UN Climate Chief Calls Out U.S. For Climate Inaction: Hurricane Sandy Is ‘Yet Another Wake-up Call’

Hurricane Sandy’s $50 billion damage demonstrated the vulnerability of America’s largest cities to the effects of global warming. Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations diplomat for international climate negotiations, said Sandy serves as “yet another wake-up call” for the U.S. to cut carbon pollution.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Figueres made the case for why it’s in the country’s best interest to lead with urgency:

FIGUERES: First, from a domestic perspective, why would the United States allow other countries to pursue the technologies of the future while the United States stays with the technologies that are becoming every day more obsolete, hence losing its future competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world? I don’t think that the visionary leaders of the United States will let this happen. I do think that there is going to be increasing pressure in particular from the private sector to catch up with the rest of the world, which is moving toward low-carbon technologies. So just from a domestic point of view, it doesn’t make any sense.

e360: What about the frustration part of that, that we are now deep into this process and the U.S. so far has not made a formal commitment?

FIGUERES: One must say, given the historical responsibility that the United States plays in this issue, it is quite a unique position that the United States is in and one that frankly they have not responded to in a commensurate manner. So, yes, if the United States does not strengthen its participation in the global climate regime under the newly re-elected president I think there will be increased frustration with the United States.

More than 30 countries have already taken steps well beyond the U.S., instituting caps on carbon pollution or a carbon tax, including Europe, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, and Mexico. As Figueres says, it is not a choice between lower pollution and economic growth, since climate change devastates businesses and American security.


Next week, global climate negotiations will continue what Figueres calls “slow but steady” progress at a conference in Doha, Qatar.