Antony J. Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, delivered remarks at the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Summit on the margins of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, United Kingdom, on November 2, 2021, insisting that “ultimately we are going to be judged not by what we say, but by what we do.”
“We’ve heard very important calls to action in the last 24 hours. Commitments are being made. We now have to follow up on them,” Blinken said before highlighting three core areas the Biden administration is focusing on to help developing countries adapt and mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.
“There are three other core elements to this initiative that I just wanted to highlight briefly. First, we intend to focus on knowledge, deepening understanding of climate risks, vulnerabilities, adaptation techniques, and supporting early warning systems and other informational tools that can save lives in climate emergencies,” he said. “Second, we’ll focus on plans and programs that support climate adaptations. And third, and as we’ve already heard, very critically, we will focus on resources, mobilizing finance and private capital in service of adaptation projects.”
Read his full remarks below
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much, Patrick. Thank you so much not just for today, but for your leadership every day. It is greatly appreciated, and I simply want to start by thanking everyone who made this event possible, including President Tshisekedi, chairperson of the African Union. Monsieur President, merci pour votre leadership. As well —
And Dr. Adesina, greatly appreciate everything that you’re doing as well. And to President Sharma, who I just saw on the way out, thank you as well. And I also want to extend thanks to Secretary-General Guterres, Dr. Georgieva – managing director of the International Monetary Fund – for all the work that they’re doing, for the focus that they’re putting on this issue.
We’re spending a lot of time here today talking, and that’s important because we are bringing a spotlight, we are bringing the world’s attention to these critical issues. But we know – we know that ultimately we are going to be judged not by what we say, but by what we do. And we’ve heard very important calls to action in the last 24 hours. Commitments are being made. We now have to follow up on them.
We’ve been focused intently on stepping up our collective response to the climate crisis that threatens our planet, threatens our lives, threatens our futures. And as we’re hearing today, one important way to do that is by working with countries that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. By helping those countries, by working together, by helping them adapt, we can mitigate some of the worst effects of the crisis and prevent future humanitarian emergencies. But more than that, we can also seize the opportunity that is here in this moment of necessity to build a better future, to build back better, to create greener economies, greener livelihoods, greener possibilities.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has recognized Africa as the region on Earth most vulnerable to the climate crisis. The worst impacts – including, as we’ve already heard, prolonged droughts, record heat waves, food and water shortages, public health crises, instability, poverty – we know that they are hitting Africa with a special vigor. That’s why governments, the private sector, civil societies across the region are working so intently already to adapt.
The Africa Adaptation Initiative launched by the African heads of state six years ago is one very powerful example of this. Citizens and leaders across the region have seen what’s coming, and they want to stop it. The world, especially those countries that contributed a great deal to the crisis in the first place, must stand up and help. The United States is committed to working in partnership with countries in the region to make real strides on this critical piece of the global response to the climate crisis.
Just yesterday, President Biden launched the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience, also known as PREPARE. This initiative will bring together agencies across the U.S. Government to provide financial and technical support for vulnerable countries and communities at scale and with speed. The President will work with our Congress to dedicate $3 billion annually in adaptation finance by the year 2024. This is the largest commitment ever made by the United States to reduce the impact of climate change on those most endangered by it around the world.
There are three other core elements to this initiative that I just wanted to highlight briefly. First, we intend to focus on knowledge, deepening understanding of climate risks, vulnerabilities, adaptation techniques, and supporting early warning systems and other informational tools that can save lives in climate emergencies. Second, we’ll focus on plans and programs that support climate adaptations. And third, and as we’ve already heard, very critically, we will focus on resources, mobilizing finance and private capital in service of adaptation projects.
These three components of the PREPARE initiative are, I think, very well aligned with the pillars of the Africa Adaptation Initiative, which is why, as part of the rollout that we’re doing, we’ll be providing support to the African Adaptation Initiative directly. This will ensure effective implementation of the accelerator program. We’ll continue our work with the AU Commission and other African partners to shape and implement climate-smart policies across the continent.
For example, on agricultural best practices, we were very proud to participate in the National Adaptation Planning[i] Global Network to help countries in Africa develop practical, whole-of-government adaptation plans. And our work will continue with partners across the region to promote clean energy, prevent deforestation, and improve climate awareness.
There’s a very good reason that COP27 will be held in Africa. Because this region is where a great deal of the world’s attention needs to be, should be as we work as fast as we can to prevent and mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis, but also – also to seize the opportunities that are before us.
This is a priority for the United States, and I’m grateful to everyone here for your commitment, and especially for your partnership. Thank you very much. (Applause.)