The Role of Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals

On August 8, 2017, the United Nations Association National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) hosted, “Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals” with Congressman Don Beyer. Hosted at the Rayburn Office Building at the U.S. Capitol, over a hundred guests joined to hear from Congressman Beyer discuss the United States’ commitment to the UN, climate action, and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDG Graphics

The event started with Steve Moseley, the current UNA-NCA president, describing how the United Nations worked with countries to develop the 17 SDGs to help lead countries to voluntarily collaborate to achieve the outcomes of those goals by 2030.

Following Mr. Moseley’s remarks, Paula Boland, the Executive Director of UNA-NCA, discussed the importance of having champions for the United Nations in the U.S. Congress and the role of the United Nations Associations in educating Americans on the important work of the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and its relationship with the United States.  She also encouraged everyone to be an active voice in their communities and to consider joining UNA-NCA to join their efforts in building a strong US-UN partnership.

Congressman Don Beyer was introduced by Thomas Liu, a student at Langley High School and the lead for the event. Mr. Liu provided background on SDG 13 – Climate Action, and how the United Nations has indicated that climate change presents “the single biggest threat to development.”

In his opening remarks, Congressman Don Beyer shared his close connection to the UN through his grandmother and role model, Clara Beyer, who was in Geneva in 1945 as part of the American delegation to organize the UN and later authored the Percy Amendment, which mandated that the US must direct foreign aid equally between men and women.

Congressman Don Beyer
Congressman Don Beyer

Congressman Beyer then shared the promise he made when running for congress in 2014 and 2016, that he would be the strongest and clearest voice that he could be to combat climate change. He went on to talk about his experience serving as the Vice Ranking Member of the Science, Space, Technology Committee or how it has been come to be known as, “the anti-science committee.” Congressman Beyer expressed that the Chairman of the committee does not believe that climate change is real or that it is human-made and that hearings related to climate change tend to be dominated by climate change deniers. He went on to share his view that climate change, “knows no borders, and obviously we have to come together as a world,” to address it.

Congressman Don Beyer
Congressman Don Beyer

Congressman Beyer continued his opening remarks by sharing the importance of U.S. leadership in addressing climate change, and how without U.S. support, other countries will not take action. He applauded the work of the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change including the changing the fuel economy standards and making investments in the reduction of greenhouse gases from by federal buildings.

Congressman Beyer also discussed how climate change is one of the greatest national security threats to the United States. In the recent National Defense Authorization Act, Congressman Bill Foster (who happens to be the only Ph.D. physicist in Congress), added an amendment in committee that said: “climate change is a national security issue.” While some Members of Congress attempted to take out this amendment on the House floor, ultimately it was included in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY18.

Congressman Beyer applauded states, cities, and businesses for their commitments to continue in the Paris Agreement and to follow low carbon policies, then closed his opening remarks by reaffirming his commitment to climate action.

Following the opening remarks, George Ingram, Senior Fellow with the Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution, followed up with questions for Congressman Beyer and questions from the audience and online. These questions addressed U.S. competitiveness, clean jobs, the role of youth in climate action, and more.

 

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Sustainable Development Goal 13, Climate Action, was a big theme from beginning to end at the Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals event. At the conclusion of the event, Patrick Realiza, who serves as the Chair of UNA-NCA’s Sustainable Development Committee, closed by reiterating the important role that Congress plays in the implementation of the SDGs, and that everyone has the opportunity to make an impact. Following Mr. Realiza’s closing remarks, Congressman Beyer met with members of the audience to answer additional questions.

 

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Are you interested in getting involved?
Individuals have an important role to play in achieving the global goals: You can raise awareness with your networks, volunteer on an issue that you care about, and hold your leaders accountable for following through on their commitments. Visit UNA-NCA’s website to learn more: http://www.unanca.org/

It was a pleasure working the UNA-NCA’s Sustainable Development Committee in the planning and support for this event. Thank you to Thomas Liu and Patrick Realiza for leading the planning for the event, and a big thank you to Congressman Don Beyer for his leadership in Congress and for participating in UNA-NCA’s event.

Jordan Hibbs Blog - Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals Event
(Left to Right) Thomas Liu, Patrick Realiza, Congressman Don Beyer, Jordan Hibbs, Matthew Shonman, and Bijan Razzaghi at the Congress and the Sustainable Development Goals Event

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