THE BLOG
09/28/2015 05:50 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2016

The Time for Excuses on Climate Action Is Over

As global leaders have gathered at the United Nations over the last few days, climate action has very much been at the forefront. Looking ahead to the December international climate conference, countries are continuing to put their contributions to reduce climate pollution on the table.

These climate action commitments continue to expose the emptiness of Republican excuses to avoid climate action. When not denying the existence of climate change, the GOP leadership wrongly declares that America shouldn't reduce carbon pollution because other nations aren't doing their part.

Yet at the same time, they tell other countries not to count on America's climate commitments. In March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned nations to "proceed with caution" when negotiating climate agreements with Washington, because America's primary tool for reducing carbon pollution--the Clean Power Plan - could be unraveled by Republican attacks. McConnell even sent one of his aides to brief foreign embassies on Republican intentions to eviscerate the Clean Power Plan.

The GOP has been trying to play it both ways, claiming America shouldn't act until other countries do and trying to sabotage other nation's actions by saying America won't act. This path is out of touch with the American people. It is out of touch with every American's desire for clean air, clean water and a healthy future for our children. And it is out is out of touch with the international reality as all major emitters will have concrete emissions reduction targets in place soon.

We are at a tipping point when it comes to climate action. We are seeing the tragic results from record-breaking global temperature rises. We are seeing a new age of American climate leadership. And we are seeing real changes as clean energy is on the rise and dirty energy is on the wane. And this tipping point means that leaders around the world are also taking action at home.

Just last week, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced another round of historic climate commitments to prioritize wind, solar and other non-fossil fuel resources, including a new China cap and trade program to cover its major sources of emissions. Both the US and China agreed to support several key initiatives that will feature prominently in the Paris climate talks, including financing for post-2020 climate action and moving toward a common system for monitoring, reporting and verifying climate action. Most importantly, they agreed to build in mechanisms to continue to strengthen carbon reduction plans over time - a critical piece if we are to achieve a climate healthy world.

This builds on a series of commitments and actions from China that we've seen over the past year - in part in reaction to their health-wrecking air pollution and in part because it is making good economic sense. China is establishing a cap on coal consumption and is already leading in solar energy while being on track to lead the world in wind power installation and generation in 2016.

America is on track to cut its carbon pollution by 28 percent over 2005 levels by 2025. The Obama Administration has already tackled emissions for the auto sector by raising fuel efficiency for new cars. Now the Clean Power Plan will address the nation's largest source of carbon pollution: power plants.

Republican leaders in Congress and fossil fuel companies are trying to undermine the plan. However, the Clean Power Plan rests on firm legal footing, and it has already inspired most states to begin outlining how they will achieve their carbon reduction targets. The vast majority of Americans welcome this progress: two-thirds of people support government limits on carbon pollution, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

America is stepping forward to confront the climate crisis. And so is China.

And despite Republican claims to the contrary, most other nations are doing the same. Countries accounting for more than 70 percent of global carbon emissions have already set their post-2020 climate targets. And by the time the Paris climate talks start at the end of November, we expect nearly every country to deliver national plans for carbon reductions.

Rather than trying to undermine climate action here at home and around the world, we all need to be working together to reach even stronger reductions in climate pollution. The road to Paris is taking us in the right direction. What will be important in the coming days is that the road from Paris continues in that direction and that America continue its leadership for ever stronger climate action that protects our families and our future.