Letter to America: Gambia envoy asks Obama directly for US climate leadership

News, 6 June 2014
Pa Ousman Jarju, Minister of Environment of Gambia and former chair and special envoy on climate change for the 48 Least Developed Countries, has written an open letter to the US President.
Pa Ousman Jarju has written an open letter to US President Barack Obama (Photo: Steve Jurvetson via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Pa Ousman Jarju has written an open letter to US President Barack Obama (Photo: Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0)

Dear President Obama,
As former chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group in the United Nations climate change negotiations, and former Special Envoy for the group, I am speaking on behalf of LDCs who are already suffering from the devastating impacts of climate change.  

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report indicates that the evidence of human-caused climate-change impacts is unequivocal, and that increased warming likewise increases the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts. 

The research shows that these increases in temperature will be linked to increases in the level and the extent of poverty around the world, making more difficult our recovery from climate-related disasters. Both will set back decades of human development efforts and create new security risks for the world.    
Mr. President, the long-term consequences on our countries will be devastating. The LDCs are already experiencing debilitating impacts on our agriculture, water supply and floodplains. 

Since 1980, more than one half of the deaths from climate-related disasters have occurred in our nations. However, the overall contribution to climate change by all the LDCs, constituting 12 per cent of the world's population, is less than one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
These asymmetrical impacts call for LDC priorities to be at the centre of current decisions and actions. As the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change, we are seeing the impacts first hand.
Mr. President, we welcome your initiative on climate change gases in coal-fired power plants announced this week: this action was overdue, and it is an important step in bringing the US closer to the actions of the rest of the world, including those of developed and many developing countries.  
The scale of the problem requires such bold and sustained action. Mr. President, we request that you accept UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's invitation to the special Climate Summit in New York on 23 September and engage proactively in the process. Your presence and bold pledges for further actions will not only demonstrate that the US is taking climate change seriously, but it would set an example for other leaders around the world. 
One of the reasons behind the failure to achieve success in Copenhagen in 2009 was that presidents and prime ministers only engaged at the last minute.  

This time, success by climate change negotiators in Lima in 2014 and Paris in 2015 will ultimately depend on presidents and prime ministers engaging early, by coming with high level political commitments to New York in September and directing their negotiators to work out the details.
2014 is the year of ambition on climate change: the 20th Conference of the Parties in Lima is the penultimate COP before the adoption of 2015 Agreement. Mr. President, your legacy to the US and the rest of the world will be marked by the level of commitment you show in the next months. 
Pa Ousman Jarju 
Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water Resources, Parks and Wildlife
The Gambia

Pa Ousman Jarja visited IIED last month to discuss this year's big milestones in climate change policy, after which he identified four themes for action on climate change in the UN negotiations and beyond.

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