Embassy of the U.S. Tallinn December 3, 2015
U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Chever Voltmer
The World Meteorological Organization, a specialized UN agency, recently came out with findings that indicate that 2015 will be the warmest year on record. And, while it can be difficult and misleading to connect short-term local conditions to macro-scale climate change, Estonia is not immune from the impact of a changing climate.
While we might enjoy lower heating bills, less snow shoveling and longer growing seasons, an article this summer in Eesti Paevaleht describing the local impact of climate change made clear that it will also have significant negative consequences. Researchers predict more heatwaves and the possibility of drought during summers, as well as less snow, more rain and flooding during autumn and winter.
A study by the University of Tartu also found that Estonia’s coastal waters could rise by up to half a meter, which is a lot when you consider the modest elevation of much of the country. The signs of climate change are all around us. As a global society, we are at a critical juncture where our decisions today will help shape the climate of tomorrow.
These are the stakes at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, where representatives from almost 200 nations will gather from November 30 to December 11 to negotiate a comprehensive climate agreement for the post-2020 world. Now more than ever, there is social and political will to do something about the rise in global temperatures and its ripple effect through the environment.
More than 160 countries, responsible for around 90 percent of global emissions, have announced climate targets ahead of the conference. Only about 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions were addressed under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. This is a clear step forward and a departure from the past.
We applaud Estonia’s support for an ambitious outcome in Paris. Estonia has been proactive in dealing with the issue of climate change, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to developing a climate change adaptation strategy. We are already seeing Estonian entrepreneurs take advantage of the business opportunities in developing environmentally-friendly products and technologies.
An Estonian start-up took third place in this year’s EU Climate Launchpad competition, for its reusable laundry detergent idea. And we want Estonians to know that the United States is just as committed to making positive steps to combat climate change.
Since President Obama took office, the United States has reduced carbon emissions, tripled domestic wind energy production, and increased solar power twenty fold. We’ve put in place stringent new fuel economy standards so that our cars are using less gas, energy use is more efficient, and an historic amount of land and water has been protected for future generations. At the same time, the U.S. economy has expanded, proving that growth is not inextricably linked to carbon output.
In addition, more than 80 companies including Alcoa, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, committing to actions such as investing in renewable energy and reducing waste.
With countries like China, India, and Brazil now pledging to reduce emissions, we have a serious chance to put in place a transformative plan. In Paris, the United States will push for an effective agreement that continues to drive ambitious climate action by all countries, while recognizing the differences among them. It should provide a long-term framework – with high standards of transparency and accountability - that calls on nations to ratchet up their targets over time. And it must provide countries in need with financial and technical support for low-carbon development and adaptation to a changing climate.
There is an historic opportunity to strike a far-reaching and durable climate agreement in Paris. We have the political will and groundswell of social support to make it work, but we will need to work together in order to reach a deal. For brighter skies today and a more secure tomorrow, now is the time to act and for that we need Estonia’s support.
Article was published in Eesti Päevaleht on December 3, 2015