'We Need To Elevate the Environment in Everything We Do'

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 7, 2014
An Iceberg Breaks Off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory

On March 7, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry issued instructions to all diplomats around the world on combating climate change.  He stressed that success in this effort will require active leadership and participation from everyone in the State Department and at posts around the world.

Personal Message From Secretary Kerry:

The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.  I was just 26 when I participated in the very first Earth Day at home in Massachusetts.  It was an eye-opening immersion into the power of grassroots action to force an issue onto the national radar screen and demand change.  More than 20 million Americans -- fully one-tenth of our country’s population at the time -- came together to express a wake-up call.  And they didn’t stop there.  They elected a Congress that passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and the first wave of legislation that set us on a path to change the face of the planet we share with the rest of humanity.

We can transform challenges into opportunities.  I’ve seen it happen long before I had a vote in the Senate or an office in Foggy Bottom, and it’s what I still believe.  But I’m not just waxing nostalgic.  Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat.  It’s also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy. 

Leading the way toward progress on this issue is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State.  That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State.  I have been deeply impressed by the way Secretary Clinton  elevated global women’s issues as a top-tier diplomatic priority, and believe me, we’re committed to keeping them there.  When the opportunities for women grow, the possibilities for peace, prosperity, and security grow even more.  President Obama and I believe the same thing about climate change.  This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity.  And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction. 

One thing’s for sure:  there’s no time to lose.  The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before.  That’s why I spoke in Jakarta about the threat of climate change and what we, as citizens of the world, can do to address it.  That’s why I raised this issue at our senior management retreat here in Washington, and why I’ll be raising it again at our Chiefs of Mission Conference next week.  This challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us. 

I’m counting on Chiefs of Mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem.  I’ve also directed all bureaus of the Department to focus on climate change in their day-to-day work.  Here’s what this guidance means in practice:

I.  Lead by example through strong action at home and abroad: Making significant progress in combating climate change through domestic actions within the Department and at the federal, regional, and local level.

II.  Conclude a new international climate change agreement: Working through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to negotiate a new, ambitious international climate agreement applicable to all countries by 2015 to take effect in 2020.

III.  Implement the Global Climate Change Initiative:  Undertaking a pragmatic, whole-of-government approach to speed the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future, including (1) promoting clean energy solutions; (2) slowing, halting, and reversing emissions from land use; and (3) helping the most vulnerable countries strengthen climate resilience.

IV.  Enhance multilateral engagement:  Helping lead efforts including the Major Economies Forum, Clean Energy Ministerial, Montreal Protocol, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.

V.  Expand bilateral engagement:  Engaging more than 50 partner countries on clean energy, sustainable landscapes, and adaptation, including the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the developing world.

VI.  Mobilize financial resources:  Working to mobilize and leverage billions of dollars of funding to transform our energy economies and promote sustainable land use, as well as working to limit public incentives for high-carbon energy production and fossil fuels.

VII.  Integrate climate change with other priorities:  Better integrating climate solutions into cross-cutting challenges, including women’s empowerment, urbanization, conflict and national security, and our own management and operations.

Climate change has special significance for the work we do here at State, and so do clean water, clean air, sustainability, and energy.  We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity.  We need to elevate the environment in everything we do.  There’s nothing I’m more proud of then when we send one of our diplomats somewhere to really get out in the field and engage, to solve a problem, and to make something happen.  I want all of you to feel empowered to think and operate that way on climate change.  That’s our mission as diplomats and that’s our call to conscience as citizens of this fragile planet we inhabit.  So let’s get to work.

To learn more about the State Department's efforts to combat climate change, visit our page on climate change and read our Fact Sheet.



madeleine n.
District Of Columbia, USA
March 14, 2014
This article brings recognition of my position as an environmental scientist with EPA, and encouragement to do more environmental protection on the job, at home, nationally/internationally, and anywhere seen fit. Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with DOS and join in the spirit of validation of the importance of protecting our only inhabitable plant, yet.
Ruth H.
California, USA
March 14, 2014
Tell President Obama to say NO to Keystone XL, Please slow climate change, don't accelerate it. We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The starting point for assessing the danger should start at the beginning - the impact of digging up, transporting and then burning fossil fuels and not with the assumption that fossil fuels are going to be dug up and burned. Please don't put our country at risk from this terrible dirty oil. Please don't ruin our land and air. Please end your all of the above strategy and do what is needed to push the course for renewable energy.
richard s.
Florida, USA
March 14, 2014
Pump ocean water 100's of miles back away from the ice edges. It will make more ice and maybe save the poles. A lot of MONEY now or no more poles......
Mary S.
Virginia, USA
March 9, 2014
Mary in Virginia writes: BRAVO. Thank you!
Madronna H.
Oregon, USA
March 14, 2014
I want to say how very much I appreciate this stand. As a university teacher, I have seen a good deal of hopelessness on the part of our upcoming adults-- we need initiatives such as this to restore hope in the future, as well as to communicate to the generations to follow that we care about the world we are leaving them.
Deborah S.
Maine, USA
March 14, 2014
Dear Mr. Secretary, I just want you to know that many of us are very heartened by your intent to make the process of dealing with global climate change a priority during your tenure as Secretary of State. We are behind you 100%. It is my observation that, despite appearances, the majority of people are at least somewhat concerned about this issue and a significant percentage of the American public is also relatively well-informed. We will support your efforts. Thank you.
Roger S.
New Hampshire, USA
March 10, 2014
THANK YOU, Secretary Kerry, for your brave leadership stance on this most vital issue! Although many Americans are becoming concerned about climate change, many more are confused by the misinformation that's put out by the fossil fuel industry and the media. Please ask President Obama to make a prime-time, nationally-televised "State of the Climate" speech to set the record straight on the hard scientific reality of our need to pull together on this. Finally, we must reject the KXL pipeline, to set an example for the world. Again, thank you.
Jim S.
Pennsylvania, USA
March 9, 2014
Thank you John. We need your leadership on this issue.
Kaja R.
Wisconsin, USA
March 9, 2014
Please do everything you can to turn the tide on climate change - from pushing hard for a strong and binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, to stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline. I am very heartened by this message - this sounds like the John Kerry I worked so hard to elect in 2004, and I'm glad to see it. Thank you.
Donna A.
Washington, USA
March 9, 2014
Secretary Kerry, thanks so much for this statement. I appreciate very much the actions that the Obama administration has taken to regulate power plants and to improve energy efficiency of vehicles. I am very disappointed in continued Federal support for the extraction of coal, and support for the extraction of oil in places like the Bakken formation. We must begin a quick and complete transition away from using fossil fuels, in order to have any hope of staying below 2 degrees warming. I am watching for your decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline. It would be contrary to the statement you just made here, to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built. This is where many of us have drawn the line, and we are counting on you to do the right thing. In my state of Washington private citizens have been fighting off coal export terminals and oil export terminals, at the local level, one at a time. Federal policies that continue to support the extraction and transportation of these fossil fuels fly in the face of this statement you have made here on your website. Please ask the Obama administration to align all Federal actions with a policy of transitioning quickly away from fossil fuels. To avoid catastrophe, we must stop burning fossil fuels. I am getting the impression that the Obama administration understands there is a problem, but does not understand exactly how fast we must make this transition in order to successfully avoid disaster. Please get advice from someone who has grasped this. Thanks.
Chris E.
Minnesota, USA
March 11, 2014
Perhaps the Good Secretary could truly lead by example and reduce his own massive carbon footprint. It is dismaying to see such a lemming like rush to embrace what has become little more than a cult.
Spencer G.
Mississippi, USA
March 11, 2014
I am so glad that Secretary Kerry was able to take time away from the crisis in the Ukraine to address the threat to civilization posed by Global Climate Change. It cannot have been easy to develop this Policy Guidance in advance of next week's climate change briefing at the Chiefs of Mission Conference while focusing on rolling back the Russian takeover of the Crimea. Well Done, Sir!
Nina B.
Colorado, USA
March 12, 2014
Thank you, Secretary Kerry. I appreciate your strong call for action to fight climate change. I believe climate change is the greatest challenge facing humankind in the 21st century. Thank you for being an exemplary role model and for inspiring all of us to take action as individuals.
Yocamille A.
March 13, 2014
Dear Secretary Kerry, as an American, as woman, as a mother, and as an advocate for the protection of the environment I thank you for your press release and your new Climate Action Plan for the State department. I trust you have your priorities in the right place but, I want to point out that the two most important actions at this moment in history and in 2014 are the following: 1-Reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all. We must #ActOnCLimate, this is checkmate! and 2-Come to Lima,to the UNFCC's COP20 ready to facilitate, negotiate and agree on a Climate change binding agreement. I believe it is extremely important to have consensus in Lima this year so in 2015 we are ready to ACT! America must continue to lead by example in the sustainable development of our world and COP20 is the perfect platform to do so! So please… Don't come to Lima if you are not ready to COMMIT, come to LIMA in you are ready to LEAD! God speed! Respectfully, Yoca Arditi-Rocha


Latest Stories