Remarks by AIT Deputy Director Robert W. Forden at the Opening Ceremony of the Taiwan 2015 UNFCCC NGO Forum MOTC GIS Convention Center, Taipei

Deputy Minister Fu, Director General Shen, Deputy Head Lövenberg, Deputy Representative Potter, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

It is my great pleasure to be here to help open today’s forum. I am pleased to see so many NGO representatives here to help prepare for the December Conference of the Parties, or “COP 21,” of the UNFCCC, which will be an important milestone in the history of global efforts to address climate change.

In a speech a few weeks ago in Washington, President Obama declared that “no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate.” All of the climate experts here today no doubt are familiar with the alarming climate-related statistics of recent years: carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in over 800,000 years; the year 2014 was the planet’s warmest on record; we are seeing an increase in the frequency and intensity of major storms like the typhoon that hit Taiwan two weeks ago; and the list goes on.

As our understanding of the relationship between climate change and such developments has deepened, the United States has undertaken major steps to change our behavior in many areas that affect the environment. We have improved energy efficiency across our economy, reduced our dependence on fossil fuels, and expanded our use of clean energy. The United States now generates three times as much wind power and 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008. The U.S. government has established new fuel economy standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars in the United States will travel twice as far on a gallon of gas as they do now. The result of these initiatives is that over the past decade, even as the U.S. economy has grown, our total carbon pollution has fallen more than in any other nation on Earth.

We recognize that addressing the threat of climate change effectively is going to require us to do much more, both independently and in cooperation with like-minded partners. Earlier this month, President Obama unveiled “America’s Clean Power Plan” – a blueprint for reducing carbon pollution from U.S. power plants, which he called “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” Under the plan, the U.S. EPA will establish the first-ever nationwide standards to limit carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. These plants produce about one third of America’s carbon pollution – more than our cars, airplanes, and homes combined. By 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent less than it was a decade ago – the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road.

The United States is also working with international partners in advance of COP 21. Last November the United States and mainland China reached a landmark agreement on climate change and clean energy cooperation, in which the mainland, for the first time, agreed to peak its carbon dioxide emissions. We are also working with many other countries to reduce their long-term greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of partnerships, such as the Major Economies Forum on Clean Energy and Climate Change and the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership.

Taiwan is also rising to meet the challenge of climate change, with representatives from regulatory agencies and politicians from across Taiwan’s political parties working together to pass a landmark greenhouse gas reduction law last June. The new law calls for Taiwan to cut its carbon emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050 and represents a significant step forward in Taiwan’s climate efforts.

In December at COP 21 we have a chance to put into place one of the most ambitious international climate agreements in human history. Skeptics are saying it can’t be done, but as U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has stated, acting on climate is a moral responsibility. Addressing climate change means protecting our families, our communities, and those who are most vulnerable. The magnitude of the threat means that we cannot afford to wait to take action.

This is why I am again so delighted to be here and to see Taiwan’s civil society engaged and ready for the meeting in Paris. I wish you all success in today’s forum and look forward to hearing the results.

Thank you.