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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2003

The Earth Observation Summit

Spencer Abraham, U.S. Secretary of Energy
Washington, DC
July 31, 2003

Released by the U.S. Department of Energy

Thank you, Mr. Secretary (Powell).

It is a great pleasure to join with you, Secretary Evans and Dr. Marburger to welcome our distinguished foreign guests and to open the Earth Observation Summit.

The development of an international, comprehensive, integrated and sustained earth observation system will be a pivotal element in advancing the work begun under President Bush’s Climate Change Research Initiative.

The benefits of an Earth Observation system to understanding several other important phenomena such as land use change, crop production, energy and water use, disease outbreaks and natural hazards, are vitally important to the United States and to the people of the world.

This important Summit comes just one week after we took another large step forward with the announcement of the Climate Change Science Program’s 10-year Strategic Plan.

As Secretary of Energy, I am especially pleased to note that the Department of Energy’s climate research programs will support the scientific aims of the global observation system that is the subject of this Summit. The Department’s research observations are used to improve climate models, understand the behavior of carbon emitted to the atmosphere, and develop improved strategies for carbon sequestration.

As Secretary of Energy and co-chair with Secretary Evans of the Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration, the Department of Energy has responsibility for overseeing the development and application of technology that comes with every increase in our scientific understanding of climate change.

The Earth Observation Summit is yet another example of this Administration’s strategy of pursuing bilateral and multilateral cooperative approaches to speed progress on climate change research – an approach that we have employed consistently and with good effect in advancing technology development related to climate change, as well as scientific research.

The year 2003 has already seen the launching of several exciting new technology initiatives that are excellent examples of this approach. Let me mention just a few:

  • Last January, in his State of the Union message, President Bush announced a bold plan to develop a new automotive fuel – hydrogen -- and associated infrastructure. Cars fueled by hydrogen will emit no greenhouse gases. Not only that, they will emit virtually no pollutants and contribute to our nation’s energy security by reducing our reliance on imported oil.
  • We have committed a total of $1.7 billion over five years for research and development work on both the hydrogen fuel initiative and the associated FreedomCAR initiative to perfect hydrogen fuel cell technology for the American passenger car fleet.
  • To broaden our hydrogen effort further, last month we signed an agreement with the European Union to collaborate on hydrogen research. We hope to further increase international involvement when the United States hosts an International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy. Ministers from a number of interested countries will convene in the United States in November to officially establish the new Partnership.
  • The transportation sector has great potential for the reduction of greenhouse gases, but it is not the whole story. Science and technology present us with tantalizing possibilities for reducing or eliminating greenhouse gases produced while burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Carbon sequestration, or the capture and permanent storage of produced carbon dioxide, has rapidly grown in importance to become one of our highest clean coal priorities.

We are currently working with private sector partners on 65 carbon sequestration projects around the country, and participating in two international projects. We have increased our carbon sequestration budget by 60 percent.

  • Carbon sequestration’s potential is so great that the State Department and the Department of Energy last February announced a Carbon Sequestration Leadership Initiative to help unite interested governments on the development of carbon sequestration technologies. Last month, at a ministerial-level Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum here in Washington, more than a dozen nations, plus the European Union, formally joined us in this U.S.-led cooperative effort.
  • At the same time we announced the Leadership Initiative, we also announced another highly significant development in the field of carbon sequestration. The Department of Energy, with private sector and international support, has embarked on a $1 billion, 10 to 15 year initiative to design, build and operate the first coal-fired, emissions-free power plant.

When operational, this plant -- which we have named FutureGen -- will be the world's cleanest, full-scale fossil fuel power plant. Using the latest technology, it will generate electricity, sequester greenhouse gases, and provide a new source of clean-burning hydrogen.

  • We also have rejoined the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Project, or ITER, to explore the revolutionary potential of harnessing fusion, the sun’s process for transforming matter into energy, to generate emissions-free energy later in this century.
  • Federal spending related to climate change now totals $4.5 billion a year. And these new initiatives, alone, will constitute well over $3 billion in research over the next five to 10 years.

In short, we are already engaged in an active, aggressive and multi-pronged campaign to address climate change through technology development. We have brought, or are bringing together bilateral and multilateral international coalitions to address these challenges, just as we are doing in the scientific realm today. So, even as we embark on an expansion of our Science program, we are making rapid progress on the technology side.

A global earth observation system will add immeasurably to our progress on several levels. The information provided by the system will help in the formulation of sound, science-based environmental policies. Beyond that, it will help us to verify compliance with laws and regulations, assess the effectiveness of our policies and spot evidence of any unexpected results or unintended consequences from our actions.

On the technology side, monitoring and verification are important elements of our program on greenhouse gas mitigation technologies.

Today’s Summit is especially timely as the United Nations prepares to review the adequacy of the Earth’s climate observation system at the Ninth Conference of the parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change in December 2003.

For all these reasons, I strongly urge the participants in today’s Summit to adopt the Declaration of the Earth Observations Summit at the conclusion of today’s deliberations.

Now I would like to introduce Secretary of Commerce Don Evans.

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