US climate objective: “find a way” to grow our economy, and BTW reduce GHG emissionsDecember 8, 2007 at 6:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
What is our objective? As the President stated in his address, our objective is to find a new path forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that sustains and fosters economic growth, and enables countries to continue to deliver greater prosperity for their people.
James L. Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
This from the transcript of a press briefing on the State Department website:
shows quite clearly that the US administration operates as the present day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge before his own epiphany and repentance. (Full text, not of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but of the press briefing, follows.)
Preview of the U.S. Position at the December 2007 Bali Meeting on the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
James L. Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
Foreign Press Center Briefing
December 6, 2007
Mr. Connaughton: Good afternoon, everybody. We’re here to preview the upcoming ministerial set of meetings in Bali and then we’ll talk a little bit about what we think will be happening next year following up on Bali. So I’ll do a quick overview, Under Secretary Dobriansky will give some details about the Bali meeting, then I’ll come back and put that into the context of the coming year.
First, in a speech the President gave September 29th, not too long ago, at a meeting of the major economies to discuss energy security and climate change, the President emphasized his own perspective that energy security and climate change are two of the great challenges of our time. He underscored the fact that the United States takes these challenges seriously.
You may recall he echoed a similar theme in this year’s State of the Union address last January and we have been working very diligently over the last year to begin to lay out a broad agenda internationally and domestically toward building upon what we’ve achieved so far.
With Bali in mind, the U.S. is going to send one of the highest level delegations America has ever sent to a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting. It will be led ably by Under Secretary Dobriansky and her team at the Department of State; then accompanying the effort will be Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet member for President Bush. She’ll be attending a meeting of Trade Ministers — the first time Trade Ministers will assemble to discuss the trade-related issues with respect to climate change and energy.
Under Secretary David McCormick of the Department of Treasury representing Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, will be attending a meeting of Finance Ministers, also the first time Finance Ministers have assembled at a UN meeting on climate change. You should know that Secretary Paulson will be at the same time in China for the Strategic Economic Dialogue, the third Strategic Economic Dialogue, where energy security and climate technology issues will be a prominent feature of the discussion. So our Treasury Department will be doubly tasked on the same days.
We’re also bringing Assistant Secretary Andrew Karsner from the Department of Energy. He’s in charge of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Power portfolio. And we’ll have Assistant Secretary Claudia McMurray, who works with Paula at the OES* at Department of State, and she handles forestry and natural resources issues central not just to greenhouse gas mitigation, but also essential to questions of adaptation to climate change.
I will round out the delegation and join the team for the ministerial portions of the meetings on behalf of the President and the White House, and I look forward to playing a constructive role in that effort as well.
What is our objective? As the President stated in his address, our objective is to find a new path forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that sustains and fosters economic growth, and enables countries to continue to deliver greater prosperity for their people. We’ve initiated this discussion among the major economies to assist in the development of that new path forward, and all of this is with the aim of reaching agreement within the United Nations on a new set of arrangements for after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and we are committed to an accelerated calendar of negotiations with the aim of completing negotiations by the end of 2009. We will be very constructively and proactively engaged, and at the end of the day we’ll be looking forward to an agreement that will be both environmentally effective and economically sustainable.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Paula.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you.
We want a successful outcome in Bali. The United States is committed to developing a new global post-2012 framework that is environmentally effective and economically sustainable. And toward that end, in Bali we will work with our partners to reach a consensus on a Bali road map that will advance negotiations on a post-2012 framework under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. And we’re recommitted to concluding these negotiations by 2009.
At a recent pre-Bali ministerial that was held in Bogor, Indonesia, the ministers assembled and talked about the areas to be addressed in the post-2012 framework, and I’d like to share those with you.
In four substantive areas there was a consensus that emerged around what we’d like to see in a Bali road map, including mitigation, adaptation, financing, and technology. We support all of these four areas. In fact adaptation is a particular priority for the United States.
During these pre-discussions, many developing countries spoke to this issue and their strong desire to have not only adaptation discussed, but also to have specific efforts, initiatives, programs that would support adaptation. These are efforts, I will give you one example, like the United States has put forward the Global Earth Observation System of Systems in which, with over some 70 countries, we have tried to advance technologies, standardized ways of forecasting climatic change and dealing with climate change.
Just recently, a few days ago, there was a meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, specifically of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, and which the intent was to come forward with some recommendations to feed into Bali.
We also will work to advance discussions on forestry, together with land use, which accounts for some 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our delegation will be open. We will listen carefully to the ideas of others in an effort to achieve consensus on a Bali road map. Bali is an opportunity to launch a new phase of climate diplomacy. And let me finally just say, reports from this week from the opening of the conference are that the meeting is off to a good start. Our team is very committed to a successful outcome in Bali and that has been the context in which we have engaged in all of the meetings taking place there now.
Mr. Connaughton: Bali will be, we hope, the start of a very intensive negotiating process. We are planning a very significant series of meetings following Bali to advance the effort and fill out the details of the elements that the participants in Bali agree to as far as a negotiating agenda. One of the tools will be the major economies process which started in September of this year over at the State Department in Washington, and this is the bringing together of leader representatives, my counterparts in other governments, to see if we can reach agreement on the major components of a new framework going forward, and begin to think through some of the content of that in order to bring a more substantial package of recommendations and ideas into the UN process. So we’ll be doing that pretty aggressively through the early part of next year.
We’re pleased that Yvo de Boer, who is the gentleman who runs the UN process on climate change, he featured the major economies process in his speech at the beginning of the Bali conference as one of the significant developments of 2007, the opportunity it will bring to help contribute to the UN negotiating process. And we are pleased with that recognition.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as the IPCC Chair, R.K. Pachauri, a recent Nobel winner, also recognized the value of the major economies process in contributing to the overall effort in the UN.
I would note that when he was Foreign Minister of South Korea Ban Ki-moon was a very important component of creating the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. So he has a good sense of what we’re trying to achieve. We have a very sort of broad agenda with a sector-based focus and he was part of creating that, part of the Asia-Pacific partnership.
Just so you know what’s on our agenda in the major economies, we’re trying to work toward agreement on a long-term global goal for reducing emissions. We want to draw forward national plans to include mid-term goals and specific national strategies for achieving mid-term goals. We anticipate those would include binding components, market-based components, incentives, and other policy measures.
We want a global effort on the key priorities for addressing emissions. They are coal, cars, and forests. They are efficiency, nuclear power, and renewable power. Six big categories of activity that require global focus.
We are also committed to enhanced financing for the investment in clean energy technologies, and that has two pieces. Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson has already begun discussions with other countries on the creation of an International Clean Energy Fund. I think there will be further discussion of how to shape that in Bali and beyond. And then U.S. Trade Representative Schwab has already delivered a proposal to the WTO in partnership with the EU on the elimination of tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers for climate change and clean energy-related technologies and services. We hope that that will also receive some significant discussion in Bali, so those are well under development.
With respect to forestry, we have a package of initiatives that are currently part of our 2008 budget. We’re waiting on Congress to give us that budget as we are now approaching well into the fiscal year for 2008. Then we’ll be discussing issues related to adaptation, a broad agenda on adaptation, and we will also be discussing a lot of ideas about a broad agenda for a future framework that focuses on key sectors.
With that, we’ll open it up for questions.
Question: Thank you. My name is Kaori Ida, I’m with NHK, Japanese Public Television.
You talk about launching negotiations for a post-framework. I was wondering what you think the appropriate forum, the perfect place would be for the actual negotiation. Obviously the U.S. is not a part of the Kyoto Protocol, but other countries are. Do you think we actually need a major economies meeting, or a new ad hoc working group, or something else?
Mr. Connaughton: The United Nations is the appropriate forum for negotiations on climate change. These related activities are all in support of that process. Quite typical in a UN negotiation, smaller groups get together on particular views to try to advance the agenda and do some of the early work that is then brought to all the parties.
We are part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s a treaty we’ve ratified and we have been fulfilling our obligations under that treaty. That’s a common platform for all of us.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: I was just going to say, we stated that very clearly that negotiations should be advanced in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. There have been other mechanisms which will assist and contribute to the advancement of these negotiations and that’s where, for example, the Nuclear Economies meeting comes in and also in the G8. Specifically targeting and addressing different issues that need to be developed further and discussed in greater detail.
Question: So you think that 178-something nations, that big group, is the appropriate forum rather than smaller advanced countries meeting on climate control?
Under Secretary Dobriansky: The body is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That is the forum for discussing climate negotiations. But as we just indicated, it has been welcomed by the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in his opening remarks, that’s Yvo de Boer. He said that having participated in the major economies meeting in September in Washington, that this can provide a valuable assistance in advancing these negotiations. I also cite, when I was in Bogor, Indonesia, the Indonesians also in the Chairman’s summary of the meeting that took place there, said we welcome having the major economies meeting, the G8, as being mechanisms to develop and discuss in greater detail with those countries that are major economies, major emitters, and also major energy producers and consumers, to be around the table and to look at some of the key areas that we will need to address in the time ahead.
Mr. Connaughton: We are hopeful, actually, in the coming year that we’ll see the emergence of a significant number of essentially working groups. There will be people working on finance. There will be a subset of countries coming up with ideas there. There will be a subset of countries working on adaptation. That will probably be a fairly large group of countries.
There are a relatively small number of countries that are heavily reliant on coal and we want to be sure to get all of them together so we have a common agenda on how to produce power from coal with significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions.
So you should expect to see, if negotiations can advance rapidly, a whole series of very specific groupings of countries, as well as a whole new entry of government officials, the Environment Ministers, actively engaged in presenting the next agenda for after 2012. We hope for that because that will be the pathway to success.
Question: Brian Beary from Europolitics. I’m just wondering, Australia has now ratified the Kyoto Convention and the protocol. Do you think that leaves the U.S. more isolated than ever on the whole climate change issue?
And secondly, Secretary Dobriansky mentioned the adaptation, and that would be the new sort of focus for U.S. efforts. But don’t you think that adaptation, you’re really just tackling the symptoms of the problem and by getting away from focusing on mitigation you’re getting away from dealing with the cause of the problem, which is the release of CO2 and greenhouse gases. It’s just basically more of the same from the U.S.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Let me, if I could, I’d like to say a word on the first and on your second. On the first issue, Australia is a very strong partner of the United States and I know that in the time ahead we will continue to have a strong partnership on a wide range of issues. We have worked through the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate in which you have Kyoto supporters and non-Kyoto supporters, those with commitments and those that do not have commitments, to come together in the direction of a common goal and objectives, which is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
So I will say to you that I think the United States in going forward here has worked very actively in a full range of international efforts, be it on hydrogen with other countries, methane, carbon sequestration, energy efficiency. I mentioned the Asia-Pacific Partnership. These have already been in place and in which the United States has been very much engaged, not isolated, and we are collaborating and dealing with a common goal and objectives, that is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. I think we can expect that (going) forward, but I also think significantly, as we have stated here today, we are very desirous of having a global framework, post-2012 framework, in which all countries are part of and in which it is environmentally effective and economically sustainable.
On the second part of your question, the proposal is that adaptation be addressed in a more robust and more holistic way. Mitigation is, of course it is a priority for all countries. But at the same tine, particularly in dealing with and assisting the developing world, there are issues that affect a country’s livelihood. How do you prepare? How do you deal with sustainable development? How do you provide for an economic foundation? Those are the types of questions which are being addressed in this other area. It is a critical area to help those countries that need to prepare for, as I indicated, climatic change, and ways of doing it that are going to make a difference and are going to help them in terms of economic growth, in terms of access to energy and energy security, and at the same time to address environmental concerns.
Mr. Connaughton: A few points in support of that. You need to do both. Aggressively reduce greenhouse gases and assist in advanced adaptation. We’ve already seen an acceleration of sea level rise. It’s been rising over time. But an accelerated sea level rise, and that does impact people living in low-lying communities. We are seeing some other manifestations of climate change today. There are many that are projected in the future. So you want to take that into account, the projections of future impact. Some of them are quite significant and negative, some of them beneficial. You want to be able to help countries orient their development and orient their infrastructure investment, take into account not just the climate change-related aspect of development, but the natural forces they have to face and the risks they face with the tsunamis, quakes, and other natural phenomenon as well as just an increasing human footprint on the environment as many of these countries industrialize. So a sort of holistic, as Paula said, an integrated approach to adaptation to take aboard the emerging science on climate impact, and does that in a more effective way.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: I’d like to just underscore, the message is that there is a need to do both.
Mr. Connaughton: On Australia, by the way. Australia is a long-time ally, a partner with America. The Australians as a people are very practical. Our approaches to these problems tend to be quite similar regardless of whichever party is ruling the government. I think when you look at the philosophy going forward of former Prime Minister Howard and the philosophy going forward of Prime Minister Rudd as he’s articulated it, there’s quite a significant overlap in viewpoint. So we look forward to a continuing strong and close relationship with Australia. We look to the future.
Their decision with respect to Kyoto was about looking at the past. It’s the future that we’re all looking forward to and I would strongly disavow the assertion of isolation. When you look at the Asia-Pacific Partnership, the first effort led by the United States that brought China and India into a proactive posture on mitigating greenhouse gases. When you look at our multilateral partnerships, especially with the EU, and you’re a reporter from there, in partnership with key Asian countries on any of the major technology initiatives. There’s hydrogen, biofuel, fusion, methane capture, vehicle technology, any of a number of major technology initiatives. There’s not isolation, there’s convergence with the dramatic multilateral effort that is now underway that serves as a foundation for this new architecture that we’re working on when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.
Question: [Tony Walker, Australian Financial Review] Of course in the [inaudible] difference is greater than the similarity [inaudible].
Mr. Connaughton: I don’t know that to be the case. We’ll find that out. The main point of distinction, as we watched from here, was related to signing the Kyoto Protocol. In terms of the specific methodologies of domestic action, in particular it seems both parties were looking at an emission trading system as one of their tools, both Prime Minister Howard and now Prime Minister Rudd are strongly committed to technology advancements to assure the continued ability to use fossil fuels with a lower carbon profile. I mean I could give a list of where I think the similarities lie, but we’ll find out further as we go forward.
I’ve spoken with Peter Garrett and I look forward to speaking later today with the new Climate Minister, Penny Wong, and from our early conversations, I see a lot of common ground. I do not see a lot of divergence.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Also, I’ll just add I’ve also spoken to Peter Garrick. We’ll be seeing Penny Wong from the State Department side. And another example is the strong support for a global framework. Prime Minister Howard was certainly behind that and clearly Prime Minister Rudd has stated this very specifically going into these negotiations with regard to the global post-2012 framework. It involves countries like India, China, among others, with responsibilities.
Moderator: New York, please go ahead and ask your question.
Question: Indira Kannan, from CNBC India. There are some sharp differences between India and the U.S. on addressing climate change. India has already said that it would not accept any sort of tax on emissions which are equated with other developed countries and also which do not recognize forecast of emissions. What kind of initiatives is the U.S. looking for from India at Bali? And what kind of compromises is the U.S. prepared to make to find [inaudible]?
Under Secretary Dobriansky: If I may make a broad comment first, and my colleague may want to comment further.
First, one of the statements that we made very clearly going into Bali is that we think it is important to look at the diverse characteristics of all the countries assembled because one size doesn’t fit all in addressing the issue of climate change. What may work in the case for India may be different as is working for Japan, as for South Africa, for the United States. So as we go forward, we specifically are looking at ways of addressing the common goal and objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing energy security, and also promoting and advancing economic growth. But doing it in a way that can provide for the kind of flexibility and approach. One of the issues discussed in the major economies meeting, in fact the chairman referred to, is looking at specific national plans and establishing mid-term goals and targets toward that end.
Mr. Connaughton: We need to move beyond gross generalities and begin to get into specifics.
India is an active partner in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, so it would be incorrect to suggest that there are wide differences between the U.S. and India. There are some questions as to how we structure a new approach that enables the character of our commitment to be common while recognizing that the content of that commitment means differentiating between countries.
Clearly countries such as Indonesia and Brazil, their main focus is going to be forestry, the issue of deforestation. And that’s what they should be focused on. Countries like China and America should be focused very solidly on trying to come up with low carbon coal, to produce power from coal with low carbon emissions. And how to deal with our roadway transportation-related issues. China’s going to have as many cars as America by 2020, it’s been estimated. It’s a huge challenge for both of us. In Europe, too. A lot of vehicles on the road in Europe. So this is where you’re going to see some new configurations of countries focused on specific areas of priority and that’s where we need common action.
So we expect a mix. We can be much more flexible, we can be much more adaptable, we must be complete in our effort because the facts are fairly straightforward. In order to make a sizeable reduction in greenhouse gases it requires action by all of the major emerging economies. These actions may be different, but action is necessary. Otherwise it will not affect temperature trajectory over the long term.
We could bring our emissions to zero in the developed world and not have a significant impact on the temperature trend if the major developing countries don’t act too. These are the hard facts we have to deal with. We need to find a path that brings everybody on board constructively, consistent with economic growth, but also that can deliver some meaningful outcomes in lifting people out of poverty. Certainly the issue you raised with respect to population matters. A lot of people in India don’t have access to modern services; they deserve access to those services. Let’s see if we can come up with a technology to lower the carbon profile.
Question: My name is Hiroo Watanabe from Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun. Yesterday the Climate Security Act sponsored by Senator Lieberman and Senator Warner was approved in the committee of the Senate. Even before the deal is going through [inaudible]. What impact [does] this bill have on the discussions around the policymaking with the administration?
I also have to confirm the administration’s attitude to [inaudible]. Do you think this is appropriate, efficient approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using market intervention?
Mr. Connaughton: Let me start with the second part of the question first. The U.S. is a leader, and because of that we are also a strong supporter of the use of market mechanisms to achieve environmental objectives. Market mechanisms entail a wide variety of tools. It can include information campaigns. They can include better economic policies. They can include taxes and fees. They can include caps and trade or similar programs in the regulatory context. And they can include different metrics for that. It can be CO2, it could be efficiency, there are other metrics in that context.
So make no doubt about it, we like and prefer market-based instruments included in the regulatory setting. Our main focus is to be sure that we have well-designed market-based instruments. So as we evaluate the bill that just emerged from the committee yesterday, we’ll be taking a look to see the design — does it meet its objectives? What are the costs? We’ll be asking the question, does it create the potential simply to move emissions from America to another country? That causes an economic problem here and it doesn’t solve the environmental problem. We’re going to look to see about those effects. We also have to look at the effects of the bill on energy security objectives. So there will be many questions we’ll have as the debate on that particular bill unfolds.
That is not the only piece of climate legislation pending in the Congress right now. There are many others. I think it’s important to recognize the United States has a broad portfolio of legislative activity on this. First, the Congress is considering new fuel economy standards. The President has called for a dramatic improvement in the vehicle fuel efficiency of all of our cars and light trucks. Congress is working on legislation with respect to that.
Second, the Congress is working on a new renewable fuel requirement that is also an objective the President called for in his State of the Union address this year.
With those two programs the President would like to see a mandatory replacement of 20 percent of our gasoline use with alternative fuels and fuel efficiency. Right now the congressional proposal looks like it’s coming up short of the President’s ambition and we’ll be discussing that with them. Congress also is looking at efficiency measures. We are currently implementing a series of legislative requirements on appliance efficiencies. We have a series of budget proposals on technology that the President included in the State of the Union address this past year and the year before. Congress has not acted on those yet. We have a 2008 budget that is now several months overdue. That is a very consequential piece of legislation that we need in order to make good on our environmental objectives.
One other thing is the Farm Bill. The President’s new Farm Bill proposal contains a huge amount of money and incentives for our farmers to biologically sequester CO2. The Farm Bill has stalled in the Congress over age-old issues of problematic subsidies. So that is a very significant opportunity not just for CO2 storage through conservation, but also ecological enhancements and water quality enhancements. So we get a big bundle of benefits from those proposals. But it’s stalled in the Congress.
So Congress has a very full agenda on this issue and we hope they move forward with these initiatives.
Moderator: This is the last question.
Question: Anne Davies from the Sydney Morning Herald. Probably to you, Jim.
There are differences, though, between the approach that the Europeans have been advocating and the U.S. has advocated. At the risk of verbaling you, it seems the U.S. has a bottom-up approach to come up with national plans; the Europeans want this framework to establish fixed targets for each country. Are you still opposed to that approach that the Europeans have been advocating for several years?
Mr. Connaughton: I want to continue to work convergence here. The Europeans started with a singular focus on the top-down approach of a broad goal and then kind of stepping back and letting things happen. If you look at their recent energy proposal from this past spring you will see that they’re rapidly back-filling their policy as a whole series of sector-based efforts. That suggests that the top-down alone is not adequate to the task. So you’ve seen them come forward with renewable fuel requirements similar to but not as ambitious as the one President Bush has called for. They’re developing vehicle fuel efficiency requirements to supplement the fact that they’re heavy in taxation of gasoline, not driving vehicle fuel efficiency as much as they thought it might. You’re seeing at the member state level renewable power requirements very similar to the renewable power requirements that are now part of 30 — a third of American states with renewable power requirements that have been defined. You are seeing a stated commitment in Europe to advancing low carbon coal power generation technology. A commitment that is not translated into significant budgeting yet. It’s imperative that Europe join the United States in an effort to finance the research and demonstration of the technology. Together we approach China and other countries to see if they can step up and do their share as well.
So as you look at the reality of what’s unfolding is the bottom-up American approach is meeting the top-down European approach in reality. That’s good. Now we have things we can prepare. How ambitious can we be on renewable fuel and how ambitious can we be on vehicles? How ambitious can we be on building efficiencies? These key areas. We take that message together to other parts of the world to see if we can encourage them.
One other point, part of our major economies strategy endorsed by the G8 leaders, generally endorsed by the APEC leaders, is a commitment to a shared global goal over the long term for reducing emissions. So we’re all there now and then we can see what that number is. It’s going to be a bit of a conversation. We are committed to establishing the national plans that include the establishment of mid-term goals. So we anticipate that will be part of each country’s contribution to new friends as well.
What we have made clear is those goals can be many in form. For example, China has stated a very aggressive efficiency goal. It’s a very legitimate policy position for them to take. It will have the effect of significantly reducing the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions; it has that benefit even though it’s stated in terms of efficiency. We think that’s perfectly appropriate because it meets a number of emissions for them.
So that’s what, again, I hope you can look forward to this year, to seeing a greater variety of approaches, all oriented towards the same objective. In that regard it’s similar to how we did the Montreal Protocol in ozone depletion, which was broken down into component parts with specific objectives, both global and specific objectives. We’ve done this before. We can apply that experience in this context as well.
Moderator: Thank you very much for coming.
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* Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES)