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16 August 2017
Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Lawmaker’s Perspective on Strong U.S. Leadership in the United Nations and on Climate Action

On August 8, 2017, UNA-NCA's Sustainable Development Committee hosted a program featuring Representative Don Beyer (VA-08)  discussing the potential consequences and risks associated with the United States’ recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. The event highlighted the importance of building and maintaining strong US leadership on the global issues, most notably those pertaining to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

By: Jordan Hibbs, Member, UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee


On August 8, 2017, the Sustainable Development Committee of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) hosted a program entitled, "Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Lawmaker's Perspective on Strong U.S. Leadership in the UN and on Climate Action." The event took place at the Rayburn House Building on Capitol Hill, where more than 100 people gathered to hear about the experiences and challenges of U.S. Representative for Virginia, Don Beyer.

UNA-NCA President Mr. Steven F. Moseley, began the event with introductory remarks, explaining the framework of the Global Development Agenda that comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Following Mr. Moseley's opening remarks, UNA-NCA Executive Director, Ms. Paula Boland stressed the advocacy work of U.S. Representative Don Beyer by saying ,"More than ever we need champions in the US Congress."

Thomas Liu, a rising senior at Langley High School and the event lead, introduced U.S. Representative Don Beyer (VA-08). Mr. Liu emphasized the role that U.S. Congress should play since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, saying, "It is imperative for members of the U.S. Congress to reaffirm the role that the U.S. should play in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

Congressman Don Beyer opened his remarks by acknowledging the diplomatic career of his grandmother and role model, Clara Beyer, who was part of the American Delegation that set the basis for the founding of the United Nations in 1945. He then shared his concerns about members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, as well as the Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. Congress who do not believe that climate change is real. He noted, "The vast majority of the population does not understand that climate change is real and that it is affecting us every single day."

In spite of the retreat of the current U.S. Administration on climate action, Congressman Beyer emphasized that the U.S. has created a “vacuum of leadership and natural supply of public goods." He indicated that Congressman Bill Foster (the only current holder of a Ph.D in Physics in Congress) added an amendment in the committee on the National Defense Authorization Act stating, "Climate Change is a national security issue." Despite opposition, ultimately it was included in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY18.

In closing, Congressman Beyer applauded the continued support of the American people in the Paris Agreement, climate action and low carbon policies despite the decision made by President Trump. He highlighted his continued commitment to advocate for strong U.S. leadership on tackling issues such as climate action and the SDGs.

Following his remarks remarks, Mr. George Ingram, Senior Fellow with the Global Economy and Development Unit at the Brookings Institution, followed-up with a series of questions for Congressman Beyer and took questions from those present in the room and online.

To conclude the event, Mr. Patrick Realiza, Chair of the UNA-NCA Sustainable Development Committee, reiterated the role and importance of the U.S. Congress in the successful implementation of the SDGs and the potential contributions and actions that everyone can take to be a lead voice in their respective communities and cities in the quest to resolve global climate change and other related issues around the world.

Photos from the event may be viewed here, along with video footage from C-Span and Nexus Media.

We are very grateful to our speakers, sponsors, videographers, photographers, and all who attended the event!