ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Hello, everyone, and Happy Earth Day Eve.
We’ve gathered in the Point IV conference room to sign development agreements, to swear-in new Mission Directors and Assistant Administrators, and to meet foreign dignitaries. But this is my first time here to sign a new strategy for this Agency, and I am thrilled for this opportunity to usher in a new era of climate work at USAID.
I want to extend a big thank you to Gillian Caldwell, our Chief Climate Officer, who just immediately dove in after joining last year and tackled the very tough assignment of developing a climate strategy that was ambitious, without being overwhelming. That was as thoughtful about climate justice as it was about climate change. And that was inclusive of the many internal and external voices our climate agenda would touch.
To that last point, I want to thank all the people at our Agency who contributed to devising our new strategy—the drafting team, the Climate Change Leadership Council, the staff from bureaus and missions who offered edits, amendments, ideas, and helped to make this vision as effective as possible.
And I want to thank everyone at USAID who has spent years, in some cases decades, fighting climate change, whether through work to bring new renewable energy projects online, efforts to bring cleaner air and water to communities, or assistance to help farmers preserve their harvests amidst hotter temperatures and longer droughts. Through large, multi-year initiatives like Power Africa or Feed the Future, dedicated humanitarian responses, and the individual actions of people throughout our missions and bureaus, this Agency has fought to protect our planet and the people hurt most by climate change, even during times when those efforts were difficult, deprioritized, or diminished.
Through it all, they put our world first, and we owe them a tremendous thanks.
Because what many of us feared is now plain to see: the severe effects of climate change are upon us, and no matter where you live, from the driest deserts to the coldest reaches, we are feeling its effects nearly every day.
Temperatures and sea levels are rising, water and food are becoming more scarce amidst longer droughts, and communities at home and abroad are being battered by hurricanes that devastate coastlines, ice storms that knock out critical infrastructure, forest fires that engulf whole cities, and floods that submerge entire communities.
A little over two weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report showing that greenhouse gas emissions were higher in the last decade than in any previous decade. And without urgent action, we know the worst effects of climate change will hit the poor hardest—exactly those who have contributed the least to climate change. Without urgent action, as many as 100 million people may be pushed into poverty by 2030 because of climate change.
At the same time, Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is showing all of us that an over reliance on fossil fuels doesn’t just threaten our climate security, it threatens our national security and that of our allies.
In releasing the latest report, the IPCC co-chair said: “It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming…”
Well, USAID, what this strategy makes clear is: it is now.
President Biden has boldly said that every Agency must become a climate Agency, and thanks to the leadership of all the people assembled here, we are urgently taking up that call.
Rather than dictate, bureau by bureau, region by region, mission by mission, dozens of individual climate initiatives, our new climate strategy lays out six audacious and inspiring goals and challenges us all to play our part.
The goal of preventing six billion tons of global greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t belong to one bureau or initiative—we all have a role to play in helping take the equivalent of taking 100 million cars off the road.
The goal of conserving 100 million hectares of critical landscapes doesn’t just fall on the climate team, nor does the goal of mobilizing $150 billion in investment just fall on our private sector teams. The prioritization of climate justice, with a specific focus on the marginalized and underrepresented groups hit hardest by climate change, isn’t solely the responsibility of our Inclusive Development Hub. We all have a stake in making this strategy real.
A great example of this is the way our Power Africa team has collaborated with our Global Health bureau to bring stable, renewable energy to hospitals and off-grid health care facilities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than run dirty, unreliable, and expensive generators, this work allows healthcare providers to keep emissions down while making sure their lights stay on when those in need, need it most.
The strategy also highlights what USAID can do to lower our own impact on the climate. It calls for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions across our global operations, increasing the efficiency of our own energy infrastructure, including our vehicle fleet, and prioritizing carbon-conscious procurement when we purchase goods or travel.
And the ambitious goals laid out in this strategy are backed up by President Biden’s commitment to quadruple climate financing from its peak during the Obama Administration. Our latest budget requests $2.3 billion in international climate financing between USAID and the State Department, and we will work tirelessly with our allies on the HIll to make that a reality.
Because not only will that money make our planet cleaner, greener, and more secure, it will save us money in the long run, both from the green jobs it will create and from the money we won’t have to spend on humanitarian responses in the future. We know that every dollar invested in adapting to climate change can yield between two-to-ten dollars in benefits, and sometimes even more.
So, implementing this strategy is not only the necessary thing to do or the right thing to do, it’s also the cost-effective and smart thing to do.
And, perhaps best of all, you won’t be alone in doing it. We all live in a world beset by one crisis after another, a new priority screaming for our attention before the last one has been dealt with. As much as we all want to be part of an effort to protect our planet, tackling these big goals doesn’t necessarily mean something is coming off your desk.
So, as Gillian will discuss in just a minute, the climate team will work to support you and provide you resources in playing your part, so that you can ramp up implementation quickly, but also as efficiently as possible.
Once again, I want to thank the team for the tremendous effort that brought us to this day, and everyone at this Agency who will contribute to achieving the goals we set forth here today.
With that, I am now going to sign this strategy—printed on recycled paper!—into effect. I’d like to invite some of the team who played a crucial role in getting this strategy over the finish line to join me for this seminal moment.
Thank you so much.