December 10 Press Conference by the Delegation of the United StatesHarlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative and Alternate Head of the U.S. Delegation
Thirteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
December 10, 2007
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: I will be brief, because I do want to take your questions. I just want to repeat what I said last Monday when this conference opened that United States is here to be working in a constructive matter. We do want a Bali Roadmap that will set up a negotiation process, to be completed by 2009. As you all know we received text late last Saturday. This afternoon we are going to be starting working our way through that, and so we’re probably going to have a long night, but we are looking forward to taking part in those discussions. And with that, I’ll be happy to start taking questions.
Question: On the text, can you tell us why the United States is not willing to accept the numeric targets of reductions of the 25 to 40% by 2020. And I understand that Japan is also on the same front as you are right now, but if you see any other countries teaming up with you on this particular front.
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Thank you for the question. We have not started going through the text, first of all, so I don’t know which other countries… I do know that Japan has indicated some difficulties with it. Our principal difficulty with having any numbers in the text to begin with is that it might prejudge outcomes. We’re looking for a text that is going to be short, to the point, that’s going to be balanced, taking into consideration the needs of all Parties, and also a text that does not – again – prejudge outcomes that might occur at the end of a two-year negotiating process.
Question: Yvo de Boer was just in your seat a moment ago, and he said that he hopes the 25 to 40% remains when this is all said and done. I was wondering if you could comment: how do you expect to pursue this – I guess – going forward?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Yes, in fact, I just had a conversation with Yvo before that and he indicated that to me. I also indicated our view, and you’ll see it again this afternoon, as we start discussing the text. But I think we will be not alone in having problems with defining numbers up front.
Question: Can you talk a bit, you talk about “short, to-the-point” in terms of the text that you are looking for but could you just describe in slightly more substantive terms what is it that the U.S. is hoping to come out of this conference in terms of a Roadmap. What exactly do you want the meaning and import of that document to be?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Well, in terms of specificity we certainly want the central building blocks identified. And I think there is consensus around mitigation, adaptation, technology, and finance. There has to be more a little specificity below that level, again without having text that is going to prejudge or prejudice what might come out at the end of the process. We also would like to see established a formal negotiating committee that will be given the charge to negotiate over the period of two years and with a completion end-date of 2009. Certainly we think the idea of examining a long-term, shared global goal -- an emissions reduction goal -- should be an important component of that; and again, a number of procedural items and we’ll have to have guided by other things going on outside of this process, guided by the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report, etc. But we think we can streamline the text before us. Almost every delegation that I’ve talked to believes it is too complicated and long, given the limited amount of time we are going to have to negotiate on it. But it’s just going to take us awhile to get to that.
Question: How about in terms of obligations for the developing countries, there is the phrase in the preamble that describes about things for the developing countries to do in terms of mitigation. Is it acceptable to the United States or do you seek changes on this front?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: We would like to see text that addresses all Parties. I am not going to get into the details of what that might be. But we do not want the bifurcation that we have experienced up to this time. We think it needs to be a process that does involve conversations with all Parties in the Convention, recognizing the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities. We would not expect everyone to do exactly the same, but again, we believe the negotiations need to involve all Parties.
Question: Couple of quick ones. I know when we spoke a couple weeks ago you were saying the financing issue is obviously very important. I’d like to, from your perspective, get an idea as to how things like the elimination of tariffs for technology transfer is going or whether that is something you might still have to progress outside the UNFCCC for example via WTO. And secondly, John Baird, the Canadian Environment Minister Saturday night was talking to me and he said how can we get the United States to actually accept binding emission targets himself or do we need something like Hillary Clinton to come in before that would happen?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: With regard your first point, of course there were discussions, I understand, in the Trade Ministers meeting that was held here. I know some of the trade issues were discussed. Clearly the Framework Convention on Climate Change cannot deal with trade issues. It has a lot on its plate. Our proposals, of course, we would expect to be considered in the World Trade Organization – WTO. I understand from press reports there was discussion there and I did see some remarks that Ambassador Schwab made. With regard to the other issue of what Minister Baird may or may not have said, I just want to say that this Administration is here. We are going to be at the next COP, and we don’t want to wait for two years. Let’s get something going here. And we look forward to working with Canada to make that happen.
Question: I’d like to ask a little bit more on that technology transfer. I understand that there’s been a bit of difficulty getting some kind of agreement on how technology transfer should work. There has been some suggestion from developing countries that developed countries like the U.S. and that the governments should actually pay private companies to give their technology to developing countries. Is that something that is on the cards for the U.S. or what kind of technology transfer would you like to see?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: In a word, no. This is not something new. This is a proposal the developing countries have been discussing for a number of years. So this is nothing new. No, the idea that governments are going to pay companies for intellectual property is not something that we would support. Nor do I think many developed countries would support that. However, President Bush, in his speech at the Major Economies Meeting at the end of September, did propose a clean technology fund and instructed Secretary of the Treasury Paulson to start with the formulation of it. Secretary Paulson is engaged on that. We do see, by the way, that the fund can be very helpful in promoting technology transfer. But, there are also many, many other barriers to technology transfer. The one that Felix mentioned earlier, the tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services are one. There are many, many other barriers that are limiting tech transfer. We think they all need to be addressed with the funding, and of course, being one portion of that.
Question: I know you touched a little bit on the 25/40 in the beginning; what are your concerns with having that kind of a specific target in the text, in the final draft?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Well, once again, it locks in… it’s pre-judging what the decisions might be. I want to remind you that 25 to 40% figure is something that came out of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report of Working Group 3. That analysis involved only six scenarios out of 177 that were examined. So it is a small subset. Many uncertainties are surrounding that. Obviously there’s going to need to be a lot of analysis done over the period of negotiations. And to start out again with a pre-determined answer we do not think is an appropriate thing to do.
Question: Dr. Watson, when talking about emissions, do you think it’s fair to talk about national emission levels or wouldn’t it fairer to talk about per capita emissions?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Well, I think both are something under discussion. Clearly, though, for those countries that have low per capita emissions generally -- although not in the case of the large countries -- this means low national emissions. So that subject has been under discussion for many years; a concept that certainly India and China and others have brought forward. We think it’s an appropriate thing to discuss. We have no problems with discussing that. But national emissions are also important so we need to take both of those into account.
Question: Two quick questions, the EU has indicated that it would like to see two degrees added to the proposed text. Would you regard that as acceptable? Do you think that prejudges the negotiations? And secondly, of the three options in the proposed text, which of those options do you favor and why?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Yes, with regard to the first question, we are very aware that the EU has promoted the “two degree” figure, limiting the temperature increase in the more than two degrees from pre-industrial era. Again that is something we don’t think will be helpful as a starting point. Perhaps after a period of discussion in a period of two-year negotiation, it may end up that way. That is the view of the European Union and a few other countries. But again we want to limit or predetermine what the outcomes should be. With regard to the second question, we believe option one, which is just continuing the dialogue is a non-starter. It’s just simply too weak. We’re definitely for option two which is launching what we could like to call a negotiating committee”. We would like to see “negotiating” in the title rather than just an ad hoc working group. The third option, of course, is the idea of combining discussions under Kyoto and the Convention in one process, the so-called “one track approach” which will not work. For one reason, many countries are against it on principle”, and second, they are two separate legal instruments. So legally it does not work.
Question: Tomorrow will be the tenth anniversary of Kyoto Protocol and the United States is the country in the developed countries who didn’t ratify Kyoto. So how do you evaluate Kyoto Protocol this moment? And is there possibility for the current administration to change the attitude towards Kyoto Protocol?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: The last answer is “no”, there isn’t. It is not correct that we are the only developed country. There’s also Turkey. I know the focus has been on the United States and Australia, but if you read the Convention, Turkey is an Annex I country that has also not ratified Kyoto. Our feeling about Kyoto has not changed. It is not something that would work for the United States.
Question: You said earlier in this conference that you would support a global, shared goal in the text, but you don’t want numbers -- either reductions in emissions or temperature rise. What kind of shared, global goal would you support?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: What we want to do -- in fact we’re very keen and would like to see that one of the charges given to the negotiating group or ad hoc working group, whatever it’s going to be called -- is to consider a shared, long-term global goal -- whether that’s going to be an emissions reduction goal, whether it might be ultimately a temperature goal and so on. But once again, what those specific numbers might be -- we don’t think it’s prudent or reasonable to start off with some set of numbers. That’s what the negotiations are going to be for.
Question: I just have two questions. The first is whether, China has said before coming to this meeting they would be willing to consider doing more to curb emissions growth in return for greater technology transfer from the U.S., sorry not the U.S., from developed nations. And subsequently some of their delegation has said that they’d be particularly interested in some kind of technology fund. I wondered; the U.S. has said repeatedly that you’d like to see more from developing nations particularly ones like China and India. Would you consider that an acceptable deal? And also, I just wondered if you were feeling slightly isolated at these talks given that a lot of the Annex I countries are perhaps lined up together on perhaps the 25 to 40 degree cut. In other words, you’re not in a block with the developing countries of the Annex II countries. So I was just wondering if you are feeling isolated and if not, who you thought you were sharing interests with at the moment? Thanks.
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Well, no, I don’t feel isolated; not at all. We have very cordial relationships with many delegations, some of whom we disagree with. We’re here to talk about the differences and try to resolve them. That’s what the negotiations process is all about. No, we don’t feel isolated. I’m not going to, again, prejudge the discussion that is going to take place starting at three o’clock this afternoon on the text. It may go a long time. I think we’re going to have many, many points in common with many delegations. We’ll obviously have differences with many delegations. So, the answer is “no”, we don’t feel isolated. We do agree, certainly and as I said earlier, that funding is an important component of technology transfer. We’re working with others in the international community; having discussions to set up some sort of a clean technology fund. We hope to have that up and running in the not too distant future. And certainly, the purpose of that fund is to improve and accelerate access to clean technologies.
Question: A question to follow up on the shared global goal. Is there any room in the U.S. negotiations to accept binding targets even if they are, as you insist, undefined?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: At this stage, we don’t want to define the outcomes. It may end up, as I said before and it has been reported, at the end we may have at least some components of this that are going to be binding. Domestically, we have binding measures which have relevance to climate change. We have our renewable fuel standard, CAFÉ standards, etc. So we have a mix of binding and voluntary and incentive-based programs at the national level. We would expect that probably what’s going to come forward in this process as countries continue negotiations is a discussion of what countries will be able to do by whatever measures they agree to domestically. And, ultimately, at the end of this process, elements of those may become binding. But again, we don’t want to start out with the answer at the beginning. We’ll develop that over the course of the two-year process, we hope.
Question: One reason what Mr. Yvo de Boer was saying why specifics are needed in the text according to him, is that he expressed concern that investment decisions are being made everyday. So for the next two years, there will be many capital intensive investments made into a specific kind of energy development. And it will be too late in two years time to change those decisions. What’s your take on that? As well as, at the end of the two-year process if there are binding commitments, would the U.S. be okay with those binding commitments for emissions reductions being expressed in terms of per capita emissions, rather than in terms of by country emissions?
Senior Climate Negotiator Watson: Yes, I understand Mr. de Boer’s position on that, but it’s unclear on how some sort of a notional numbers being put out is going to really guide investment decisions, and how much such numbers, which for many countries would be totally unrealistic, would guide investment decisions. What we need is a process that yields practical outcomes, certainly two years… a lot of investment decisions will be made over the next years. But again, I think you see what’s happening around the world. Investments need to take into account all the information as they do and I think the direction is set and it’s unclear to me how specific numbers would stimulate that any more. With regard to what’s going to happen at the end of the process, I don’t want to prejudge whether it’s binding, nonbinding, etc. Again, I want to keep emphasizing, we’re here to initiate a process that’s going to lead to an agreement in 2009.
Released on December 11, 2007