss subnational solutions. The subnational leaders care about the challenges facing humanity and are contributing their best to potential solutions.

Now turning to our panel, our keynote speaker today, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, brings very special insights from all three, global, federal, and state points of view. He has been the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the U.S. Secretary of Energy and most recently the Governor of New Mexico, obviously an important border state to our host country. New Mexico is an eclectic state with green and red chillies and one of the largest hot air balloon festivals as well as a newly emerging wind and solar energy economy. The state is a home to two major energy laboratories- Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. I look forward to hearing Governor Richardson’s keynote address.

We will then hear from Deputy Secretary Ricardo Martinez from another border state- California. California just hosted the third Governors’ Climate Change Summit (GGCS3) in Sacramento and Davis. The Governors of Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, and Oregon joined as co-hosts. I had a chance to provide a keynote address to the closing session two weeks ago. Our panelist Deputy Secretary Ricardo Martinez was an active organizer in that summit and will be able to share California’s perspective.

Following Deputy Secretary Martinez, we will hear from Assistant Commissioner J. Jared Snyder from the State of New York. New York generates its electricity from diverse sources, ranging from hydroelectric dams to nuclear power plants. New York is also home to several facilities of the General Electric Corporation, which has embraced green energy as the corporate and global future.

Following Assistant Commissioner Snyder, we will hear from Director Doug Scott of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Illinois is in the mid-western heartland, home to ethanol producers and green building contractors. Illinois is also home to Argonne National Laboratory, one of the leading energy laboratories. Caterpillar Corporation, based in Illinois, makes engines and earth-moving equipment around the world. Illinois like many other States is challenged with tough economic times at the moment and it will be interesting to hear their plan to come out of the downturn.

I am eager to hear from these very important states. Their stories will be as diverse as the regions, climates and the terrains they represent. However, their stories are all American stories of how we are using resources at the subnational level to put together a brighter, greener future at all levels. Let us hear from them and then we will hopefully have plenty of time for an open forum and a question and answer period.



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