The negotiations were intense, the stakes were high, and the resulting Copenhagen Accord left people worldwide wondering when countries would agree to a binding treaty. After attending the Copenhagen Climate Conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about the outcome and what the future holds for the US as climate legislation will soon be voted on in the Senate. I do know this: climate change is not going to stop on its own and certainly will continue to threaten ecosystems and humans worldwide unless countries take responsibility to decrease their pollution by moving to renewable energy sources. One of the main phrases used at the United Nations Climate Change Conference was the notion of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” There is recognition that countries are not evenly distributed in the amount of pollution they emit, and countries that are the largest polluters have a responsibility to dramatically reduce their emissions as is within their capacity. This also means that emerging economies have a responsibility to move to renewable energy sources when building new energy plants, and developing countries suffering the most from climate change must also do what is in their ability to reduce their carbon footprint. But developing countries need help adapting to the environmental changes that are occurring which affect the lives and livelihoods of their people. The Copenhagen Accord states that developed countries should provide financial assistance to these countries, so that people have the resources to rebuild.’
The next climate conference is just around the corner, and its purpose will be to use the Copenhagen Accord as a framework for a legally-binding treaty. With only a few months to go, the US has a lot of domestic work to do before being able to make any international contributions to this collective effort. The US will have to pass climate legislation in the Senate, and the outcome of the vote depends largely on the Midwest votes. It’s an exciting time for states in the Midwest, because they are not only the breadbasket of the nation and parts of the world, but they are now prime candidates for the global economic market that is transitioning to renewable energy technology. As more countries utilize their renewable energy resources and start manufacturing businesses for that technology, the global market is shifting to one centered around environmental technology. If the US is quick to take the opportunity, we will continue to be the global economic leader. However, countries like China, India, France and Germany are already establishing strong economies in technology, and the US could soon fall behind. The Senate passing climate legislation will enable the US to create more opportunities for domestic job opportunities centered around renewable energy, and the Midwest could benefit from making use of its wind energy potential along with solar and hydropower options.
I’ve heard from people around the world during my time at the Copenhagen conference, and I’ve learned that a driving force behind creating a healthier planet is in youth, who stand united on their persistence and dedication to this issue. Youth from the Midwest have already raised their voices in the form of notes that were delivered to President Obama, and it is actions like that which will form the support needed for legislative votes. In South Dakota, I’ll continue to visit schools and talk to youth about the ability we all have to be concerned citizens who take initiative to make the world a better place. Solutions are best achieved from a collaboration of individuals, and each note or phone call to a senator really means a lot in helping senators know what their constituents want!
Our senators will be the ones voting on climate change legislation, but their decision to vote in favor or against depends on the voice they hear from the people they represent. That means YOU! So, for now, there are some very important steps each of us can take to work for more clean energy jobs, making use of our RENEWABLE resources, and working to help the billions of people who are sharing this earth with us:
- Speak up! Contact your congresspeople and tell them what you think about the future of our states and our world. It’s easy- just check http://www.congress.org/ to find the phone number or address of the elected official you want to talk to. Let them know you want them to support strong climate legislation.
- Get involved. Take little measures every day that will decrease your own carbon footprint. Go for a walk rather than driving and enjoy the outdoors! Teach someone how to garden; recycle– the possibilities are endless.
- Learn the issue. There are great scientific sites to learn all about climate change, and you can read the Copenhagen Accord here.
There is so much that each of us can do to make a difference, and it doesn’t take going to an international conference to achieve it.