Climate change is a shift in weather patterns that lasts for decades or longer. Data shows that the average temperature on earth has been increasing since at least 1850, when detailed record-keeping began. Scientists have determined that primary drivers of climate change are greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and methane gas. Carbon dioxide emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels (during energy production, for example) and methane gas is released when waste decomposes.

Although climate change is a global problem, some sectors of the population cause more greenhouse gas emissions than others. For example, less than 5% of the world’s population lives in the United States, however, the U.S. consumes more than 20% of the world’s energy. Domestically, 70% of U.S. electric power is generated from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, populations in poor, rural, unindustrialized nations will be affected the most by climate change because they do not have the infrastructure to adapt and are often located in vulnerable coastal areas, such as Indonesia and Bangladesh.

As the United Nations notes “Adaptation to climate change is vital: its impacts are already happening, and will worsen in the future.” There are many opportunities for countries to adapt, with adjustments required at every level: community, national, and international. National Adaptation Programs of Action have already been developed by at least 32 countries. The plans identify adaptation projects needed to enable these countries to cope with the immediate impacts of climate change.

A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments has been prepared jointly by King County Washington, the Center for Science in the Earth System, and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) to assist local decision-makers on steps they can take to begin preparing for the impacts of climate change. The Guidebook, “Preparing for Climate Change,” presents a template for conducting community-scale Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments, Risk Assessments, and Preparedness Plans. (

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had a variety of initiatives over the years under the heading of sustainability and sustainable development. EPA, research, policies, and programs are evolving from an emphasis on pollution control to pollution prevention to sustainable practices. Dozens of EPA programs, policy tools, and incentives assist governments, businesses, communities, and individuals to be good stewards of the environment, make sustainable choices, and manage resources effectively.

EPA Climate Change Website

EPA's Climate Change Site offers comprehensive information on the issue of climate change in a way that is accessible and meaningful to all parts of society – communities, individuals, business, states and localities, and governments.

EPA Energy Website

Energy use is a part of everyone's daily routine. However, the generation and use of energy can affect the environment. Our regulatory and voluntary programs foster more responsible production and use of energy resources. This Web site enables you to learn more about important energy topics and locate information about our energy programs.

The US EPA also compiles an annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory to meet U.S. commitments under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 4.1a of the UNFCCC requires that all countries periodically publish and make available to the Conference of the Parties (COP) inventories of anthropogenic emissions and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. Subsequent decisions by the COP require the U.S. to submit these reports on an annual basis and include emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and removal of these gases by sinks.

Federal Network for Sustainability

The Federal Network for Sustainability is a voluntary, collaborative network of Federal agencies in the Western United States focused on fostering and furthering the concept of sustainability within the government through their individual programs and group initiatives. The Federal Network for Sustainability (FNS) promotes cost-effective, energy- and resource-efficient operations across all branches of government. Through individual initiatives and joint ventures, it strives to better our understanding of the interrelationship between energy use, economics, and environmental impact.

Climate Change and National Security

In the past year, two definitive studies have been completed examining the relationship between climate change and national security. The first, complied by a team of eleven retired US generals and admirals from all four branches of the military, is titled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” The study contained four conclusions, the principal one of which stated that “climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security.” In late 2007, The Center for a New American Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies released “The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change.“ This report found that “left unaddressed, climate change may come to represent as great or greater foreign policy and national security challenge than any problem.”

New England Climate Coalition

The New England Climate Coalition is a group of over 150 state, local, regional and national environmental, public health, municipal and religious organizations dedicated to achieving global warming pollution reductions in the region. The Coalition is working to: 1) ensure the northeast governors develop a strong cap on power plant global warming pollution through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (; 2) hold the New England Governors accountable to their 2001 commitment to cut global warming pollution in the region 10% by 2020 and 75% over the long term; and 3) build support for the region to adopt policies that reduce global warming pollution from the transportation sector, which is the biggest and fastest growing source of pollution in the region.

Chicago Climate Exchange

Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), launched in 2003, is the world’s first and North America’s only active voluntary, legally binding integrated trading system to reduce emissions of all six major greenhouse gases (GHGs), with offset projects worldwide. CCX Members are leaders in greenhouse gas (GHG) management and represent all sectors of the global economy, as well as public sector innovators. Reductions achieved through CCX are the only reductions made in North America through a legally binding compliance regime, providing independent, third party verification by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA, formerly NASD). CCX emitting Members make a voluntary but legally binding commitment to meet annual GHG emission reduction targets. Those who reduce below the targets have surplus allowances to sell or bank; those who emit above the targets comply by purchasing CCX Carbon Financial Instrument® (CFI®) contracts.

UN Millennium Development Goals

One of the eight major United Nations Millennium Goals is to “ensure environmental sustainability.” Four specific objectives are included under this goal: 1) Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs while reversing loss of environmental resources; 2) Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss; 3) Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, and 4) Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020. (

Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The United Nations has declared a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development starting in January of 2005. A non-partisan multi-sector response to the decade has formed within the U.S. via the U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.[8] Active sectors teams have formed for youth, higher education, business, religion, the arts, and more. Organizations and individuals can join in sharing resources and success stories, and creating a sustainable future. Sustainable development is not just about business perspective but should be understood in such way to benefit the whole as a world. (

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was established by the UN General Assembly in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit. The Commission is responsible for reviewing progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; as well as providing policy guidance to follow up the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) at the local, national, regional and international levels. The JPOI reaffirmed that the CSD is the high-level forum for sustainable development within the United Nations system. The CSD meets annually in New York, in two-year cycles, with each cycle focusing on clusters of specific thematic and cross-sectoral issues, outlined in its new multi-year program of work (2003-2017) (E/CN.17/2003/6).


European Union Emission Trading Scheme

The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (or EU ETS) is the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world and was created in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol. It is currently the world's only mandatory carbon trading program. The ETS currently covers more than 10,000 installations in the energy and industrial sectors which are collectively responsible for close to half of the EU's emissions of CO2 and 40% of its total greenhouse gas emissions. Under the EU ETS, large emitters of carbon dioxide within the EU must monitor and annually report their CO2 emissions, and they are obliged every year to surrender (give back) an amount of emission allowances to the government that is equivalent to their CO2 emissions in that year.