IIED views on Obama's climate change plan

President Obama has unveiled his climate action plan. Here are some quick reactions from IIED.
Press release, 25 June 2013

  Climate activists march to the entrance of Georgetown University before President Obama's speech on climate change. Photo: 350.org via Flickr

Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of IIED

"While Obama shows some political courage in initiating a US climate change strategy and acting to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions, it is too little and too late to have the credibility the US needs if it wants to assert a global leadership role. So what do we give him: 3 out of 10? China is winning the race on green technology, on support for domestic sustainable energy, and on carbon markets. Obama needs at the same time to get much more open governance and transparency about political lobbying, so that the overwhelming weight from fossil fuel corporates can be made visible in the US decision-making processes."  

Dr Simon Anderson, head of IIED's Climate Change group

  • Strengthening global resilience to climate change

"The emphasis on strengthening local governance for adaptation planning, developing new risk management tools and climate adaptation technology is helpful. Framing this section in terms of 'security' is misguided and is likely to bias the way that resources are deployed for this objective. The main instrument for addressing this objective is and will be USAID – an agency that notoriously acts in isolation and seldom consults adequately with country governments before implementing such initiatives. Examples include the USAID-funded projects Hariyo Ban in Nepal, and REGAL-IR in Kenya." 

  • Mobilising climate finance

"The resources mobilized so far by the US and other industrialised countries are dwarfed by the imposed costs of increased climate variability on the economies and societies in the developing world. Optimistic assumptions of the scale of private sector contributions to resilience investments have proved so far to be ‘pie in the sky’ and there is no evidence that this will change any time soon – at least until medium term profits can be guaranteed to investors. The cases of failed weather-indexed crop insurance show how reluctant the private sector is to outset the costs of adaptation to the climate vulnerable."  

  • Leading efforts to address climate change through international negotiations

"The US cannot claim to have led anything in the negotiations so far – apart from some obfuscation. If Obama’s emphasis on ‘ambition, inclusiveness and flexibility’ leads to support for common but differentiated responsibility for emissions reductions and contributions to finance for adaptation then this is to be welcomed."  

Dr Saleem Huq, senior fellow in IIED's Climate Change group

"This is the first time that the Federal government has announced significant adaptation actions at home, reflecting the fact that – importantly – Obama recognises that the United States faces adverse impacts from climate change that it must adapt to. On the international level however the promises for action, while welcome, are too little too late! While it is good to see a leader of the world's richest country and biggest cumulative polluter finally promise to take actions, after over a decade of refusal to do so,  the problem has become much bigger while the US was ignoring it. Hence the world is now headed towards 4-degree temperature rise by 2100 unless much more drastic actions are undertaken on mitigation by all countries including the United States. President Obama says he wants the US to lead this effort globally. His promise is welcome, but his actions still fall short of what is required.”

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