President Obama has decided not to attend the Rio+20 Earth Summit, instead Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the US delegation.
The United Nation's sustainability summit in Rio de Janeiro takes place June 20-22, but meetings have already begun.
Lisa Jackson, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will serve as alternate head of the US delegation and Todd Stern, special envoy on climate change, returns as chief negotiator after playing that role in Durban and Copenhagen.
Hillary Clinton and Lisa Jackson are spearheading the world-wide Clean Air and Climate Coalition to take concrete action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants - black carbon soot, HFCs and methane. The G-20 signed on at their meeting last month.
Clinton says about the changes taking place in the Arctic, "The waters don't freeze, even in the dead of winter. The ice shelves that have crumbled no longer protect coastlines from erosion. Species are at risk."
This week she said to environmental officials in Europe, "We do need more action in the fight against climate change. We need real-world solutions and we need results."
Last month, the Clean Air and Climate Coalition announced a 5-point plan to quickly address climate forcers. One of those is speed up cuts in methane and other emissions from the oil and gas industry, which account for over 20% of global methane emissions. They plan to make an announcement on this in Rio.
Over 130 heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked President Obama to attend and to take a more active role in global efforts to curb climate change and the environmental community hoped he would attend.
Dozens of leading environmental organizations including Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, American Rivers, and Greenpeace sent a letter to Obama saying,:
"We are writing on behalf of civil society organizations that represent more than 5 million Americans to urge you to commit as soon as possible to lead the United States delegation to the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil in June.
"Your presence at this Summit would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country's deep concern over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and well-being, and highlight our nation's determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy."
They urged the Obama Administration to announce as soon as possible its commitments for Rio+20 as a model for other nations and stakeholders, including ending fossil fuel subsidies, major increases in investments in renewable energy regulating carbon pollution and investing in healthy oceans.
Other US officials attending are:
- Ambassador Thomas Shannon, Jr., Ambassador of the United States to Brazil
- Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
- Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council
- Carlos Pascual, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, Department of State
- Reta Jo Lewis, Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of State
- Kris Balderston, Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Department of State
- Don Steinberg, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
- Elizabeth L. Littlefield, President and CEO, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Here's the environmental NGO letter which outlines the role they'd like see the US government play at Rio+20: