President Obama’s speech at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, on September 23, 2014.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: President Obama’s Speech at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit
Mr. President, the Secretary General, fellow leaders.
For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week: terrorism, instability, inequality, disease, there is one issue that will define the contours of the century more dramatically than any other. And that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.
Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen. And since then our understanding of climate change has advanced. Both in the deepening science that says this once distant threat has moved firmly into the present and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.
No nation is immune. In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record. Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide. In our West, wildfire season now stretches most of the year. In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations and drenched by the wettest spring in our history.
A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater. And some nations already live with far worse. Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded — with global carbon emissions still on the rise.
So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.
We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.
We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means — the technological innovation and the scientific imagination — to begin the work of repairing it right now.
As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.
The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office.
Within a decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and already, every major automaker offers electric vehicles. We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure.
So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades — proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.
Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more.
Last year, I issued America’s first Climate Action Plan to double down on our efforts. Under that plan, my administration is working with states and utilities to set first-ever standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can dump into the air. And when completed, this will mark the single most important and significant step the United States has ever taken to reduce our carbon emissions.