Good morning, everyone. I’m really delighted to join you for the 2014 Carbon Expo. As we’re experiencing too vividly, the impacts of climate change are being felt all around the globe. Tackling this challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us.
Many years ago, I had a chance to travel to Germany’s Black Forest when I was lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. I did so to investigate firsthand the impact of our energy policy and human choices on our forests. Back then, we were concerned about the effects acid rain and air pollution had on the environment.
Today, our forests face another dangerous challenge: the long-term consequences of deforestation. Each year, 13 million hectares of forest are ravaged by unsustainable logging, subsistence agriculture, and the encroachment of towns and cities, development generally. One and a half billion people depend on forests for their survival, but deforestation threatens all of us. It accounts for almost the same amount of CO2 emissions as every single car, train and airplane in the world combined. Cutting down too many trees in the Amazon rainforest indirectly fuels rising seas in Southeast Asia; drives violent weather in the Gulf of Mexico; and deepens famine and drought in the Horn of Africa.
That’s why we’re announcing a groundbreaking new partnership between USAID and the Althelia Climate Fund to help stem the tide of deforestation. Through the REDD+ Forestry Carbon Credit Guarantee, our partnership will unlock millions of dollars for local businesses that manage forest lands sustainably and limit harmful CO2 emissions. Our partnership will not only create profits for Althelia’s investors, it will help protect 20 rainforests and prevent 100 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the Earth’s atmosphere. That is the equivalent of taking 18.5 million cars off the road for an entire year.
I’ll never forget reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” way back in the late 1960s. If you pick up a copy these days, there’s a good chance you’ll see an afterword by the great biologist E.O. Wilson. He was fond of saying that humans have the ability to adapt when they see necessity staring them in the face. Today, necessity is staring all of us in the face. If we act now, we can not only save our forests, we can create jobs and economic growth; we can clean up our air; we can improve our health; we can create greater security; we can help farmers to manage their crops sustainably and feed our communities; and we can live up to a fundamental responsibility that we all share – leaving future generations with a planet that is clean, healthy and sustainable.
From now until next December in Paris is decision time. We need to get the job done. Thank you so much for being part of that effort, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference.