Climate Week 2015: A Cleaner and More Prosperous Global Economy

05/22/2015 05:29 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2016

I've often said that tackling climate requires changing the conversation, but -- more than that -- I've come to believe that it truly requires changing the framework that we use to make decisions about our energy future. This week, I had the immense privilege of joining business leaders and policymakers in Paris to celebrate Climate Week. Together, at a forum hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we discussed how our global community can level the playing field, cut carbon pollution and create a healthier and more prosperous world for our children. It was truly a rewarding conversation, and I left feeling more confident than ever that it is possible to leave our children with a better world and a thriving global economy. However, these discussions also made one thing clear: In order to achieve this cleaner future, we have to move beyond the existing ideology that we can only grow our economy and create jobs in America if we double down on our dependence on fossil fuels.

The idea that we need fossil fuels to build a strong economy couldn't be further from the truth -- and the current debate over fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States shows exactly why the old, outdated energy frameworks no longer work in the best interest of our children.

Now -- as momentum builds toward a global climate agreement -- the world is watching the United States. From the 2016 budget, to the Clean Power Plan, to the historic climate deal with China, President Obama has already laid out a path to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that would protect our environment and grow our economy. Our president and our country have a remarkable opportunity to decisively break with the dirty energy of the past, reject the Keystone XL pipeline and usher in a cleaner, more prosperous future. Our country stands at a critical crossroads and -- this is not just empty verbiage -- the world is actually watching to see whether the United States will say no to the world's dirtiest energy sources and millions of tons of carbon pollution. The people I met in Paris spoke about it frequently, and with a great deal of concern.

Keystone XL fails the President's climate test and is not in our nation's best interest. It would significantly exacerbate carbon pollution and climate change -- while only creating 35 permanent jobs. The facts are clear: the Keystone XL pipeline would dramatically ramp up production of one of the world's dirtiest energy sources -- dumping millions of tons of new carbon pollution into the air and bringing some of the world's dirtiest oil through our nation's heartland. But the impacts of Keystone XL go far beyond the immediate GHG impacts of the pipeline -- this decision represents a clear sign post that points the direction of our country's future. Conservative politicians and pundits keep trying to deny its significance, but the truth is inescapable in here in Paris.

While the choice may seem difficult, the answer couldn't be simpler. In my home state of California, we've already implemented landmark climate legislation that has cut carbon pollution while growing our state's economy to be the seventh largest in the world -- and as of last year, there were 431,800 people employed in advanced energy in California. We've shown that addressing climate change and choosing clean energy can actually be a remarkable opportunity to create jobs, build new industries, drive innovation and secure a brighter and healthier future for the next generation.

During my visit to Climate Week, I've had the opportunity to talk to leaders from around the world, and they're eager for America to lead on climate change. They know what an innovative, creative and compassionate country like ours can achieve when it takes on the big challenges -- and I do too. This is our moment. As leaders around the world lay out their plans to combat carbon pollution, and business leaders embrace the transition to a clean energy economy, it's time for President Obama to size the moment by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and building critical momentum to the global climate negotiations ahead of the Paris 2015 conference. Rejecting this pipeline would not only protect our communities and our kids' future, it will send a signal to the global community that the United States is truly committed to building a cleaner, more innovative and prosperous global economy.

Changing the framework is what Americans do best -- we innovate, we create, and we lead the world to solve some of our toughest challenges. That's who we are.