COP19: President Obama’s environment advisor stresses importance of 'joined up' government

21 November 2013

COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, runs from November 11-22, 2013. As part of our involvement in COP19, Damian Ryan our Senior Policy Manager, is providing news and analysis as well as live tweeting. Today Damian reports from the third day of COP19's second week, where The Climate Group hosted a meeting for its States and Regions Alliance

Damian writes:

A common refrain heard at UN climate negotiations is that there “is no silver bullet” for dealing with the problem of climate change. No one technology, policy or financing mechanism on its own will deliver the kind of radical emission reductions that we need.

The same argument is also true when it comes to governments.

There is no single layer of bureaucracy that has its hands on all the levers, policies and mechanisms for creating the frameworks and incentives we need for decarbonizing the world economy.

Equally, no single layer of government is all seeing and all knowing. A joined up approach that connects national, regional and city governments together will therefore be essential to success.

It is fortunate then, that the White House’s point person on the environment and chief advisor to President Obama, brings to the role experience across all three layers of government.

Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has spent her career working on environmental issues at the city, state and federal level in the US.

Speaking to members of The Climate Group’s State and Regions Alliance in Warsaw on November 20, Nancy Sutley underlined the importance of 'joined up' government. Here she explained how important US states and cities were to the delivery of federal climate mitigation and adaptation programs. Interestingly, while the federal government was setting the broad agenda through the President’s Climate Action Plan, it was at the state level that much of the implementation was actually taking place.

Action is also stronger at the sub-national level as it is state and city governments that are at the sharp end of climate impacts, most notably New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This disaster has demonstrated both strengths and weaknesses in the resilience of cities and states. It highlighted, for example, the benefits of good planning, such as the role that enhanced natural coastal defences had played in protecting communities along the eastern seaboard. New York City and State governments were now taking a hard look at how to make their communities more resilient.

Sutley noted that the President’s Climate Action Plan was intended to support States and cities in this effort by encouraging shared responsibility and partnerships across the different layers of government. To this end, Sutley highlighted the recent Executive Order establishing a State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which provides advice to the President and federal government on how to remove barriers to and incentivize climate resilience.

Such joined up thinking and cooperation will clearly be critical in a country with the size and diversity of the US.

Listening to Sutley, it was clear that national, state and city governments acting on their own, whether in the US or elsewhere, do not have the bureaucratic silver bullet for solving climate change.

But working together they canand mustdeliver the silver buckshot.

Related news:

COP19: Sub-national governments are the rising stars of climate action

COP19: Hurricane Haiyan puts ‘loss and damage’ front and center

Days before COP19 in Warsaw begins, read our overview

One year on from Sandy, building resiliency to extreme weather across the US is still a matter of urgency

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