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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2004

U.S. Delegation Press Briefing

Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, and Head of the U.S. Delegation
Dr. Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative, U.S. Department of State; Judith Ayres, Assistant Administrator for International Affairs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Jacqueline Schafer, Assistant Administrator for International Affairs, U.S. Agency for International Development
Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 6-17, 2004
Buenos Aires, Argentina
December 16, 2004

Dr. Dobriansky: I would like to first begin by thanking the Government of Argentina for hosting COP-10 and for their gracious hospitality. The United States and Argentina enjoy a good relationship based on mutual respect and common ideals that drive our cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the shared goal of preserving the environment for future generations.

One of the many areas of collaboration we have with Argentina is in the Methane to Markets Partnership. We welcome Argentina as a founding partner of this initiative. This is an action-oriented initiative that will reduce global methane emissions to promote energy security, improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases.

Here at COP-10 we have discussed our view that efforts to address climate change will be sustainable if they also serve a larger goal of fostering prosperity for all. Yesterday, in the roundtable discussion in which I participated, I referred to Article 3 of the Convention, which acknowledges that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.

The United States supports the development of an integrated approach to partnerships among governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders that promote economic growth, improve energy efficiency, enhance energy security, and increase availability of cleaner, more efficient energy sources. A sustained effort by all nations over many generations is required.

It will also require developing and deploying new transformational technologies. All these actions, taken through public-private partnerships, are part of the multifaceted strategy we pursue to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Toward these goals, we have launched five multilateral partnerships which we have described here throughout the week. Let me just reference them:

  • The Methane to Markets Partnership;
  • The International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy:
  • the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum;
  • The Generation IV International Forum; and,
  • The Global Earth Observation System.

In addition, I would like to mention that the United States has established bilateral climate partnerships with 14 countries and regional organizations that together with the United States account for over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Before we open it up to questions, I would like two of my colleagues to take a minute to say a word about two specific programs -- First, about Climate Leaders, which is a program that engages the private sector in the United States on climate change, and about our international assistance on adaptation, which has been an important issue at this conference.

Judith Ayres is the Assistant Administrator for International Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency, and she will say a word about the "Climate Leaders" Program.

Ms. Ayres: Good Afternoon. Climate Leaders is a successful EPA program that is part of the President’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18% by 2012. EPA’s Climate Leaders Program is a voluntary industry-government partnership that encourages companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies.

The Climate Leaders Program, launched in 2002, has grown to include 62 corporate partners, 27 of which have announced greenhouse gas targets. Of interest, combined U.S. revenues of current Climate Leaders partners are equal to 6% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Partners benefit from Climate Leaders by identifying themselves as environmentally committed corporations, receiving technical assistance from EPA in the development of their greenhouse gas emissions inventory, improving their understanding of their greenhouse gas emissions and creating a visible record of their accomplishments.

Through the program, EPA and private sector corporate partners work together to take three actions:

1) to develop corporate-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventories;
2) to develop greenhouse gas reduction goals that exceed ‘business-as-usual;’ and
3) to track progress toward meeting these goals.

In short, the Climate Leaders partners join the program because it is good business, it is emblematic of proactive corporate responsibility, and it allows them to be capable of augmenting, in a very positive way, the corporation relationship with their customers and shareholders.

A few examples of corporate reduction targets would be these:

-- Cinergy has pledged to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 5% below the 2000 base year by 2010.

-- Johnson & Johnson has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 14% from 2001 to 2010.

-- And, Miller Brewing Company has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 18% per barrel of production by 2006.

With the targets announced to date, Climate Leaders partners will prevent a total of seven and a half million metric tons of carbon equivalent per year. These reductions are equal to the annual emissions of five million vehicles.

Dr. Dobriansky: Thank you. Now I would like my colleague, Jacqueline Schafer, Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID, to say a word on adaptation. That has been one of the key topics of this COP.

Ms. Schafer: USAID -- for training, technical assistance and other means of capacity-building -- helps developing and transition countries address climate-related concerns as part of their larger developing goals. From 1991 to 2004, USAID’s Global Climate Change Program has spent $2.2 billion. President Bush has just signed the 2005 budget and will extend 180 million dollars on energy and climate change activities this coming year.

In 2002, USAID broadened its climate change portfolio to include a new emphasis on strengthening the capabilities in developing and transition countries to respond to the challenges posed by climate-related impacts and risks. Currently, USAID is supporting the deployment of several diagnostic and analytical decision support tools for use by our development partners, including the development of a new adaptation guidance manual.

This new adaptation tool is designed to strengthen the capabilities of our development practitioners to assess a project’s vulnerability to climate-related risks and to evaluate and implement practical adaptation options to increase the resilience of our agriculture, water and coastal zone management projects within USAID’s development assistance portfolio. It is being field-tested by USAID missions, starting in Honduras and, we expect, in other regions in the world. Eventually, USAID expects to mainstream adaptation to the influence of climate into all of our development assistance activities.

USAID spends considerable funds on humanitarian relief and reconstruction in response to natural disasters, and we believe that consideration of climate risks in our development assistance portfolio will make our project more resilient and will more than justify the additional assessment and analysis that will be required. Thank you.

Dr. Dobriansky: Let's open it up. I'm going to take the liberty of answering a question that I think might be on your minds, and that is the question about the seminar that is being discussed. So let me just come right to that one.

We believe that it is essential to focus, at this time now, on implementation of programs. We, the United States, are focused on the implementation of the programs that we have put into place nationally, bilaterally and multilaterally with other countries. We think that it is essential to look at what we are doing now, what others are doing now, and really having a good understanding of the kinds of steps that need to be taken.

In terms of the proposed seminar, we do not view the notion of looking at negotiations in a post-2012 context as being appropriate for this time. We think it's premature. We think that we should be focusing on action, on what our programs are -- specifically now.

So, let me start with that. Let me also add that it has been mentioned by a number of countries here in exchanges we have had, that there are quite a few roundtables, meetings, and seminars that are being organized for 2005. There have been discussions about using these as opportunities for sharing information and for talking about steps that countries are looking at taking. Thank you.

Associated Press: Ms. Dobriansky, as you know, nine U.S. states in the northeast are designing a carbon dioxide trading system of their own. What is the Bush Administration view of a potential combination of that system with the European trading scheme?

Dr. Dobriansky: I think there are two points to mention here. First is the fact that we have not had the opportunity yet to analyze and to look at such proposals specifically relevant to states -- in terms of trading schemes -- and to look at what this would portend; specifically, what it would mean for U.S. law and/or international law. I think we are at a juncture where we will need to analyze and look at the ramifications from both of those perspectives. Secondly, I would just say that we have welcomed the kind of broad thinking that has gone on in the U.S. on these issues.

La Nacion: What do you think about President Kirchner's speech yesterday?

Dr. Dobriansky: First, let me say that we respect the views of President Kirchner. I would also say that I think what he appealed for represents the kind of concerns that we, the United States, have. That is, the importance of providing assistance and working with developing countries. The very cornerstone of our approach, I think, underscores that commitment.

In each of the efforts that we have put forward, whether bilateral initiatives with developing countries specifically, or their involvement in our multilateral initiatives, we have made every effort to engage them because the very premise of our own approach is that economic growth goes hand-in-hand with addressing -- not only environmental issues and climate change -- but certainly the important issue of poverty alleviation. We see that adaptation, mitigation -- there is an interrelationship with sustainable development.

At yesterday's roundtable I had the opportunity to discuss this a bit, and to underscore the fact that in the COP-8 Delhi Ministerial Declaration there was this actual linkage that was made and that built upon the WSSD meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. So, I think that many of the points that President Kirchner had in fact made are ones that the U.S. is already acting upon, and is engaged on, in terms of addressing issues of poverty alleviation, of poverty eradication, as well as issues about adaptation and capacity building.

Greenwire: If it's decided at the end of this week that the seminar next year will look at the 2012 situation, will the U.S. participate in that seminar?

Dr. Dobriansky: I'm not going to pre-judge the discussions that are taking place right now.

Energy Daily: The Framework Convention requires signatories to take actions to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, excuse me, atmospheric concentrations of GHG, so as to avoid dangerous interference with the climate. At what point in the future, Ms. Dobriansky, do you think it will be necessary for the U.S. to impose mandatory emissions caps on the U.S.?

Dr. Dobriansky: I have two comments on your question. First, our approach has not favored mandatory steps, targets and timetables. However, having said that, we also believe that it is essential to have a robust program and approach. We are committed to the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Toward that end, our programs are geared toward effecting and addressing greenhouse gas emissions now - in the near-term, in the mid-term and in the long-term.

I will also say that the very essence of our approach is one that places a premium on the development and the deployment of transformational technologies. This is a long-term process. It is a long-term process in which there need to be sustained efforts.

Bloomberg News: First of all, I would like you to clarify your position on the seminar. You said at the beginning of your remarks that you're not interested at all in that issue - the seminar - and the (garbled) implementation. And, at what point during the next four years that President Bush is in office would the U.S. be willing to join global talks about what to do after 2012 for that kind of global approach you are talking about. Are you at all willing at any time to discuss this issue like most U.S. allies want you to do?

Dr. Dobriansky: Allow me, on the first question. I indicated that what we do not see the seminar discussing is post-Kyoto arrangements -- the future arrangements. However, we have indicated that we think that if the seminar is, in fact, organized, that we would support having an exchange of information, having an exchange of experiences, having the opportunity to discuss the kinds of programs that we are doing here and now.

I'm sorry; would you repeat the second questions?

Bloomberg: Is the Bush administration at all willing to discuss the U.S. role in reducing greenhouse gases after 2012, or is that just something that you don't want to talk about ever?

Dr. Dobriansky: Right now we see that as being premature. We think we should be focusing on implementation and steps that we and other countries are taking now.

Dr. Watson: If I could follow-up as to where we are. As the Under Secretary said, we have not said we will not take part in the seminar. We have been spending hours in the room going around with this. We just spent three hours with a group under the chairmanship of Ambassador Estrada discussing this.

I might say, just for your information, that Ambassador Estrada offered what he thought would be consensus text on the overall purpose of the seminar. It was acceptable to the U.S., it was acceptable to India, and it was acceptable to China. Of course, there are logistical details which need to be discussed. I think we are very engaged in the discussions here. We want a positive outcome, and I would ask those who have not joined the U.S., India and China on the beginning of the consensus text why they are opposing the consensus.

Dr. Dobriansky: You obviously just walked out of the meeting.

Kyoto News: Let me ask you a very specific question about U.S. policy on CDM Executive Board physical presence. Why do you think it's important for the U.S. to keep the physical presence in the CDM Executive Board while you refuse any payment regarding the Kyoto Protocol?

Dr. Watson: The basic issue has to do with the way the Executive Board defines attendance. They have taken the view that attendance does not mean physical presence in the room, but rather the ability to watch the proceedings either on television or streaming video. We believe that attendance means physical presence in the room. And this is a precedent.

I believe I answered this last week in some detail. This has precedence for other UN conventions and other proceedings. We think we have every right to insist that the meaning of the word "attendance" is physical presence, and that is the basic issue. We are not insisting on being a member of the Board. We certainly want to follow its proceedings because we do have American companies that have interests in participating -- with other governments, Kyoto parties – in proposing projects.

So we want to watch what they are doing and follow that closely. But, again, the basic issue is the inability of the Executive Board to recognize that attendance means physical presence.

Thank you.


Released on December 17, 2004

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