Department of State
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much, Vice President Harris. Just to start by saying what an important gathering this is truly. And to thank each of you, excellencies, for coming all of this way, to dive into these critical issues. I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this team led by President Biden and Vice President Harris, who are driving, as you heard, unprecedented American climate ambition and progress.
And such huge thanks to Special Envoy Kerry, who pushes us relentlessly. And just the way that you hear — you heard from him today and heard from him yesterday, but pushes each of us in his Administration, every day, to think bigger and to act more quickly. And I just couldn’t be more grateful for him, for his service, his lifetime of service. But the energy that he dedicates to this cause is like no other.
Secretary Buttigieg, Secretary Granholm, you are doing so much domestically and it is just wonderful to see, also, how much you are contributing to the global effort. And I’m just thrilled, again, to be able to partner with you. Special thanks to Vice President Harris, who is leading us here today. Since her days as a District Attorney in San Francisco where she created the first ever environmental justice unit, she has long championed something we all know to be true, and that I know resonates with you all in particular, which is that the ones who pay the highest price for climate change are often those with the least resources available to address the challenge.
USAID is privileged to have Missions in Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma. And as a result, we see up close the devastating effects of climate change, but also, as my colleagues have stressed, the vast opportunities we have to work together to unlock whole new industries, to create millions of new jobs and to build resilience into all we do. USAID, to be clear, is now a climate agency. We have to be. We can achieve none of our broader development objectives, not one of them, if we don’t work together to curb emissions, to transition to clean energy, and to help you adapt to a climate that has already changed and that continues to wreak havoc.
There are five foundational principles at the heart of USAID’s climate efforts. One, locally-led development is key. Two, equity and inclusion. Who is part of these efforts? Who are we thinking about when we think about adaptation? Three, knowing the large financing gaps, particularly on adaptation, private sector engagement. Four, nature-based solutions. And five, evidence technology and innovation. So these are principles we’re bringing to bear, I think, in our dialog in the field with each of you.
You’ve heard so many leaders from our Administration speak about climate mitigation and the need to transition to clean energy, about conservation and fleet electrification, and of course, the need to take steps to provide our citizens with cleaner air and water. And on all of this, a partner in the United States, whether it is the billions in renewable energy investments that we have helped to unlock in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam – the wildlife conservation efforts and legal reform that has helped protect areas of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands larger than the state of California – or as the Vice President mentioned, the partnership between USAID, NASA, and the Royal Thai Government to track and forecast air quality, my agency — and my agency and all of the parts of the U.S. government working internationally have been trying to support ASEAN partners in ushering in this greener future. But I also, again, can’t help but acknowledge we don’t live in the future; we live in a present that — where our countries are already experiencing these devastating climate shocks.
All of us gathered here are living through more intense droughts, floods, heatwaves, and tropical storms. So we have to help our citizens deal with the impacts of climate change today, even as we race to prevent even worse consequences down the line. A cornerstone of that effort has to be the investments we make in climate resilient infrastructure so that the next time a giant storm or extended heat wave hits, our lights stay on, our roads, somehow stay open, and our schools and hospitals continue to serve our citizens.
That is why the United States, along with 30 other countries, six multilateral organizations, and two private sector coalitions representing over 400 companies have joined something called the Coalition for Disaster Resilience Infrastructure. This coalition is working across its membership to share best practices about building resilient infrastructure, harmonizing our policies, and supporting the funding and the urgently needed financing of infrastructure projects in countries that can benefit from support.
I currently serve as the co-chair of this coalition and right now no ASEAN country is a member of CDRI, which again is just growing and expanding. But I would urge all nations here to consider becoming a member first, to share your own experiences and expertise, and to help strengthen our efforts. We just recently launched a new initiative to help small island states in the Indo-Pacific to boost their resilience. I know they would benefit from your expertise. But I also encourage you to join so that you’re able to tap into and benefit from any future financial support and priority initiatives that this coalition takes on.
The Asian Development Bank estimates $3.4 trillion is needed to harden Asia’s physical infrastructure. And that is not an amount that any nation or even one continent can plan to finance on its own. As part of the U.S. government’s broader international climate strategy, USAID aims to mobilize, as part of our new climate strategy recently unveiled, $150 billion in public and private financing for climate.
I want to thank you for your continued partnership, for your shared goal of safeguarding our climate and express my desire to build with you, particularly those of you where we have Missions, but more broadly, as well as all of ASEAN, a deeper partnership so that we can help people throughout Southeast Asia grapple with the worst effects of climate change that we are already seeing today.