Opening Remarks at the Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

The White House

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning.  Good afternoon.  Good evening.  We are so grateful to have all of you with us today.

As President Biden and Vice President Harris have made clear, this administration intends to do more than any in U.S. history to meet the climate crisis.  What the United States can do at home can make a significant contribution toward keeping the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  That’s why we’re raising our ambitions, as the President described, and we will meet the new targets we set.

But of course, no country can overcome this existential threat alone.  We’re in this together.  And what each of our nations does or does not do will not only impact people of our own country, but people everywhere.  Many of us, perhaps all of us, feel a strong sense of urgency.  That’s why we’re here.  We hope that will translate into making the progress necessary during this critical year and over this decisive decade.

The consequences of falling short are clear.  Every one of our countries is already experiencing the impact of climate change, and they’ll only get worse: more frequent and more intense storms, longer dry spells, bigger floods, more people displaced, more pollution, higher health costs.  And climate change can drive the spread of disease, food insecurity, mass migration, and conflict.  All of these consequences are hitting underserved and marginalized communities in our countries the hardest, and some countries are experiencing much more severe impacts than others, something we must acknowledge and address.

But as the President said, it would be a mistake to think about climate only through the prism of threats.  As we take concrete actions to reduce emissions and prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, we have an opportunity – an opportunity to create sustainable, good paying jobs to promote not only greater growth, but greater equity and to provide sustainable, reliable, affordable access to energy to more people, which is crucial to every aspect of human development.  So we’re rooting for every country, every business, every community around the world to succeed in this effort.

In that spirit, as other countries strive to meet and raise their climate targets, the United States will mobilize resources, institutional knowledge, and technical expertise from across our government, the private sector, civil society, and research universities to help.  We want every country here to know:  We want to work with you to save our planet, and we’re all committed to finding every possible avenue of cooperation on climate.

If we work together, we can do more than just address this crisis.  We can turn it into an opportunity to improve our societies and deliver for people worldwide, and we can lay the foundation for cooperation on other shared challenges.

There are many issues on which we don’t all see eye to eye.  This isn’t one of them.  No matter what country we’re from, we know the world that we want to pass on to our children and our grandchildren.  I can think of no better or more urgent cause to bring us together.

It’s now my honor to call on His Excellency the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.

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    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) process for identifying on-campus suicides does not include a step for ensuring the accuracy of the number of suicides identified. As a result, its numbers are inaccurate. VA's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) first started tracking on-campus veteran suicides in October 2017, and uses the results to inform VA leadership and Congress. GAO reviewed the data and found errors in the 55 on-campus veteran suicides VHA identified for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, including 10 overcounts (deaths that should not have been reported but were) and four undercounts (deaths that should have been reported but were not).   Examples of Errors on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) List of 55 On-Campus Veteran Suicides for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 (as of September 2019) VA has taken some steps to address on-campus veteran suicides, such as issuing guidance and staff training. However, GAO found that the analyses informing these efforts are limited. Specifically, VHA requires root cause analyses—processes to determine what can be done to prevent recurrences of incidents—for some but not all on-campus veteran suicides. According to VHA officials, only 25 percent of on-campus suicides from October 2017 to April 2019 met the criteria for a root cause analysis. does not make use of all relevant information VA collects about these deaths, such as clinical and demographic data collected through other VA suicide prevention efforts. VHA officials said they could not link the different sources of information, but GAO found that selected medical facilities could do so. Without accurate information on the number of suicides and comprehensive analyses of the underlying causes, VA does not have a full understanding of the prevalence and nature of on-campus suicides, hindering its ability to address them. VA established suicide prevention as its highest clinical priority. In recent years, there have been reports of veterans dying by suicide on VA campuses—in locations such as inpatient settings, parking lots, and on the grounds of cemeteries. GAO was asked to review veteran deaths by suicide on VA campuses. This report examines (1) VA's process to track the number of veterans that died by suicide on VA campuses, and (2) steps VA has taken to address these types of suicides. GAO reviewed the sources of information VHA uses to identify and analyze on-campus veteran suicides, VA and VHA strategic plans and policies related to suicide prevention and reporting, and federal internal control standards. GAO also interviewed VA and VHA central office officials, and officials from three medical facilities that GAO selected because they reportedly had on-campus veteran suicides between fiscal years 2018 and 2019. GAO is making three recommendations, including that VA improve its process to accurately identify all on-campus veteran suicides and conduct more comprehensive analyses of these occurrences. VA did not concur with one of GAO's recommendations related to conducting root cause analyses. GAO continues to believe that this recommendation is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or draperd@gao.gov.
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  • Man Who Worked At Local Research Institute For 10 Years Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Steal Trade Secrets, Sell Them In China
    In Crime News
    A former Dublin, Ohio, man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions. Yu Zhou, 50, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud.
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  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Mongolia’s President Battulga
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Disaster Recovery: HUD Should Take Additional Action to Assess Community Development Block Grant Fraud Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO identified four categories of fraud risks facing the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) from 2007 to 2020, including risks from contractors, disaster recovery applicants, grantees, and others, as shown below. In total, we identified 78 cases from Department of Justice (DOJ) public announcements and 110 HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) enforcement cases. For example, in 2012 following Hurricane Sandy, a New Jersey couple applied for disaster assistance and fraudulently received $79,000 in CDBG-DR funds, according to HUD OIG records. The couple was convicted of conspiracy, falsification, and theft and was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. The funding was for a seaside property they fraudulently claimed was their primary residence, but was later determined to be a summer vacation home that was ineligible for assistance. GAO also found that the CDBG-DR operates in a decentralized risk environment that may make it vulnerable to fraud since CDBG-DR funds flow through a number of entities before reaching their intended beneficiaries. In addition, the risk environment in which CDBG-DR operates may contribute to negative financial impacts, such as improper payments. Fraud can have nonfinancial impacts as well, such as fraudulent contractors obtaining a competitive advantage and preventing other businesses from obtaining contracts. Fraud Risks of Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) HUD has taken some steps to assess fraud risks agency-wide. For example, HUD conducts an agency-wide assessment of risks through a Front-End Risk Assessment, which also considers fraud risks. In 2020, HUD redesigned its agency-level approach to evaluate fraud risks through its Fraud Risk Management Maturity Model. While HUD has taken some steps to assess fraud risks agency-wide, GAO found that HUD has not conducted a comprehensive fraud risk assessment of CDBG-DR, as called for in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. Further, HUD's current fraud risk approach does not involve relevant stakeholders such as grantees. Leading practices include tailoring the fraud risk assessment to the program and also involving relevant stakeholders responsible for the design and implementation of the program's fraud controls in the assessment process. Ensuring that a fraud risk assessment is completed specifically for CDBG-DR may provide greater assurance that HUD addresses CDBG-DR fraud risks, including ones identified in this report. Why GAO Did This Study In response to a historic string of natural disasters, Congress appropriated approximately $39.5 billion in CDBG-DR grant funds in 2017 through 2019, with most of the funding designated for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, accompanying this unprecedented amount of funding is an increased vulnerability to fraud given that CDBG-DR involves multiple factors. GAO was asked to review a range of disaster recovery issues following the 2017 disaster season. This report addresses: (1) the fraud risks and risk environment of CDBG-DR and their impacts; and (2) the steps HUD has taken to assess fraud risk agency-wide, and specifically for CDBG-DR, in alignment with leading practices. GAO reviewed DOJ public announcements and HUD OIG enforcement cases to identify CDBG-DR fraud risks. GAO assessed HUD's procedures against leading practices in the Fraud Risk Framework. GAO interviewed HUD officials responsible for CDBG-DR and fraud risk assessment; and conducted site visits to Florida and Texas, selected partly for the amount of CDBG-DR funds they received, among other factors.
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  • Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization
    In Crime News
    A Washington man was arrested on Friday, May 28, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on criminal charges related to his alleged efforts to join Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, in order to engage in violent acts of terrorism in the Middle East or the United States.
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