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

Statement to the Second Meeting of the Plenary

Dr. Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representativeand Head of the U.S. Delegation
Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-9) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Milan, Italy
December 4, 2003

Review of implementation of commitments and of other provisions of the Convention (Agenda Item 4) National communications from Parties included in Annex I to the Convention (Agenda Item 4(b)(i))

Mr. President, today is the first time the United States has made remarks in a COP 9 Plenary, and I first want to congratulate you on your election as President of COP 9, as well as to express the gratitude of the United States to the Government and people of Italy for their warm and generous hospitality and for the excellent arrangements made for this COP.

We welcome the opportunity given here today during consideration of this important agenda item to highlight U.S. actions to implement its commitments and of other provisions of the Convention. I will briefly summarize U.S. actions to address climate change.

Mr. President, climate change is an issue of great importance to the United States. We are taking concrete actions and are investing billions to dollars annually to address climate change -- both in the near-term and long-term. We are also fully engaged internationally, and are leading major multilateral and bilateral climate change initiatives with our developing and developing country partners.

President Bush’s climate change policy reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its ultimate objective -- to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate. It has three basic components designed to address both the near-term and long-term aspects of this global challenge.

The first component involves a series of near-term actions aimed at slowing the growth of our greenhouse (GHG) emissions. The President set a national goal of reducing U.S. GHG intensity (GHG emissions per dollar of GDP) by 18 percent over the next 10 years -- a nearly 30% improvement over business-as-usual. Meeting the President’s commitment will achieve more than 500 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent emissions reductions from business-as-usual estimates through 2012 -- an amount equal to taking 70 million cars off the road.

The second component focuses on laying the groundwork for both current and future action -- investments in science, technology, and institutions. We need better science to promote better decision-making; better technology to slow GHG emissions growth; and better institutions to enable us to pursue the lowest-cost emissions reduction opportunities.

The third component is international cooperation, which is of critical importance to the development of any effective and efficient global response to the complex and long-term challenge of climate change. This includes bilateral and multilateral cooperation on both near-term efforts to slow the growth in emissions and on longer-term science and technology initiatives.

Since 2001, the U.S. has revitalized or initiated 13 formal bilateral climate change partnerships with both developed and developing countries and we look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners to advance climate change science and technology, as well as capacity-building activities that will benefit us all.

With regard to technology, there is a growing realization that existing energy technologies, even with substantial improvements, cannot meet the growing global demand for energy while delivering the emissions reductions necessary to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations. We need to develop and deploy globally revolutionary changes in the technologies of energy production, distribution, storage, conversion, and use. Some examples include carbon sequestration, hydrogen, and advanced nuclear technologies. The U.S. is not only pursuing these domestically, but is also leading three major multilateral international technology efforts that I would like to briefly highlight:

  • First, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum launched by the United States in June of this year in Washington, involving 13 nations and the European Commission, to advance technologies that capture and store carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels -- fuels that will be an important part of the global energy mix for decades to come. The Forum’s partners will also be invited to participate in our $1 billion FutureGen project -- an initiative to design and construct the first emission-free coal-fired power plant that will test the latest technologies to generate electricity, produce hydrogen, and sequester GHG emissions from coal.

  • Second, the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy initiated by the United States last month in Washington, involving 15 nations and the European Commission, to coordinate multinational research and development programs to accelerate the transition to a global hydrogen economy.

  • And, third, under the U.S.-led Generation IV program, ten nations are working on new fission reactor designs that will be safer, more economical and secure, and able to produce new products, such as hydrogen.

Taken together, if these multilateral research and technology initiatives, along with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) -- a multilateral project that seeks to harness the power of nuclear fusion by mid-century -- are successful, the result will be a long-term revolution in our energy systems. Not only will these technologies put us on a long-term path to stabilizing atmospheric GHG concentrations, they will also ensure secure, reliable, affordable, and clean energy to power economic growth and development across the globe.

Finally, I would like to highlight the efforts being made by State and local governments in the United States to address climate change. Geographically, the United States encompasses vast and diverse climatic zones representative of all major regions of the world -- polar, temperate, semi-tropical, and tropical -- with different heating, cooling, and transportation needs and with different energy endowments. Such diversity allows our State and local governments to act as laboratories where new and creative ideas and methods can be applied and shared with others and inform federal policy -- a truly bottom-up approach to addressing global climate change.

At the State level, 40 of our 50 States have prepared GHG inventories, 27 States have completed climate change action plans, and 8 States have adopted voluntary GHG emissions goals. In addition, 13 States have adopted “Renewable Portfolio Standards” requiring electricity generators to gradually increase the portion of electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar energy. And, at the local level, more than 140 local governments participating in the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign are developing cost-effective GHG reduction plans, setting goals, and reducing GHG emissions.

Mr. President, in closing, it is the hope of this delegation -- and one I hope is shared by all delegations here today -- that COP 9, the “Milano COP,” be remembered as the COP that began a new phase in the global efforts to address the enormous challenge of climate change. We believe this new phase, as you said so eloquently. Mr. President, in your opening address on Monday of this week, should be one that truly focuses -- on issues which unify us and not on those which divide.” Too often in the past, our deliberations have been marked by rancor and have proven less than productive. While there will be and should be vigorous debates and exchanges of views and times when we will have to agree to disagree, we must respect the right of individual nations to determine their own national interests. And we should always remember that we are all working toward the same goal, and that we all must cooperate in this important effort.

Thank you for your attention.


Released on December 4, 2003

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