It's Time to Lead the Clean Energy Revolution

All of us who care about solving the climate crisis know we can't stop working until we achieve a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas pollution while implementing comprehensive policies here at home. Now that the dust from the summit in Copenhagen has settled, important new research has emerged. It will help us put this unprecedented gathering of world leaders into perspective. Even in the absence of a treaty, there has been an explosion of new policies and initiatives around the world to invest in clean energy, confront global warming, and drive economic growth. As the U.S. Senate comes closer to action this year, it is clearer than ever that America needs to join this clean energy race without delay.

In a new report, Deutsche Bank Climate Advisers find that, even though the Copenhagen talks did not lead to a legally-binding agreement, "it is clear now that it was also no failure." That's because in the months leading up to, and following the meeting, a host of countries announced ambitious pollution reduction targets and clean energy policies. There have been at least 154 new clean energy announcements worldwide since October 2009.

Globally, if all these new commitments are implemented, the report found we could avoid another two gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions. These actions, while still insufficient compared to the scale of the crisis, could still bring the world significantly closer to avoiding catastrophic climate change. While the Copenhagen talks did not accomplish what was needed, they were an important step forward.

At the same time, China - one of our biggest global competitors -- has become the new leader in the race to invest in the clean energy technologies of the future. The Pew Environment Group recently released a study finding that last year, China surpassed the United States for the first time and became the world leader in clean energy finance and investment. China's clean energy investments totaled $34.6 billion in 2009, nearly double the $18.6 billion invested in the United States.

Trends like these mean it's no longer enough for critics to argue the United States can't do anything about climate change until China acts first. China is now the leader in solar photovoltaic production, while the United States ranks fifth. The Pew report found that China is now almost tied with the United States in its installed renewable energy capacity.

We now have arrived at a fork in the road ⎯ we can either design and build the technologies of the future here in America, or let these opportunities go abroad. The Senate is preparing to take up comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, which could provide the certainty investors need to make long-term investments in America's clean energy industries. The naysayers who believe it's too difficult to get it done this year have to stand down. With the rest of the world moving ahead at a rapid pace, we can't afford not to act.

Now is the time for us to transform the global economy to a clean energy economy. We must avoid the devastating consequences of climate change and protect the planet for future generations. Twenty years ago, the United States led the world in the information technology revolution. It's past time for us to step up and lead the clean energy revolution as well.