What President Obama’s Trip Means for Conservation and Combating Climate Change

“This planet belongs to all of us. We have to have the foresight and the faith in the future to do what it takes to protect our parks and to protect this planet for generations to come.”  -President Obama, June 20, 2016

Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has done more to combat climate change than ever before. And we’re already seeing the results. For example, we recently learned that U.S. energy sector emissions so far in 2016 are at their lowest level in nearly 20 years, while our economy has continued to experience steady growth.

But the President believes there’s more to do  --  both in combating climate change and conserving our most sacred places. That’s why this week, President Obama traveled to Nevada, Hawaii, Midway Atoll, and China to shine a light on these issues. 

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Wednesday, August 31

President Barack Obama makes remarks at the 20th Anniversary Lake Tahoe Summit at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena in Nevada, Aug. 31, 2016.
[Official White House Photo by Pete Souza]

The President attended the 20th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit. This Summit has for two decades brought together federal, state, and local leaders dedicated to the goal of restoring and sustaining Lake Tahoe as one of our most precious environmental treasures. At the Summit, the President spoke on the important link between our efforts to combat climate change and the protection of our most sacred natural environments. He announced a series of steps to boost clean energy in the region and respond to the ongoing climate-related threats the West is experiencing, including drought, fire, and extreme weather.

Watch the President’s remarks at the Lake Tahoe Summit:

“You don’t have to be a scientist. You have to read or listen to scientists to know that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows us that climate change is caused by human activity. And when we protect our lands, it helps us protect the climate for the future.”

Honolulu, Hawaii

Thursday, September 1

In the evening, the President spoke to leaders at the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which the United States hosted for the first time. The World Conservation Congress brings together delegates from 184 countries representing business, government, science, indigenous peoples’ organizations, and many more groups who are committed to conservation and combating climate change.

Watch the President’s remarks at the World Conservation Congress:

“My mother and father met probably a couple hundred yards from here…I went to school about a mile from here. I was actually born about a mile from here. My grandmother and my grandparents lived most of their lives a short way away from here. And so since Malia was born, since my oldest child was born, I’ve brought them here every Christmas for the last 18 years now. I want to make sure that when they’re bringing their children here, or their grandchildren here, that they are able to appreciate the wonders and the beauty of this island and of the Pacific, and every island."

Midway Atoll

Thursday, September 1

The next day, the President traveled to Midway Atoll, located within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Last week, the President signed a designation expanding this monument to a total protected area of 582,578 square miles, making it the largest protected marine area in the world.

The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world  -- black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to more than 7,000 marine species, including the Bluefin Trevally. [NOAA photo by James Watt]

In keeping with President Obama’s deliberate strategy throughout the Administration, he is using the Antiquities Act in a way that is based on community input and reflects the importance of Native management. Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs will play a greater management role as a trustee in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Hangzhou, China

Friday, September 2

President Barack Obama greets President Xi Jinping of China at their a bilateral meeting prior to the opening ceremony of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), at the Parc des Expositions du Bourget in Le Bourget, Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015. [Official White House Photo by Pete Souza]

On Friday, the President will travel to Hangzhou for the G-20 Summit and meet with President Xi on Saturday to discuss a range of issues, including climate change. Together, our two countries account for nearly 40 percent of global emissions, so progress on joining the Paris Agreement would put us within striking distance of the 55 countries and 55 percent of global emissions threshold needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force.

The two leaders will also focus on what our two countries can do to make progress on other major climate negotiations this year. This includes negotiations to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which would avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, and negotiations to cap and offset any additional emissions from international aviation. The global aviation industry produces about 2 percent of global emissions, but that figure is projected to more than triple by the middle of the century, without additional measures.

As President Obama has said, climate change is an issue that’s bigger and longer-lasting than even his presidency. It’s about protecting the only planet we’ve got. This trip represents another significant opportunity for our nation to embrace our responsibility to combat it.

Stay tuned for more updates from the trip ahead.

About the Author: Brian Deese serves as Senior Advisor to the President.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared on the White House's Medium.com publication.

Colorful reef fish  --  Pennantfish, Pyramid and Milletseed butterflyfish  -- school in great numbers at Rapture Reef, French Frigate Shoals. [NOAA photo by James Watt]
Posted by Brian Deese
September 2, 2016


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