“If you save the small islands, you save New York, you save Miami, you save every great port city in the world.”
That was Ambassador Ronald Jumeau of Seychelles, speaking to House Democrats on Thursday about the global need to address climate change — and, with it, sea level rise. Jumeau was part of a panel of international representatives and experts who were invited to brief House minority members from the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.
The group said it was critical that the United States continues to lead on climate change issues for a successful outcome to COP21, the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Paris.
“We look to the United States to really lead from the front,” Jumeau said.
The United States is one of the world’s great powers. It is also the second-largest carbon emitter in the world, so it’s no wonder that many in the international community are looking to the United States for a strong climate agreement.
Critics of President Obama’s attempts to address climate change have long said that unilateral action is meaningless; we need international commitments from places like China and India. Largely through agreements with the White House, though, China has recently committed to huge investments in renewable energy and even to a domestic cap-and-trade scheme. Less wealthy nations, such as India, have also offered commitments, but they have often paired them with investment requirements.
Jumeau noted that his country and many like it are severely in debt, largely from efforts to modernize. Seychelles will need assistance, he said.
“What we are asking of the United States, we are also asking of the Chinas and the other G20 countries of the world,” Jumeau said.
He said changing rain patterns have increased water insecurity. The dry season is longer, and the country doesn’t have enough water storage to capture the rain it gets during the wet season. The island, he said, has turned to desalination, “which, ironically, has increased our carbon footprint.”
The witnesses were addressing a largely supportive group. During Jumeau’s explanation of the freshwater situation in Seychelles, Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA) shook his head sympathetically.
“I want to take this time to reassure our witnesses today… these Republicans in Congress are out of step with our nation,” Cartwright said. He cited a recent Pew study that found 72 percent of Americans support curbing carbon emissions.
“Let me reassure you. And I intend to reassure those I see in Paris,” Cartwright said. “The results of the 2016 presidential election won’t change that much. Once a rule has been finalized — like the Clean Power Plan — it cannot simply be discarded.”