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

U.S. Delegation to the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-9) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change -- Press Briefing

Dr. Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative, U.S. Department of State
Mr. David Garman, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
Press Briefing
Milan, Italy
December 8, 2003

Moderator: Good afternoon and welcome to this press briefing of the U. S. delegation. We have two briefers for you this morning who will be talking about U.S. technology with regard to climate change. The first briefer will be Dr. Harlan Watson who is the Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative at the U. S. Department of State. He is currently the head of the U. S. delegation. To his left we have Mr. David Garman who is Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy and he will be talking to you about climate technology. First, Dr. Watson will begin with a brief opening statement.

Dr. Watson: Thank you all of you for coming here today and for the second opportunity to discuss U. S. climate change policy. President Bush’s Climate Change Policy reaffirms the United States’ commitment to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and its ultimate objective, which is to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate. We are taking concrete actions and investing billions of dollars annually to address climate change both in the near term and in the longer term. We are also fully engaged internationally and are leading major multilateral and bilateral climate change initiatives with our developing and developed country partners.

This science-based policy recognizes, first, the need take near-term actions while maintaining economic growth to improve the world’s standard of living. Second, it recognizes the importance of investments in science, technology and institutions as a basis for both current and future actions. And, three, that international cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral, is of critical importance to the development of any effective and efficient global response to the long-term challenge of climate change.

For the near term the President has set a national goal of reducing U. S. greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over the coming decade. This is a nearly 30% improvement over business as usual. Meeting the President’s commitment will achieve more than 500 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent reductions from business as usual estimates through 2012, roughly the equivalent of taking 70 million cars off the road.

We are achieving and working on this with a number of near-term actions, which I want to emphasize, through improvements in the fuel economy standards for light trucks, through the initiation of voluntary programs in business through our Department of Energy’s Climate VISION Program, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders Program and a number of other programs that are being carried out. We have massive tax incentives to encourage purchases of hybrid fuel cell vehicles, to promote residential solar energy use and to reward investments in solar, wind and biomass energy production, as well as to promote nuclear energy.

The President’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, which is currently under consideration by Congress, proposes $5.2 billion over the next five years and $8.0 billion over the next ten years to encourage use of such clean energies. We have also greatly increased incentives for carbon sequestration to encourage the amount of carbon stored in America’s farms and forests, through investment of some $47 billion over the next decade for conservation measures. We’re also making improvements in our current greenhouse gas registry, which we believe will provide great incentives for businesses, state and local governments and NGOs to, voluntarily, make reductions.

We do have unprecedented funding for climate change related programs. The President’s fiscal year 2004 budget proposes more than $4.3 billion in climate change funding, more than any other nation’s commitment, and I want to emphasize that. This is an increase of some $560 million, or 15% more than the current level.

Turning to our international activities since 2001, the United States has revitalized or initiated 13 formal bilateral climate change partnerships, with both developed and developing countries with both those that hope to be Kyoto parties, when it enters into force, and those that have chosen not to go that route.
We are working on major climate change science and technology initiatives as well as capacity-building initiatives that will benefit us all.

In the area of science, you heard from us last week, from Undersecretary of Commerce Lautenbacher, who was talking about the lead the United States is taking in addressing one of the big gaps in our scientific knowledge base, namely the lack of necessary environmental data, especially in developing countries, which is required to understand the Earth’s system. The United States hosted the Earth Observation Summit in Washington this summer which was attended by over 50 nations and international organizations, with the goal of the summit, and its follow-on activities, to design and implement over the next ten years a new, international and integrated, sustained and comprehensive earth observation system that will greatly advance our understanding of climate change.

I would now like to turn to David Garman, our Assistant Secretary for Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, to address the U. S. Climate Change Technology Program and our long term vision.

Mr. David Garman: Thank you, Dr. Watson. It is always a remarkable thing to be a part of a gathering of nearly 190 delegations. You hear a lot of conversations in the plenary sessions and in the halls. I know that the focus is often on areas of disagreement. But, there are remarkable areas of agreement in many areas.

First and foremost is the notion that we all agree that we need to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. We want to develop sustainable energy systems that can be developed and deployed in all the nations of the world. We want to advance renewable energy, which is part of my portfolio, and non-emitting energy systems in the global mix.

To do all of that, we believe technology plays the central role, and, indeed, it has to. My office, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, invests over $1.2 billion each year in the effort to develop technologies and practices to promote the more efficient use of energy and the use of renewable energy resources. That is just the efforts of my office. There are other efforts in other agencies of the U. S. government, some of whom are here, that play important roles as well.

We are proud of our successes. In 1980 a kilowatt hour of electricity from solar photovoltaic cost about $2.00. Today that price is down to about 20 cents because of the breakthroughs in our national energy laboratory in Golden, Colorado and breakthroughs in other labs around the country, and around the world. Similarly, a kilowatt hour of wind energy in 1980 cost about 80 cents. Today it is down to around 3 or 4 cents, in the very best production areas of the country. Again, technology has made this possible.

We are confident that we will continue our success on the technological front. We look at our research and development programs as a key to bringing down the cost of clean technologies and help insure their widespread and global application.

I also want to talk about transformational technologies, technologies that can utterly change the nature of the energy systems that we use. President Bush talked about those, of course, in his State of the Union message, when he announced his ground-breaking plan to change our nation’s energy future to one that utilizes hydrogen as a key energy carrier. Over just the next five years the United States has pledged $1.7 billion to fund the FreedomCAR and Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. That figure does not include the additional funding, approximately $1.5 billion, at least, that we will spend over that same five-year period on renewable energy technologies. That refers just to research and development.

I think it is also safe to predict, as Dr. Watson indicated, that we will spend billions more on top of that to try to deploy those technologies through production tax credits and other incentives that are in the Energy Bill currently pending before Congress.

Similarly, the FutureGen Program is one where we want to spend yet another $1 billion over the next ten years, to develop a power plant than can produce electricity and hydrogen from coal on a zero emissions basis. Clearly, that is a substantial national commitment.

But moving toward a global hydrogen economy is not something that any one nation can accomplish by itself. Again, we view international partnerships as a key tool to do that, to advance global cooperation and hydrogen research. Just a few weeks ago in Washington, 15 ministers joined to launch the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, which is a new effort to coordinate the multilateral research and development programs, and accelerate this transition to a global hydrogen economy. The meeting was a tremendous success. Collaborative work is already underway to address the technological, the financial and the institutional barriers to hydrogen and develop internationally recognized codes and technology standards that will eventually speed the market penetration of new hydrogen-based technologies.

This, of course, builds on the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, another international partnership, where we are developing the technology to unlock hydrogen from fossil fuels without carbon dioxide emissions. We believe hydrogen is an extremely important part of a cleaner, brighter energy future.

I am excited about the kind of future that these technologies make possible. We are working toward that day when our primary energy carriers are electricity and hydrogen derived from primary energy sources and systems that are carbon free, on a net basis. We’re working toward a future where our personal and mass transit vehicles are powered by hydrogen fuel cells with emissions no more harmful than water vapor. We envision that day when our homes will generate much of their own electricity from renewable resources at the point of use, and where businesses can be housed in what we call net zero energy buildings that produce, on average, as much energy as they consume. We seek a future where computers and controls and sensors operate seamlessly with the electricity generation and delivery infrastructure, because this makes a totally different and more efficient electricity infrastructure possible, one that actually allows greater consumer choice. It allows market signals to be sent and acted on.

None of these technologies are quite yet within our reach. And yet, none of them are beyond our grasp. Sustainable technologies have to be sustainable in the market place and they have to be chosen by the consumers. Consumer choice is an element that, I think, has been missing. I have been coming to Conferences of the Parties since COP-1. I missed two of them, but have made seven of the nine. I think there is not quite enough discussion about what consumers want, what consumers will buy, how can we entice and excite consumers about a different kind of sustainable energy future that they can be a part of.

I think that the hydrogen infrastructure can be developed and built in a manner quite similar to the way the internet was developed. Early, the basic, enabling technology emerged from national labs; the networks expanded; governments collaborated on codes and standards to develop the rules of the game to manage the network in the proper way. But the internet infrastructure really didn’t take off until the private sector investment kicked in and that investment happened when it became clear that the internet offered ordinary consumers the possibility of a remarkable and desirable set of tools and products and services that they could not get anywhere else. That is the model that we need to think about, I think, when we are thinking about sustainable energy systems. Private sector providers of buildings, of transportations, of products, of energy services are going to have to make money facilitating a sustainable future.

If we really want to succeed we want to build a future where consumers choose sustainability. For that to happen they have to be satisfied that a sustainable future is better, not as good as, but better, than the comfortable present. I have seen a lot of these technologies, first hand. We give you a little glimpse of them at the display that we have outside and we will be going into some of those technologies in greater depth at a side event later this afternoon. I would encourage you join us for some of those. We think these technologies offer consumers something new, something different, something exciting, something they can’t get today. Consumer interest and consumer support in purchasing these technologies and deploying these technologies are going to be the key to major emissions reductions as we go ahead.

So, thank you for your efforts to promote and write about those technologies.

Moderator: Before we go to your questions I just wanted quickly to introduce three senior representatives of the U. S. climate technology team that are with us here in Milan. The first gentleman is Mr. Emil Frankel who is Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the Department of Transportation. We also have with us Mr. David Conover who is Director of the Climate Change Technology Program and he is also with the Department of Energy. Finally, I would like to introduce Jacqueline Schafer who is Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade with the U. S. Agency for International Development.

All these senior officials will be moving from this room to the U. S. exhibit and they will be there to meet with you, to talk to you about the U. S. technology initiatives, so we will continue this opportunity to have a dialogue with you when we move down the hallway immediately after this press briefing.

At this point, I would like to invite any journalist who would like to ask a question to raise their hand and to, please, identify yourself by name and news organization before you ask your question. We will start here in the front row. Thank you.

Agence France-Presse: I have two questions for Mr. Watson. The first is: what is your latest estimate as to business as usual growth of your emissions and what will be the result of the greenhouse intensity target then, on this business as usual estimate? The second question is quite different. Could you give us a bit of an outline of Mrs. Dobriansky’s schedule, since I understand she is already arriving tonight? We’ve been told that. And is she going to have any bilaterals? Thank you.

Dr. Watson: Thank you very much for the question. It’s good to see you again. I remember our conversation in Paris a few weeks ago.

In terms of the latest estimates of business as usual, it was approximately 14% over the period from 2002 to 2012. That was the estimate in February by our [U.S. Energy Information Administration]. What we expect to achieve from the President’s goal of 18% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity is roughly a 4.5% reduction in emissions from business as usual.

Moderator: Do we have a microphone here for a follow-up, please.

Agence France-Presse: Forgive me, I forgot to ask, I wanted the business as usual prediction over 1990 and the result, also, compared to 1990, for 2012, say.

Dr. Watson: 1990 to 2012, I am going to have to get back to you on the exact figure. I only have the 2002 to 2012, so we will get back to you on that. But again, it translates into a 4.5% emissions reduction from business as usual.

With regard to Under Secretary Dobriansky’s schedule, she will be arriving Tuesday afternoon. She will be meeting with many ministers through the course of the remainder of the COP. Certainly, I know she is going to meet with fellow umbrella-group ministers: Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and so on. I am sure we will have some other meetings during the course of her stay. I know she will be meeting, if nothing else, in the Technology Roundtable on Thursday, with South African Environment Minister Valli Moosa, who will be co-chairing that event. I would say, at this point, that her schedule is very fluid, but that gives you an idea of some of the meetings.

Culture Change: My question is addressed to Dr. Watson as head of the U. S. Delegation at this time. My question is based on an article that appeared on half a page of the New York Times, on November 9th, in the business section. It is headed “Terrorism’s Costs in a Global Economy.” It is a book review of something called “Modern Jihad --Tracing the Dollars behind the Terror Networks.” It is written by an Italian, Loretta Napoleone, who is now with the London School of Economics, and it is a very serious half-page report. My question is: if these kinds of things are taken into consideration now with U. S. Administration? Basically, what she is talking about here is the outflow of dollars that are fuelling a globalized network.

Moderator: Yes, may we just have your question, please, we’re very short on time.

Culture Change: That is my question. My question is: that within an economy of a globalized network of terrorism, of $1.5 trillion a year, the figures we heard here are peanuts.

My question is that I would like an answer to all of what I just said.

Dr. Watson: Well, I’m not sure what the question was, nor have I seen the article that you are referring to, sir, but once again I can only reiterate what Mr. Garman and I said in terms of what we’re spending.

Moderator: I would also like to invite all journalists and everyone in this room to take a copy of our press kits that provide detailed fact sheets on all of the various programs that we are talking about here. There are copies of the fact sheets in the back of the room with further information. Do we have anymore press questions? Yes, thank you.

Energy Daily: There seems to be a bit of a disconnect with regard to U. S. policy on climate change. I don’t think anyone here can find serious fault with your push for technology. The things that the government has proposed and is doing, and the money that they are spending or plan to spend has been greeted with a positive response, by and large. The disconnect comes with policies regarding energy use. Mr. Garman brought up the Energy Bill that, apparently, is moribund, if not dead. That Bill alone, the estimates vary, but because of the increased funding for oil production and coal-fired electricity production, it certainly would have increased U. S. greenhouse gas emissions significantly, and, perhaps, had it become law, it remains in doubt whether the U. S. would have met its 18% target in reducing greenhouse gas intensity.

The question is: why the big push for this technology, but, also, the big push for this Energy Bill which would have dramatically boosted U. S. emissions?

Mr. Garman: The first point I would make is that, when you go back to the President’s National Energy Plan and what we proposed, we proposed, for instance, $5.2 billion worth of tax incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy and zero, quite candidly, for oil and gas production. In the President’s National Energy Plan we proposed zero in tax incentives for those things. Of course, the Congress had another idea. The Congress will work its will as it does and, if you will, through that process other things get added. We will see what the end result is when Congress returns to the Energy Bill, as the Senate Majority Leader has said he intends to, in January. In the President’s National Energy Plan, out of 105 recommendations, 54 of them, a majority of the recommendations, pertained to energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. That plan laid the groundwork for a hydrogen energy future, and, in the intervening time, through FreedomCAR, the FutureGen Program, the President’s Hydrogen Initiative, Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, you’ve seen both a push for technology and a push for international collaboration to build a different kind of energy future.

I understand the question but I think our record and the resources that we are devoting toward new technology and international collaboration on developing those technologies and getting them deployed is, as you said, enviable and recognized. That is what we really want to stress. We think we have tremendous opportunities.

Let me say something else. I think it is kind of interesting when one sits back in a political body and sets goals for energy use and markets, as we did with the 1992 Energy Bill, with the amount of alternative fuel vehicles we expected to be in place by a certain date, it was a miserable failure, because it didn’t take into account technology, consumer tastes and markets. I think in our next try to implement new technologies we are trying to remain focused on markets, consumer tastes and new technologies, and how we actually get those new technologies deployed. In the past, we’ve tried to do it in a top down fashion, trying to design the car in Washington that we wanted consumers to drive, instead of designing a more sustainable car that consumers would want to buy. We hope that we have learned from efforts that have been going on in the past, on our efforts to drive and develop new technologies and get them onto the market, so that we are going to be more successful. We will achieve the President’s vision of leading the world in the development of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, as an example of one of those technologies.

Moderator: Thank you, very much. I am afraid that we are out of time right here at the press briefing, but, again, let me invite all of you to join us as we inaugurate the exhibit on U. S. Climate Technology right in the front of the building, right down the hallway. This, our senior technology team, will be available to talk to you and we hope you can join us. Thank you.

Released on December 8, 2003

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