5 Action Steps for State Department to Lead National Mobilization to Defeat the Climate Crisis

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Today, President-Elect Joe Biden made a historic commitment to making climate change a central part of America’s foreign policy and national security decision-making. This new Climate Envoy position is a huge step toward making America an international leader on a global climate mobilization. John Kerry brings deep experience to this role, as a former Secretary of State, as a leader on climate change, and as a key architect of the Paris Agreement. His appointment shows that Joe Biden understands it is time to reengage American global leadership to defeat the climate crisis.

Climate change is a foreign policy issue. Climate change is a national security issue. To engage in a national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis, and to build a just and thriving clean energy economy, every agency in the federal government must do its part, and the State Department, with help from a special envoy, will play a crucial role. Antony Blinken and John Kerry can help lead our national climate mission by centering climate in our international efforts over the next four years and beyond.

Our nation’s top diplomats must rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, prioritize climate ambition in all global multilateral fora, re-establish a working relationship with China that centers climate action, bolster the foreign service to deploy climate experts globally, and offer aid to migrants impacted by the climate crisis. Defeating the climate crisis will require U.S. leadership at the top rungs of our State Department.

As President-elect Biden begins an all-out government mobilization to defeat the climate crisis, today, Evergreen Action is releasing 5 concrete actions for how the next State Department must help.

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1. Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and Champion Greater Domestic and International Ambition in Cutting Greenhouse Gas Pollution by 2030. Beyond facilitating the United States’ re-entry into the Paris Agreement as fast as possible, the State Department should play a key role in working with other executive branch agencies and subnational actors in developing a new ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC) that reflects the urgency of the climate crisis and the ambition inherent in President-Elect Biden’s domestic climate agenda. NDCs, submitted by every country to the international community, communicate countries’ climate goals and decarbonization targets. The State Department should work with our allies to release new, more ambitious 2030 NDCs to drive greater reductions in global greenhouse gas pollution over the coming decade. Further, to boldly finance and directly fund clean energy infrastructure within international development a Biden administration must immediately fulfil U.S. commitment to the Green Climate Fund, and doubling that investment in the GCF’s new replenishment period, joining other nations that are already increasing their commitments to the GCF.

2. Re-engage and Prioritize Climate Ambition in All Global Multilateral Fora. The State Department should prioritize climate change in its negotiations and discussions across all major international fora, including the G7, G20, the UN Security Council, and the Arctic Council. And it should also help revive the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change to engage key emitters to raise collective ambition on tackling carbon pollution, and doubling down on increased commitments to finance and directly fund clean energy within international development. The State Department should also demonstrate climate leadership by stepping up the U.S. role in global transportation decarbonization by leading on enhanced ambition in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). And by joining the International Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) and the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance), as well as strengthening the work of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA), and other international partnerships aimed to build a just and sustainable future.

3. Rebuild Bilateral Relationships and Hold China Accountable on Climate Change. A working U.S.-China bilateral relationship is critical to a climate-safe future. The State Department must help ensure a productive bilateral relationship with China in limiting carbon pollution, and investing in research and development of cleaner and innovative energy technologies. However, the State Department must also play a leading role in confronting China’s continued investments in carbon-intensive infrastructure in dozens of countries throughout the world, through its Belt and Road Initiative, and offer meaningful direct investment and access to low cost financing to fund global deployment of clean, just and sustainable energy infrastructure.

4. Bolster the Foreign Service to Deploy Climate Experts in Countries Around the World. The State Department should dramatically staff up its capacity in the foreign service and hire technical climate experts to assist countries around the world with meeting and surpassing their Paris climate targets. This will be especially critical to renew American credibility after the Trump administration’s reckless abdication of leadership on climate change. The State Department also can leverage its diplomatic corps to ensure that international economic recovery responses from the COVID-19 crisis are in line with an aggressive climate action agenda.

5. Offer Humanitarian Assistance and Welcome Refugees Impacted by the Climate Crisis. As climate change bears down on communities across the world, the Trump administration’s feckless restrictions on refugee resettlement and abandonment of our vulnerable neighbors has led to increased humanitarian crises and has weakened American security. The State Department must prioritize policies that provide dignified refugee resettlement by increasing the number of refugees taken in for 2021, and increasing those numbers in every subsequent year. The State Department must also reverse the Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate the Temporary Protected Status protection for climate-impacted migrants from El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua and protect individuals under the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program. The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security should also work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to prepare for the security and humanitarian challenges posed by future climate migrants and conflicts.

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