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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2002

U.S. Climate Change and Energy Policies

Dr. Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative
Dr. Robert K. Dixon, Senior Advisor for Climate Change, U.S. Department of Energy
On-the-Record press briefing, at the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-8) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
New Delhi, India
October 24, 2002

DR. WATSON: Thank you all for coming today and for the opportunity to address both the U.S. climate change policy and U.S. energy policy, particularly on this day, United Nations Day. Today is the 57th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations -- a significant date in history.

I first want to express the United Statesí deepest gratitude to the people and to the government of India for their generous hospitality and excellent arrangements for COP- 8. I also want to congratulate the Minister of Environment and Forests, Dr. Baalu, for his election as President of COP-8, and pay him the highest compliment on his conduct of the meeting as President. He has done an outstanding job and we are really looking forward to a very successful COP under his leadership.

The United States has three principal goals for this COP. First, we want to build on the successful outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development from Johannesburg. They recognize the economic, social and departmental aspects of sustainable development. In this context we want to explore more carefully the interrelationships between climate change and sustainable development, and explore ways as to how we might best achieve a climate change approach or approaches over time, over the long term, that supports and reinforces our broad commitment to our citizensí well being.

We also want are engaging constructively with all Parties on ways to make progress on important issues under the Convention. This includes discussions on adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building, education and research and systematic observations, plus many other subjects.

We also want to take the opportunity, since this is the first COP since the President announced the U.S. policy on February 14 of this year, to inform other Parties of our climate change policy and to explain it in more detail.

Our U.S. climate change policy as articulated by President Bush in the February 14, 2002 climate change policy announcement commits the United States to an aggressive strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions growth, growing with the size of its economy. It had three basic components. First, slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Second is laying important groundwork for both current and future actions. And third is working with other nations to develop adaptation and effective global response.

Briefly, the first component is slowing the growth of the greenhouse gas emissions. The President set a national goal of reducing our greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent over the next decade. Greenhouse gas intensity is the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of output of GDP as measured in dollars. This will set the United States on a path to first slow the growth of its emissions from a business as usual path, and as science better informs us and we make improvements in our technology, to eventually stop and then reverse emissions in the long run.

Like an absolute emissions target, an intensity target of this magnitude does require real effort. Unlike an absolute emissions target however, the intensity target will not inadvertently hurt our economy.

The second component focuses on creating policies, which are significant investments in science, technology, and institutions. We need better science to promote better decisionmaking, better technology to slow greenhouse gas emissions growth, and better institutions to enable us to pursue the lowest-cost emissions reduction opportunities wherever they occur and wherever they exist over time.

We also have the third component, international cooperation. This recognizes the critical importance of all nations participating, including developing countries, in any effective global response to climate change. This participation includes both near-term efforts to slow greenhouse gas emissions growth -- many developing countries, including here, are taking significant actions -- and longer-term efforts to build capacity for future cooperation. It also means working hand-in-hand with other developed countries to encourage such participation.

There is a fact sheet available that does go into significant detail on specific actions being taken under each of these three components. They include a brief description of some of the federal and state efforts, some of our increased incentives for sequestration of carbon on our forests and farms, our unprecedented funding for climate change activities, a description of our ongoing and growing international cooperation and other efforts.

A significant part of our U.S. climate policy is our U.S. energy policy. In the United States, our emissions are very much tied to our energy situation. We are very dependent, like India, on fossil fuels, both in the transportation sector and the electricity sector. So again, actions on the energy side are very closely tied to our climate policy.

With that I will turn to Dr. Dixon to explain our energy policy in more detail.

DR. DIXON: Thank you, Dr. Watson, and good afternoon to all of you. Iím going to speak to you for the next couple of minutes on our clean energy technology programs and activities but before I do that I would be remiss in not saying that Iím honored and humbled to be here in India, one of the only nations in the world to have a Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources and we are very proud of our cooperation with India in clean energy technologies and look forward to that relationship in the future.

There are copies of my remarks outside the room. Iím going to move through the material relatively quickly but there are copies outside the room.

Iíd like to first speak to our national energy policies which were announced by President Bush on May 17, 2001. There are 105 policy recommendations to deal with the opportunities to better produce, transport and utilize energy. Of the 105 total recommendations in the federal policy, 54 of the recommendations deal with energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy technologies.

The President in subsequent announcements also identified a priority for his Administration to be the establishment of the National Climate Change Technology Initiative. The National Climate Technology Initiative recognizes the central role for technology in global climate issues.

At the Department of Energy we invest almost $2 billion a year in research and development programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have programs in the Office of Science that deal with a wide range of fundamental questions in physics and chemistry, material science, looking at everything from fusion energy to better understanding the global carbon cycle.

In our Office of Fossil Energy we have programs in clean coal technology and developing new generations of natural gas turbines and a whole host of activities aimed, again, at better utilizing the abundant coal resources that we have in America.

In our Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology we have an initiative to in fact develop a new generation of nuclear energy facilities to produce electricity, to produce heat, and we are dealing with the issues of waste disposal in that program also.

I work in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy where we have a broad portfolio of programs in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. In our renewable energy portfolio we invest almost $450 million a year in R&D programs in geothermal energy, wind energy, bio energy and solar energy. In our programs in energy efficiency we invest almost $900 million a year in programs improving the efficiency in transportation systems, in cars and trucks, in our homes and in buildings.

There are several priority R&D programs that are nested within the National Climate Change Technology Initiative with great emphasis on distributed energy programs and ways to again be more efficient in the way we produce and handle electricity. We also are concerned with opportunities to in fact integrate new technologies into our electricity grid in America to ensure that we have highly reliable and highly competitive electricity.

Other priorities include our work in establishing net zero energy buildings, buildings that use both energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in combination, and we are working to drive the prices of those technologies down.

Finally, the Bush Administration has taken a leadership role in planning of a vision and technology road map that will eventually lead us to a hydrogen-based economy. One of the principle components of this program is the announcement of the freedom car activity. Freedom car has the goal of developing technology to enable the mass production of affordable hydrogen power fuel cell vehicles and to ensure that we have a hydrogen infrastructure to support them.

QUESTION: I was wondering as to why we should have a briefing today. Only yesterday we had a parallel discussion where the entire thing was talked about, and why do we need such a briefing today.

DR. WATSON: Thank you. Itís good to see you again. Why today? We did want to take the opportunity certainly for three reasons. Thereís been a lot of interest in our climate policy. We did want to take the opportunity to explain it. Also to better inform the proceedings about what it is the U.S. is doing and why weíre doing it.

QUESTION: Two questions. We have been hearing that Canada may possibly ratify the Kyoto Protocol and make the Kyoto Protocol enter into force. The next year we have a COP/MOP. Will the U.S. be participating in that conference because that would be a meeting of Parties of the Protocol. So will the U.S. still continue to be a part of that process or will you stay out?

The second question is could you give some details of the kind of bilateral projects that you are engaging with India -- some specific projects if there are already some existing?

DR. WATSON: With regard to Canadaís ratification, yes, they do have an ongoing discussion in Canada now. The key to whether or not Kyoto will enter into force is Russia. They are the largest emitter in terms of making up this 55 percent that is required of the 1990 carbon dioxide emissions. So actually it can enter into force without Canada if indeed say Poland and Russia would ratify it.

Assuming that next year is the COP/MOP-1, it will be held simultaneously with COP so we will have a COP and a COP/MOP. And one of the discussions here within the Subsidiary Body on Implementation is how to structure those meetings since there will still be consideration of both Convention issues and then issues under the Kyoto Protocol itself.

We are strongly committed to the Convention, as the President has said on numerous occasions, so we will be very active on Convention issues. As a non-party of the Kyoto Protocol we will only be observers in that process.

I think the issue is how are they going to mesh? Will there be two separate meetings? Will they try to put issues together? So it is the difference between being an active participant in the Convention and an observer status within the COP/MOP.

With regard to detailed projects on activities in India, we mentioned that USAID has their largest climate program in India. There is going to be a side event highlighting those activities with India led by Indian participants next week. There is also an information booth here. Thereís a rich portfolio of activities covering renewable energy, energy efficiency, and quite a rich array of projects under that portfolio and we do have some representatives of USAID to detail that. We also have activities with our Department of Energy. Dr. Dixon, would you like to speak to those?

DR. DIXON: One very exciting area of cooperation that we work in with our partners with USAID -- which I believe invests [approximately $150 million over the last five years] on climate change programs here in India -- is the work on hydrogen and fuel cells. We recently convened a fuel cell workshop to bring together the investigators and the private sector to advance these technologies not only in the U.S. but here in India. We very much appreciate those partnerships.

QUESTION: Sorry to come back to the basics, but could you please repeat or tell us again why the U.S. is not prepared to join the Kyoto Protocol? Just to summarize your viewpoint on this.

DR. WATSON: A basic premise for the United States to enter international agreements is that we will make commitments to agreements that we can meet. In other words we are not going to sign an agreement just to say we signed an agreement. When we enter into a treaty we must know that we can meet the terms of that treaty. We cannot meet the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. The reductions that would be required over the first commitment period, 2008 to 2012, would require about a 35 percent reduction from where we would be given our projections in economic growth. That would have the impact of causing significant harm to our economy. So first of all, we canít do it without undue harm to our economy, and it is not doable for us. So there is no reason to enter into an agreement if you cannot do it.

We believe there is a better approach; there is a better way to do it. We do not have to jump off the cliff. Climate change is a long-term problem. It is going to require major advances in science and technology. It is going to require literally a transformation of the way we use and produce energy -- perhaps the hydrogen economy, which is something that Dr. Dixonís agency is looking at and exploring in detail. So thatís basically our position. We cannot meet the commitment; therefore we are not joining Kyoto.

QUESTION: Dr. Watson, you have been saying that it is very difficult to gather 67 votes in the Senate to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. How have you reached this assumption whereas you have never presented the Kyoto Protocol for ratification by the Senate? The Senate has passed two resolutions recently asking the Bush Administration to reengage itself in the international treaties and sign a binding treaty.

The second part of my question is, why is the Bush Administration opposed to the three clauses on climate change in the Energy Bill? Thank you.

DR. WATSON: In terms of the first [question], in terms of the role of the Senate, yes, you are right. Under our political system the U.S. Senate must ratify treaties and does require 67 votes. And you are right, there have been two resolutions, there have been resolutions passed by the U.S. Senate urging the United States to reengage in international negotiations. However, part of those resolutions -- if you look at the fine print -- also essentially reaffirms the position that the Senate took in 1997 by a vote of 95-0 when it passed the so-called Byrd-Hagel Resolution -- namely, that any agreement we would enter into must not either (a.), cause significant harm to the U.S. economy; and (b.), be truly global and include all countries.

So that is the preface for my statement that the Kyoto Protocol as it exists now, in its current state, would not be ratifiable by the United States Senate.

With regard to the second [question] on why the Bush Administration is opposing the climate provisions in the U.S. Senate, basically they are not consistent with the policy that has been laid out by the President in his February 14 announcement. To the extent that climate change provisions would eventually come out of our energy conference -- which is now ongoing in our Congress and under consideration -- Iím sure the Administration would take a very different view.

Part of the problem is the timing. The Senate in some of its legislation had moved forward prior to the Presidentís announcement in February of our policy, so we have a disconnect between earlier actions and the Presidentís ultimate policy.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask whether the U.S. will sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2012?

DR. WATSON: No, we will not sign it in 2012. Under the terms of the Protocol itself there is a process set up to begin discussions in 2005 on the second commitment period. One doesnít know how successful that is going to be.

I would say that any instrument that talks about hard targets and timetables on emissions levels without recognition of the need for economic growth -- I cannot really posit what might happen ten years from now -- but I believe I can say it would be very difficult for the United States to enter into [such an agreement] if I can look in my crystal ball. Economic growth is absolutely a necessity, certainly for the developing countries. [There are] many, many, many issues to address. Poverty eradication was expressed at the World Summit just a little over a month ago in Johannesburg as the highest priority of developing countries. We need economic growth -- in a developing world we need economic growth -- [and] in the developed world. The world simply has to become richer, if nothing else, so that we can address the basic needs of the public on a global basis, and to have the ability and the resources to invest in the new technologies that we are going to need to address climate change in the long term.

QUESTION: My question is, what happens to the economic growth in the life of the people living outside U.S.? When you say that you counted on your economic growth, what happens to their economic growth?

DR. WATSON: Thereís actually a very tight linkage between growth in the developed world and growth in the developing world. Under our global system now -- again with free trade coming to the fore on a more and more global basis, and weíre going to see more emphasis in that after the upcoming Doha Round. It opens up huge markets, for example, in the United States and other developed countries for exports, for example, from India and from other developing countries. And every time economies in the developed world -- whether it is the United States or elsewhere -- are depressed, imports, our imports are also depressed and have a direct impact upon the economy of developing countries that are producing those goods and services that we might otherwise buy. So again, it is all linked. We are in the so-called globalization now. We are really in a global era. When our economy hiccups or Europeís economy hiccups or Japanís economy hiccups it has ramifications for other countries worldwide.

QUESTION: You said that the U.S. cannot ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it cannot meet the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. I just wanted to know from you, has the U.S. on its own kind of picked any target for reducing these greenhouse gas emissions in the near term?

DR. WATSON: The greenhouse gas intensity reduction goal does lead to an emissions reduction from business as usual. Under a business as usual case our greenhouse gas intensity would improve by some 14 percent over the coming decade. The Presidentís 18 percent goal is an improvement over that by four percent. What that translates to in emissions which most people think about is roughly 4.5 percent improvement or reduction in emissions from our business as usual path. And over the ten-year period, I would equate it to over 500 million metric tons. That is roughly equivalent to taking some 70 million cars off the road, roughly one-third of our current fleet. It is, again, a significant deflection from business as usual, which is where you start.

QUESTION: I want to ask about the United States government position if the Kyoto Protocol becomes into force next year. What is your position? What you will do? What the United States will do after that is coming into force?

DR. WATSON: The President made it very clear when he first announced in March of 2001 that this is our decision. It is every nationís decision on whether or not to enter into the Kyoto Protocol. Each nation must look at its own national circumstances and capabilities and capacities to enter the Protocol and meet the commitment under it. So the President was very forthcoming and stated, and has restated time and time again as have his representatives, that we will not stand in the way of any Party that wants to enter the Protocol. That is their decision. It is a national sovereignty issue. If it enters into force there will essentially be two regimes.

One of the important things about this conference, where we are in a multilateral setting, is that underlying all the squabbles and so on, and all of the furor over the paragraphs and comments, is a desire by everyone to address climate change through action. Action is what really addresses climate change, not pieces of paper. I believe that all Parties here that are in this discussion -- whether they are taking the Kyoto route or whether they are following their own path like the United States -- recognize that climate change is a significant problem that needs addressing and we are taking actions to do that. Thank you.

Released on October 29, 2002

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