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Clinton Challenges US To Embrace Climate Change

Tuesday, 22 Sep 2009 | 12:28 PM ET

The US is lagging in the fight against climate change and may lose its place as a world power as a result of it, former US President Bill Clinton told CNBC Tuesday.

President Clinton's Caucus of Change
The Clinton Global Initiative's 2009 annual meeting kicks off today, and leaders in politics, business and humanitarianism have gathered in New York to address education, climate change, global health and poverty. Former President Bill Clinton discusses the upcoming event with CNBC.

“I cannot tell you what it will do to America’s standing in the world if it looks like the Chinese are more aggressive than we are in combating climate change,” said Clinton. “People will start looking at us like we are long in the tooth and we’re yesterday’s country.”

One of the most crucial battles the United States faces against climate change is its struggle for energy independence, Clinton said. The U.S. must pull the reigns on foreign oil for the sake of the nation’s national security, he said.

But energy independence also means job security, something weighing heavy on the minds of Americans as the national jobless rate continues to creep higher. In August the national jobless rate reached a 26-year high of 9.7 percent.

The Carbon Challenge - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage
The Carbon Challenge - A CNBC Special Report - See Complete Coverage

Tackling climate change, however, will help push unemployment numbers down, Clinton argues.

“We can create literally millions of jobs out of this, about a million in a hurry if we get serious about efficiency,” said Clinton.

Clinton, who is hosting the annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York City this week, stressed the urgency of the private and public sector working together to expedite not only job creation, but also a reinvigorated economy.

The CGI is an annual meeting where leaders from both the public and private sector join together to tackle pressing global issues. This year, addressing climate change is being shoved to the forefront of the discussion because leaders see not only a sustainable future from addressing the issue, but a huge profit margin as well.

“These people who come to my global initiative, these business leaders, they think we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they believe it’s a moneymaker not a money loser.” said Clinton. “That’s what we’ve got to get across to the American people, we have to prove this is good economics.”

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