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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 Press Briefing

Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Global Affairs and Head of U.S. Delegation
Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative
Milan, Italy
December 10, 2003

Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 1-12, 2003

Moderator: Welcome. We have two briefers today. I would like to introduce to you the Head of the U.S. Delegation, Under Secretary of State, Paula Dobriansky, who has arrived in Milan to join us, and to her left is Dr. Harlan Watson, who is Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative at the U.S. Department of State. He led the delegation during the first week of our work here in Milan. We are going to begin with an opening statement by Under Secretary Dobriansky and then we will go to your questions. Thank you.

Dr. Dobriansky: Thank you.

Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for coming here today and for the opportunity to address United States climate change policy.

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 concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the earth’s climate.

Our policy recognizes: (1) the need to take short-term actions, while maintaining economic growth that will improve the standard of living for all peoples of the world; (2) the importance of investments in science and technology as a basis for current and future action; and (3) that international collaboration, both bilateral and multilateral, is crucial for an effective, global response to the complex challenge of climate change over the long term.

It is also grounded in the reality that addressing the issue of global climate change will require a sustained effort by all nations over many generations. And it will also require the development and deployment of new transformational technologies during this century —technologies that will allow the use of diverse, abundant energy resources, while producing fewer or no greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants.

For the near-term, President Bush announced a national plan, setting a goal of reducing U.S. GHG intensity (that is, how much we emit per unit of economic activity) by 18 percent over the next ten years —a nearly 30 percent improvement over the status quo. 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—it’s an amount equal to taking 70 million cars off the road—and we are taking concrete steps through the implementation of more than 60 federal programs designed to achieve that goal, including:

  • Increased fuel economy standards for light trucks;
  • Initiation of the Department of Energy’s Climate VISION and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders programs. These two programs, which are driven by private sector actions, are designed to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in energy-intensive industrial sectors, comprising approximately 45 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Clean energy tax incentives to promote renewable energy such as wind, biomass and solar, and the purchase of highly fuel efficient vehicles;
  • And additional incentives for carbon sequestration to increase the amount of carbon stored by America’s farms and forests through investment of $47 billion in the next decade for conservation measures on our farms and forest lands —including measures that will also enhance the natural storage of carbon.
  • In addition, there is unprecedented U.S. funding for climate change-related programs. President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2004 budget includes more than $4.3 billion to address climate change —an increase of $560 million. Counted here is almost $1.75 billion for climate change science, $1.76 billion for climate change technologies, and more than $270 million for international assistance.

We know the importance of working with the international community on this global issue and the United States is fully engaged with our national commitment and the largest financial investment.

Since June 2001, the United States has revitalized or initiated 13 formal bilateral relationships with both developed and developing countries. These bilateral partnerships include: Australia, Canada, China, seven Central American countries -- Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama -- the European Union, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and South Africa. Together with the United States, these countries account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions.

While each of these bilateral relationships is unique, there is a common interest in advancing climate change science and technology.

The United States is demonstrating international leadership in climate change science and technology. We are working hard with others on initiatives such as the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, the Earth Observation Summit, the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, and ITER – the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. These efforts will help address global climate change over the longer-term.

In closing, I want to say that we support COP 9 President Persányi’s view that this meeting should focus “on issues which unify us and not on those which divide.” We want to see progress. We are all working toward the same goal. In order to succeed, all countries must cooperate in this collective, important effort.

If I may suggest a path forward, it would be that we should sift through our differences to identify areas of agreement in order to move forward in addressing global climate change.

Before taking your questions, I would like to take a moment to introduce the senior members of our delegation, some you may have met earlier, in addition to Dr. Harlan Watson, who we have here.

In the front row we have:
Mr. David Garman, who is the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, at the Department of Energy.
We have Ms. Jacqueline Schafer, who is the Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade, for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
And then we have Mr. Kenneth Peel, who is the Director for International Environmental Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

Moderator: Thank you. I would like to see a show of hands as to who would like to ask a question and, also, I would like to ask you to please identify yourself by name and news organization before you ask that question. We have one here in the front row.

Agence France-Presse: You quoted just now Mr. Persanyi and I would like to pick up something which he said in his address this morning and also it was something which was said by Mr. Kofi Annan. Both of them said that there was increasing evidence now that climate change had already started to kick in. What is your personal opinion? Do you think that climate change has already started?

Dr. Dobriansky: We are clearly concerned about the issue of global climate change. That is why the United States is an active participant in the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The issue is, basically, how you try to devise an approach. We have tried to lay out for you, in the series of briefings that we have had, specifically, how we see the United States as going forward. This issue is important and it is one that we attach importance to.

AFP: Will you please answer my question? I asked you specifically, do you believe that climate change has already started?

Dr. Dobriansky: President Bush, in his statement on February 14, 2002, when he enunciated our national plan, in fact, did mention the fact that we do see a warming [trend] and he mentioned quite specifically, an increase of temperatures. He also cited that we have seen cyclical changes [-- a cooling period, as well]. I feel I have answered your question. This is an important issue. That is why we are here, we are engaged, and we want to cooperate and collaborate with other countries.

Question: Ms. Dobriansky, you said in your statements that you are here to talk with the rest of the parties about sifting through the differences and focusing on what unifies you. Is there an issue that is here that you want to solve, that you want to address, that is a difference that effects the Framework Convention commitment?

Dr. Dobriansky: In terms of my comment, specifically, one of the areas that we have been discussing and that we discussed before coming here to the COP – and we see the COP as being a terrific opportunity to put on the table … the issue of technological innovation. But let me start with the fact that at the G8 meeting in Evian, France, when ministers came together they cited in the declaration that this COP meeting affords an opportunity for all participants to come together and to talk about this issue [– technological innovation]. Because the issue of environmental stewardship is very much linked to economic growth, we also need to go back to the discussions that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. There were three interwoven pillars: the pillar of economic growth and reform, the pillar of environmental stewardship and, also, the pillar of social, educational and societal change. What we would like to see is an opportunity, in fact, in this area, which is an area where I think there is common ground, to actually look at the kinds of concrete steps that could be taken to come together and to bolster renewable energy sources and cleaner, more efficient energy sources. This is an opportunity to do that. This COP is also structured, in a way, by having three roundtables that afford an opportunity to have that kind of direct dialogue.

Moderator: We had a bit of a late start here today, but we also have a very tight schedule. We will have time for one or two more questions. I’m going to go back to this side of the room…

Bloomberg News: I have a couple of issues I was wondering if you’d like to comment on them. The first thing is that we’ve heard from a lot of companies, and including American companies, at this convention about how they would like to see a global system for dealing with climate change and not a piecemeal country-by-country, or area-by-area, or, even, state-by-state situation. One company in particular is American Electric Power which is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gas in the U. S., so not a small player in it. Obviously within the context of trying to get the private sector involved more and more, so far there has been a lot of government action and the companies are standing on the sideline with a lot of cash to bring in, I was wondering what kind of reaction you have to comments by American companies who would like see a global, uniform system, particularly under the Kyoto Protocol.

The second issue was, I was wondering if you had any comment, any reaction, again very important one for the U. S. industry and technology in terms of the decision yesterday to have genetically modified trees and sinks. Thanks.

Dr. Dobriansky: I will take the first one and I will give (Dr. Watson) who was “here on the ground” the second one.

In terms of the first one, let me say this. As I mentioned, the Department of Energy has a ClimateVISION Program which involves twelve major industrial sectors. We have the Climate Leaders Program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, which involves some 40 companies. I think you are going to find that different businesses will have different perspectives on this issue. I cannot speak for the business community, but what I can say here is that we think that there needs to be vibrant, private-sector involvement and the involvement of the business community. In fact, so much so, that we have put on the table, as I referenced in my opening remarks, tax incentives for companies to come forward specifically with strategies and programs that will bring about changes that promote energy efficiency as well as renewable technologies. In terms of approaches we, the U. S. government, have identified the approach that we see [as a path forward] and we are trying to work with all in this process. As I answered the previous question, we remain committed to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is a global forum and we want to [continue to] work through this forum. Our national plan is on the table, but at the same time we also have a vibrant program in working with other countries, in trying to identify areas that we can contribute to, whether it concerns the science, whether it concerns developing countries, or whether it concerns market-based mechanisms.

Dr. Watson: With respect to the GMOs, those discussions were going on in the so-called “sinks in the CDM,” and that is an issue for Kyoto Parties. We have…observer status in those discussions because we really feel this is an issue for Kyoto Parties. However, we have continued to monitor a number of the Kyoto discussions to make sure that any decisions coming out of those discussions would not impact the U. S. status, either as a party to the UN Framework Convention, or set precedents which might spill over into other international agreements. Earlier versions of the text singled out GMOs, in particular, along with alien invasive species. We felt the singling out of GMOs was inappropriate in this context. We did make our views known to some of the Kyoto Parties in the discussion. What was finally agreed to, of course, was moving what was originally operative language into preamble language, which is non-operative. However, we still disagree that GMOs should have been singled out in this context. We have made clear that we are concerned and we will be filing a separate statement, which will appear as a miscellaneous document. We asked that that be referenced into the record, to establish the U.S. view or position on this, and we do not consider that this sets a precedent in any other international discussions.

Moderator: Thank you. As that was a two-part question I am going to have to bring this briefing to a close, but I do invite all of you to contact the Press Office that we have here at COP-9, if you have any questions, and we will respond to you that way. The telephone number is available from the gentleman standing in the back of the room. Thank you very much.


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