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Shared Vision: Enabling the Full, Effective and Sustained implementation of the Convention Through Long-Term Cooperative Action Now, up to and Beyond 2012

Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative and Head of United States Delegation
Remarks to the Contact Group of the Ad Hoc Working Group Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention on Agenda Item 3
Bonn, Germany
June 9, 2008

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

The United States supports the Bali Action Plan’s call for a shared vision for long-term cooperative action. We would like this vision to inspire the international community to accelerate its efforts to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while sustaining economic development.

We see such a shared vision as containing the following four elements:

  • First, an affirmation of the need to achieve all the objectives of Article 2 — in other words, not only the ultimate objective of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, but also including the need to ensure that economic development proceeds in a sustainable manner. This has been emphasized by many countries have emphasized over the last several days.

  • Second, a common commitment to take action individually and collectively.

  • Third, an acknowledgement of the evolving application of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, taking into account social and economic conditions and other relevant factors, and in particular the degree to which the world has changed and is changing, along with current and future realities relating to climate change.

  • And fourth, a long-term goal for emissions reductions that meets five criteria. The goal should be:

  • Global;

  • Realistic;

  • Consistent with economic development;

  • Scientifically based; and

  • Inspirational (as opposed to burden-shared or legally enforced).

I would like to elaborate on each of these criteria.

First, we believe that the goal should be global in that it should apply to everyone together, and inspire collective and individual action from actors in every country.

Taking the second and third criteria together, we also believe that the goal should be realistic and consistent with economic development in that it should be achievable by the international community with ambitious efforts that do not unduly impede economic growth.

Fourth, the goal should be scientifically based in that it should reflect our knowledge of the atmosphere and realistically account for the commercialization and large-scale deployment of the new technologies that will need to be realized in order to achieve such a goal.

And, fifth, the goal should be something to inspire and to aspire to. Meeting the goal will be dependent on the availability of not only new technologies, but also other factors as well. For this reason, we do not see the goal as the basis for long-term target setting or burden-sharing. Rather, we believe that a future approach will need to reflect what countries are willingly prepared to contribute. Such an approach is most likely to lead to an outcome that maximizes participation and global effort. Relative contributions should arise in the context of mid-term nationally appropriate actions.

In terms of preparations for the meeting in Poznañ, we would like to hear more from other Parties on their ideas for a shared vision and hope that they could provide submissions to this end.

We would also suggest a technical paper outlining information pertaining to the technology assumptions underlying specific long-term goals. We note that several Parties have advocated such specific long-term goals, and it would be useful to have a better sense of their assumptions with respect to the timeframe in which technology will come into place. This work can also inform our discussion in Poznañ on cooperation on research and development of current, new and innovative technology.

We also believe that we need a better understanding of the stabilization scenarios in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). We understand, for example, that the lowest atmospheric concentration stabilization scenarios assessed by the IPCC in the AR4— of which there are only six — all assume "overshoot" strategies. Such overshoot strategies involve ultimately net negative global emissions. This would suggest the urgent need to develop and commercialize carbon capture and storage technologies that would enable removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and should inform the nature of the global goal that we are seeking.

We look forward to exploring these ideas and the ideas of other countries in more detail at the workshop in Poznan, and to providing our views in submissions prior to that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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