Remarks at UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Well, Madam Ambassador, Elizabeth, thank you so much for the introduction, the generous introduction.

Thanks for your tremendous work, what you’re doing at the UN Foundation, and what you’ve always done and I greatly, greatly appreciate your stewardship.

My former Senate colleague Tim Wirth, and one of the Senators I traveled with to Rio for the very first Earth Summit, has invested years in making the Foundation the extraordinary leader that it is, and did so at the very start of the fight on climate. And I know you have invested really enormous leadership now at a time when we have to finish the job.

Thank you also for letting me poach mightily from the UN Foundation’s expertise as we built our team in the Biden Administration. I’ve been able to rob from you, so I owe you, deeply.

I’m also delighted to be with everybody, but particularly my friend and a great leader, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. And I’m delighted to mark this important day with him.

I think every word he said, I completely agree with and I hope all of you do. He has been tireless in running around the world and helping to energize people to focus on the enormous challenge that we face.

And I thank him for reminding me, and perhaps some of you, of the presence of my granddaughter when I signed the Paris Agreement at the United Nations. And I will share with you all that when I finished, my granddaughter was on my knee and I took her back and handed her to her mother. And my granddaughter turned to both her mother and me and said, “Mommy I no sign paper!”

So I owe my granddaughter a new piece of paper to sign, if you get the drift.

The United Nations Association has always been a leading edge advocate for the most principled, pragmatic, multilateral cooperation here and around the world. It’s been obviously tested over the last four years. And in the course of the test of the last four years, the Association’s membership has stood up and fought hard. And that’s in the great tradition of course of an early champion, Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but, in cooperation with others, we have to achieve security.”

She couldn’t be more right, and the same could be said and should be said about climate change. I really, I think we have to end the word “climate change” and own up to the fact it is the “climate crisis” now. And that’s why President Biden submitted the paperwork to immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement, as soon as he could, hours after he was sworn in.

Today as you heard and as you know, it is absolutely official: The United States is, once again, a party to the Paris Agreement. And I’m proud and pleased with that fact but it also places on us a special responsibility.

We rejoin the international climate effort with humility and with ambition. Humility knowing that we lost four years during which America was absent from the table. And humility in knowing that today no country and no continent is getting the job done.

But also with ambition, knowing that Paris alone will not do what science tells us we must do together. At the COP in November, this November, when we go to Glasgow, all nations must raise our sights, must raise ambition together, or we will all fail together.

Needless to say for all of us here partaking in this, in this moment failure is not an option. And that’s why raising the ambition is so vitally important. According to the most recent statistics, and you’ve heard Antonio talk about the evidence that we’re seeing in various parts of the world, but we know from the measurements, from the statistics, from the science that emissions, globally, rose over the years since Paris.

2020 saw a drop in global emissions due to Covid, but already they’re again on the rise. And many analysts expect a very quick rebound to where we were, rising even more unless very stringent policies are put in place.

So to be on track, to keep even a 66 percent probability of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees, to do that we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030.

So that means we need to phase out coal five times faster than we have been.

We need to increase tree cover five times faster. We need to ramp up renewable energy six times faster. We need to transition to electric vehicles at a rate 22 times faster. You get the drift?

Everything has to be done with a greater sense of urgency, with the determination that we have to win this fight. Can we do that? Can we win it?

Absolutely, my friends, we can. We need the United States and every country to determine they will get on a path toward net zero emissions by 2050.  That is not something we will do by countries just stepping up and saying, “Hey! We commit, here we are. Yeah, we’ll do it by 2050.”

That doesn’t cut it. That is not the way that we get to go to Glasgow.  We go to Glasgow, all of us, being real about exactly what we need to do starting now. What steps will we take in the next 10 years? And the truth is that everybody has to do that. China, which is the largest emitter in the world, needs to be part of the 2020 to 2030 effort.

India needs to be part of it. Russia needs to be part of it. Japan, all the big emitting countries of the world, the major emitters, 17 nations need to really step up and begin to lower those emissions.

This challenge means that all countries, setting bold and achievable targets, have to do so here at home, and in the course of their Declaration of their national determined contributions, their NDCs.

We have to drive investment toward climate solutions and innovations in resilience. We need to get the entire world on a path towards net zero emissions, and we need to absolutely make certain that happens no later than 2050 and sooner, if possible.

Ultimately, keeping alive the possibility of limiting the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is critical because we now know that anything more than that will have catastrophic implications around the globe.

So my friends, we have to make every month count, every day count, on the road to the UN Climate Conference, COP 26, this November in Glasgow. It is the Leaders Summit that we’re going to hold on April 22nd, that we believe will be an important opportunity to begin to put the down payments on the table, to advance the work of Glasgow.

And we’re planning to take advantage of every opportunity we have in the coming months, including the G7, the G20, the Arctic Council, as well as the UN General Assembly, and other UN opportunities.

So this is a packed year. This is the most important year in many ways. We’re all in and we’re deeply grateful to have a strong partner in Secretary-General Guterres.

I will say to you that after many years of doing this, going back to Jim Hansen and his first announcements to us in Congress in 1988 that climate was happening, that climate was changing. From then until today, I’ve been to many, many of these meetings as many of you have. I believe that Glasgow is our last best hope to get the world to pony up, to deliver, to get us on a safer path to determine that we will do the things necessary in the next decade to keep alive the prospect of limiting the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and we will keep alive, in fact, create a better vision, for what we can do by 2050 with net zero.

That is what we intend to do as we head to Glasgow. And I hope every single one of you will be hand-in-hand with us, as you were during the last four years to keep us in the Paris Agreement, even though we had a president who got out.

The majority of Americans are committed to this task. So let’s get the job done.

Thank you very much.

More from: John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

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    What GAO Found The Department of the Interior's (Interior) Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) does not have a robust oversight process for ensuring the integrity of approximately 8,600 miles of active offshore oil and gas pipelines located on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, BSEE does not generally conduct or require any subsea inspections of active pipelines. Instead, the bureau relies on monthly surface observations and pressure sensors to detect leaks. However, officials told us that these methods and technologies are not always reliable for detecting ruptures. In response to a pair of significant oil leaks in 2016 and 2017, BSEE partnered with industry to improve subsea leak detection, but the technologies identified remain relatively new and cannot be retrofitted to a majority of pipelines. According to BSEE, the bureau's regulations are outdated and do not address how pipelines should be inspected, the complexities of deep water pipeline operations, and changes in technological standards. BSEE has long recognized the need to improve its pipeline regulations, and in 2007 issued a proposed rule that cited the need to enhance safety and protect the environment, but this effort stalled. The 2007 proposed rule addressed offshore pipeline integrity, including new requirements regarding pipeline inspection and subsea leak detection technologies. Since 2013, BSEE has noted plans to update its pipeline regulations but has made limited progress in the interim. Without taking actions to develop, finalize, and implement updated regulations to address identified oversight gaps, BSEE will continue to be limited in its ability to ensure the integrity of active pipelines. BSEE does not have a robust process to address the environmental and safety risks posed by leaving decommissioned pipelines in place on the seafloor due to the cumulative effects of oversight gaps before, during, and after the decommissioning process. First, BSEE does not thoroughly account for such risks during the review of decommissioning applications. This has contributed to BSEE and its predecessors authorizing industry to leave over 97 percent (about 18,000 miles) of all decommissioned pipeline mileage on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor since the 1960s. Generally, pipelines must be removed from the seafloor. BSEE, however, may allow pipelines to be decommissioned-in-place if certain criteria are met. Such a high rate of approval indicates that this is not an exception, however, but rather that decommissioning-in-place has been the norm for decades. Second, BSEE does not ensure that operators meet decommissioning standards, such as cleaning pipelines, because they do not observe any pipeline decommissioning activities, inspect pipelines after their decommissioning, or verify most of the pipeline decommissioning evidence submitted. Third, BSEE does not monitor the condition and location of pipelines following their decommissioning-in-place, which reduces its ability to mitigate any long-term risks, such as pipeline exposure or movement. Additionally, if pipelines decommissioned-in-place are later found to pose risks, there is no funding source for removal. As discussed above, BSEE has made limited progress in updating what it acknowledges are outdated pipeline regulations. Without taking actions to develop, finalize, and implement updated pipeline regulations, BSEE will continue to be limited in its ability to ensure that its pipeline decommissioning process addresses environmental and safety risks. Why GAO Did This Study The offshore oil and gas industry has installed approximately 40,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in federal offshore waters since the 1940s. BSEE is responsible for enforcing standards and regulations for oil and gas operations—including the oversight of active pipelines and their decommissioning—to enhance environmental protection and safety. As pipelines age, they are more susceptible to damage from corrosion, mudslides, and seafloor erosion, which can result in leakage of oil and gas into the ocean. Additionally, hurricanes can move pipelines extensive distances, which may damage subsea habitat, impede access to sediment resources, and create navigational and trawling hazards. GAO was asked to review BSEE's management of offshore oil and gas pipelines. This report examines BSEE's processes for (1) ensuring active pipeline integrity and (2) addressing safety and environmental risks posed by decommissioning. GAO reviewed regulations, procedures, and other documents and data related to BSEE's pipeline management processes. GAO also interviewed BSEE officials and those from other agencies with offshore responsibilities.
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  • High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System Acquisitions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.
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  • Federal Research Grants: OMB Should Take Steps to Establish the Research Policy Board
    In U.S GAO News
    As of January 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had not established the Research Policy Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. The act requires OMB to establish the Board within 1 year of the December 13, 2016 enactment of the act. The Board is to provide information on the effects of regulations related to federal research requirements. OMB stated that it had not established the Board because of issues with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) and other federal agencies’ full participation in the Board’s potential activities to develop or implement a modified approach to indirect cost policies. According to OMB, “the Board would necessarily delve into issues related to compliance burden and indirect cost reimbursement to entities that receive federal funding for research.” Specifically, OMB pointed to a statutory provision appearing in annual appropriations bills that it believes prohibits HHS and other agencies from taking action on issues that could implicate certain indirect cost provisions. According to OMB, this provision could, if continued in future bills, “complicate or even possibly prohibit HHS from participating in major elements of the Board’s process.” OMB stated that, without representation of a major research agency such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of HHS, “OMB would not be equipped to meet the statutory goals of the Board.” However, HHS stated in October 2020 that the indirect cost provision would not prohibit NIH’s participation on the Board and that the department was not aware of any other appropriations law provision that would prohibit such participation. GAO has no basis to disagree with HHS’s position. The 21st Century Cures Act does not specifically direct the Board to examine issues related to indirect costs, and we identified other issues that may fall within the scope of the Board’s activities. For example, the act specifies five activities that the Board may conduct, including creating a forum for the discussion of research policy or regulatory gaps, and identifying regulatory process improvements and policy changes. The Board could consider examining these or other issues related to streamlining and harmonizing regulations and reducing administrative burden in federally funded research in accordance with the 21st Century Cures Act. By not having established the Board, OMB is missing opportunities for the Board to provide information on the effects of regulations related to requirements for federally funded research, and to make recommendations to harmonize and streamline such requirements. Further, OMB has limited time to establish the Board and the Board may have insufficient time to complete its work before the Board is set to terminate on September 30, 2021. The 21st Century Cures Act requires OMB to establish an advisory committee, to be known as the Research Policy Board, that is responsible for making recommendations on modifying and harmonizing regulation of federally funded research to reduce administrative burden. The Board is to consist of both federal and non-federal members and include not more than 10 members from federal agencies, including officials from OMB, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), HHS, the National Science Foundation, and other departments and agencies that support or regulate scientific research, as determined by the OMB Director. The 21st Century Cures Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct an independent evaluation of the Board’s activities. This report examines the steps OMB has taken to establish the Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. GAO reviewed written responses and other information from OMB, HHS, and OSTP; the 21st Century Cures Act and other laws related to the Board and its establishment; relevant reports on issues related to administrative burden; and related documents such as memoranda and agency guidance. GAO submitted a draft report containing the results of its evaluation to Congress on December 10, 2020. Congress should consider extending the period of authorization for the Research Policy Board, giving OMB additional time to establish the Research Policy Board and complete its statutory mission under the 21st Century Cures Act. GAO recommends that OMB establish the Research Policy Board as mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act and report to Congress on the Board’s activities. OMB did not agree or disagree with this recommendation. We maintain that the evidence in this report shows the need for our recommendation. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or neumannj@gao.gov.
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  • Federal Rulemaking: Selected EPA and HHS Regulatory Analyses Met Several Best Practices, but CMS Should Take Steps to Strengthen Its Analyses
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO reviewed 11 Executive Order (EO) 13771 rules—five significant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and six economically significant Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rules. Seven of the 11 rules modified (i.e. repealed, amended, or delayed) existing rules (see table). GAO found that analyses for most of the seven rules monetized the same types of benefits and costs as analyses for the rules they modified, an indicator of consistency in the regulatory analyses. For example, one EPA rule modified an earlier rule that had established requirements for chemical risk management programs. EPA monetized anticipated changes to industry compliance costs for both rules. Where agencies monetized similar types of benefits and costs for both reviewed rules and modified rules, the value of some estimates differed, in part, because agencies had updated analytical assumptions, such as the number of entities subject to requirements or relevant wage data. Topics and Characteristics of 11 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Rules Selected for Review Agency Topics Modified existing rule(s) Monetized costs exceeded benefits EPA Risk management programs ● ○   Railroad ties as non-waste fuels ● ○   Chemical data reporting ● ●   Mercury reporting ○ ●   Effluent from dental offices ○ ● HHS, FDA Food labeling ● ○   Agricultural water requirements ● ● HHS, CMS End-stage renal disease treatment ● ●   Home health quality reporting ● ●   Patient discharge planning ○ ●   Diabetes prevention and appropriate use of imaging services ○ ● Legend: ● = Yes; ○ = No Source: GAO analysis of EPA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data. | GAO-21-151 Regulatory analyses for eight of the 11 rules GAO reviewed projected that monetized costs would exceed monetized benefits, though each identified other factors that may have led decision makers to determine that the total benefits justified the total costs, such as important, non-quantified effects. These eight analyses met about half of the selected best practices for economic analysis. However, some analyses developed by HHS's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not fully meet best practices associated with analyzing regulatory alternatives, assessing important effects, and providing transparency. It is particularly important that agencies develop quality analyses for economically significant rules, such as those finalized by CMS. By meeting these best practices, CMS could help the public and other parts of government provide effective feedback and mitigate potential conflict with entities affected by rules. It could also help CMS assess whether a rule's benefits justify the costs. EO 13771 generally requires executive agencies to identify two rules for repeal for each new rule issued. Since EO 13771 went into effect in 2017, executive agencies have taken regulatory actions expected to generate over $50 billion in savings to society. Quality regulatory analysis provides agency decision makers and the public with a thorough assessment of the benefits and costs of different regulatory options. GAO was asked to review regulatory analyses for rules finalized under EO 13771. For selected agencies, this report examines (1) how the calculated economic effects of selected rules differed, if at all, from those of rules they modified; and (2) the extent to which agencies met best practices in analyzing the economic effects of selected rules for which monetized costs exceed monetized benefits. GAO reviewed analyses for 11 rules—and the rules they modified— finalized by EPA and HHS, the two agencies that finalized the most economically significant EO 13771 rules through fiscal year 2019. GAO compared analyses to selected best practices in GAO's Assessment Methodology for Economic Analysis . GAO recommends that CMS take steps to ensure its future regulatory analyses are consistent with best practices for analyzing alternatives, assessing important effects, and providing transparency. EPA said it appreciated GAO's findings. HHS generally agreed with the report, and CMS agreed with the recommendation directed to it. For more information, contact Yvonne D. Jones at (202) 512-6806 or jonesy@gao.gov.
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