U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

December 16, 2023

7,002 Miles to a Cleaner World

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

It’s 7,002 miles from Baltimore to Dubai. Roundtrip flying time is about 27 hours. This week, I returned from three days on the ground in Dubai for the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP28 – and it was well worth the trip.

I led a bipartisan delegation of seven senators. We participated in over 50 meetings and events while we were there. We talked about U.S. leadership on climate change and how the Inflation Reduction Act has been a game-changer across the country.

We also learned about innovative tech and energy solutions to mitigate emissions, and the challenges vulnerable populations face. We talked about the influence of the fossil fuel industry on the international negotiations process taking place at COP28 and subsequent Conference of Parties. And we discussed better ways to mobilize capital – whether for cutting emissions or to support enhanced adaptation capacities in developing countries. A recurring theme also was the threat climate changes poses to global security.

Thirty-five years ago, scientists predicted powerful super storms and floods. Heat waves for weeks. Smoke from wildfires. Ocean temperatures like a jacuzzi. Those decades old predictions are today’s reality.

We have seen historic flooding in all parts of Maryland. Record-breaking ocean surface temperatures in 2023 produced five Category 5 tropical cyclones over the course of just 5 months at the beginning of the 2023 tropical storm season. Wildfires in Canada darkened the skies from Boston to Baltimore. Thanks to the relentless heat, which caused hundreds of deaths, 2023 will almost certainly go down as the hottest year in recorded history.

Climate change is an urgent, existential threat. That’s why COP28 was so important.

I came away from the trip feeling optimistic that we are on the right track. Everywhere I went, there was incredible enthusiasm for what we are doing.

I led a panel discussion at the U.S. pavilion with our whole delegation and it was standing room only. People were waiting outside for seats to get in.

Throughout the conference—even at the airport—people stopped me. They said, “Thank you Senator. I’m so glad you are here representing us.”

Addressing the climate crisis is a global priority. And despite powerful forces pulling us in all different directions, an agreement was reached by participating countries.

While we (America and those who are serious about countering climate change) didn’t get everything we wanted, we got a LOT.

49 oil and gas companies agreed to slash methane emissions by 2030.

134 countries committed to adding reductions in food systems emissions to in their climate targets – representing 75% of global food production and agricultural based greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States – along with 123 countries – agreed to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030.

The United States and 21 other nations pledged to triple nuclear energy production by 2050.

These are the kind of advances that seemed out of reach, only a few years ago. And they come on the heels of the progress we have made here at home. 

In recent years, the United States has enacted ambitious clean energy investments to reduce emission. The Senate ratified of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption highly potent greenhouse gases known HFCs. We passed the most important climate legislation Congress has ever considered—the Inflation Reduction Act as well as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The U.S. is leading by example, often on a bipartisan basis.

One of the messages I wanted to make sure was delivered loud and clear while in Dubai was that no matter who is the White House, the United States is going to be a leading force in the fight to address climate change.

Of course, I am not naïve. Many senators—myself included—have raised concerns and called for ambitious actions to address the climate crisis. We all know there is more work we can do. There is more work we must do.

Climate change is threatening growers and farmers in the U.S. and in low-income, vulnerable nations. More starvation is going to mean more conflicts, which heightens the potential for military interventions. In 2023, we crossed a critical climatic tipping point where for more than 80 days in a row the Earth’s global average temperature exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We need to move quickly if we are going to stop this. We need to adapt and change. We are doing it now. We just need to do more.

For the communities throughout Maryland, across this country and around the world who are already feeling the worst effects of climate change, we will not stop fighting. We will not give up working for a cleaner, healthier future.

If we continue to work together and stay committed to our values and ideas for a better future, the generations that follow will remember us for the incredible achievement we made. They will remember us for giving them a safe and clean and prosperous planet.

Thank you for your time this weekend and all you do to help keep our world healthy. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this or any other topic. It’s always great to read the feedback received.

Ben Cardin