Sign-On Letter to US President Barack Obama

Dear President Obama,

The world has had great expectations for your leadership in addressing climate change internationally, but to date there has been much disappointment. We understand you face a difficult political reality in the United States, but billions of people face the reality of flood, drought, famine, and climate-constrained development. Every country faces its own complex political circumstances, and those of the United States cannot be allowed to hold back the rest of the world.

We are writing to urgently ask you to reconsider the emission reduction target you have put forward for Copenhagen and instead offer a target that will return atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to no more than 350 ppm and allow for no more than 1 to1.5°C global temperature rise. A reduction by the United States of only 3 percent below 1990, contingent on greenhouse gas cuts by China and other developing countries, is scientifically unsound and deeply unjust. If other developed countries committed to longer term reductions that are no more ambitious than those you have pledged for the US[1], the rich world will end up consuming two-thirds of the carbon budget available for this century.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Africa is expected to warm at around 1.5 times the global average. In Copenhagen, leaders from Africa have made it clear that a temperature rise of 2 °C is suicide for the peoples of that continent. Yet the targets offered by developed countries won’t even keep the world below a 2 degree global temperature rise.  We echo the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance that this is, “a death sentence to literally millions of Africans. We fear for our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers – your uncles, aunts and cousins. Your policy on climate change threatens not only our families but also your own.”

Rather than undermining constructive multilateralism, the U.S. should join the rest of the international community and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Barring that, the U.S. should plug its emission reduction commitment into the special space designed for it under the Bali Action Plan – paragraph 1(b)(i) – to fulfill its obligations under the UN Climate Convention in a manner that is comparable to the commitments of other developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol. Since then, the failure of the US to take serious reduction commitments has instigated an abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol by developed countries, spurring a race to the bottom.

The provision of public climate finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries is also fundamental to a just and effective outcome in Copenhagen. As the leader of the nation most responsible for causing the climate crisis, and as the world’s wealthiest economy, the U.S. must pay its share of what the Africa Group is calling for from developed countries– at least 5 percent of GNP annually in the long term and US$400 billion for fast track financing. Further, climate finance should be channeled through a new Global Climate Fund established under the authority of the UNFCCC. The World Bank and other existing international financial institutions should have no role in UNFCCC climate finance.

During your Nobel Lecture, you said “…the world must come together to confront climate change.” We ask that you move beyond rhetoric to meaningful action. More than 100 countries have called for reductions by developed countries of at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, no more than 1.5°C global temperature rise, and a return to 350 ppm. The United States should support nothing less.

Climate change is an extreme threat to world peace, and in many cases, entire peoples’ survival.  If ever there was a time for you to exert bold leadership, this is it. Last week you received the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, we call on you to earn it.

Thank you for your serious consideration of this life-or-death matter.


Cc: Senator John F. Kerry


Karen Orenstein

Friends of the Earth U.S.

+45-2971-8809 (mobile in Copenhagen)