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Jonathan Pershing, Testimony, US House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality

Dr. Jonathan Pershing testifies at the Hearing on Climate Change -- International Issues, Engaging Developing Countries on March 27, 2007

Executive Summary

  1. The science is real – and it is seen as real in all countries, both developed and developing. This provides us, globally, with a common understanding of urgency and scale.

  2. We cannot afford to wait to start: every year of delay increases the magnitude and rate of future reductions required to avoid damages – and increases the overall costs.

  3. The scale of the problem is enormous; it requires that we reduce our long term emissions by 60 to 80% from our global energy system, industries, agriculture and land use.

  4. No single policy or action in any single sect or will be adequate to solve the climate problem. It will require efforts in all sectors addressing all gases, with multiple policy instruments, and sustained over a long period.

  5. Not all countries are the same; they have different circumstances driving different emissions trajectories, different responsibilities and different capacities. Thus, we cannot and should not expect any future international arrangement to set the same requirements for every country.

  6. Some countries clearly matter more than others for climate mitigation: the largest 15 countries (including the EU as one) are responsible for about 80% of global emissions. We need all of these ‘big’ players to be at the table, working on a solution. We cannot coerce them to participate, any more than they can coerce us; we need to find solutions that speak to each country’s self-interest and desire for long term sustainable growth.

  7. Fortunately, there are solutions:

  • A price on greenhouse gas emissions can lead to changes in consumer choices, corporate behavior and new investment. We know how to create markets – and make them work.

  • Capturing the co-benefits of climate solutions – for energy security, local air quality and community improvements – can buy us time during which new technologies can be developed and penetrate into the market.

  • We have technologies today that can begin to reduce emissions, and we can and must develop new technologies that will continue the downward path in the future. The market for such technologies could be a US one – or, if we do not take advantage of this opportunity, it will be one our competitors seize.

  1. We are unlikely to solve the problem before we are faced with significant, unwanted climate change. This means that part of the global effort will need to be devoted to adaptation. Unfortunately, it is the poorest and least able to cope who will be most significantly affected; we need solutions that address this reality.

  2. We will need to use all available fora for the international negotiation of these solutions. This will require the US to assume a more constructive role in the UN Climate Convention, to actively use existing (and create new) bilateral and multilateral arrangements, and to develop incentives to engage the private sector in global emission reduction opportunities.

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