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December 13 Press Conference by the U.S. Delegation

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs and Head of the United States Delegation
James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative
Thirteenth Session of the Conference Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Bali, Indonesia
December 13, 2007

Under Secretary  Dobriansky: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us. We’re still in the middle of negotiations, but we wanted to give you a sense of where things stand right now.

Yesterday, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary outlined three milestones for us as we work to develop a Bali Roadmap that can lay the foundation for a post-2012 arrangement on climate change:

  • First, formal launch of negotiations on a post-2012 international climate change deal;
  • Secondly, agreement on the main agenda items for these negotiations; and
  • Third, the setting of a timeline to finish these negotiations.

The United States is committed to achieving all of these elements. We are committed to developing a post-2012 arrangement that will slow, stop, and reverse global emissions in order to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, as called for in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We still have some work to do today and tomorrow. We are hopeful, though, that we can find a way to bridge remaining differences and reach consensus on a Bali Roadmap.

On the first point, most want to launch negotiations.

On the second point, the main agenda items, most delegations are comfortable with the four building blocks and most of the supporting elements presented by the co-chairs, meaning mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology.

We still have more work to do to refine the details of these building blocks. We want to make sure that we create the space for an ambitious, comprehensive and effective approach, and that we do not narrow or preclude the options available to us. To take just one example, there is much that we can do to address the critical issue of adaptation, and we seek a roadmap which allows us to further develop these approaches.

On the third point, we hope that we can set an ambitious timeline for concluding these negotiations. We hope to finish the roadmap by 2009 in order to lay the foundation for a post-2012 arrangement.

If we get a sound roadmap in the coming days, we will have a firm foundation for addressing a number of critical issues in the months ahead.

And as we have said, we need to construct an environmentally effective and economically sustainable post-2012 arrangement by 2009.

We want to set a long-term global goal for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

We want to set ambitious and effective mid-term goals and strategies that will put us on a path toward this long-term goal.

We must catalyze the technology transformations that will make emissions reductions economically viable worldwide.

We must develop a comprehensive, global approach. To paraphrase the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments yesterday, our atmosphere doesn’t differentiate among emissions from the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Africa. It doesn’t differentiate among emissions from coal, cars or deforestation. Emissions are global and the solution, to be effective, must be global.

We don’t have to resolve all of these issues, these last items that I mentioned to you, here in Bali. What we need now is a solid Bali Roadmap, one that sets the stage for robust, constructive, and groundbreaking negotiations in the months ahead.

Thank you.

Chairman Connaughton: I just want to give you a brief outline of some of the other activities we have been involved in. We had a very lengthy, and quite constructive, and I think, almost exciting side event yesterday. Some of you were there. We outlined a number of the current and new measures that we are working on in America, as well as some of the initiatives that we are dealing with abroad.

In particular, Assistant Secretary Andrew Karsner at the side event outlined the fact of our fivefold increase in the use of wind and solar energy in America. He pointed to the fact that, I think, 22 percent of our new generation last year, the nameplate capacity came from the renewables. We walked through a number of the programs. We have well over $10 billion going to bring forward low-carbon, clean-energy technologies, and this will backup the investments the people want to make in those.

We talked about the work we are doing internationally to combat deforestation, to prevent illegal logging, and I think that was very new and interesting information for a lot of the people in the room. And I then gave a broad policy overview of where we are going next, in particular, our effort to replace 20 percent of our gasoline, with advanced biofuels and other alternative fuel technologies, coupled with our increasingly enhanced program on tackling the issue of carbon capture and storage from coal fire-powered generation, and a whole series of partnerships we are doing with the states and with local governments, in terms of supporting their efforts in combating greenhouse gases.

In addition, we’ve got a series of high-level dinners and meetings. One was with a group of countries that are interested in exploring ways we can learn from the Montréal protocol, and look at some of the approaches that have worked effectively there, and see how they might inform our discussions as we work our way to the Bali Roadmap. And then others, with a number of constituency groups, heads of environmental groups, as well as some of the business representatives here on some of their thinking on how we can further fill out this roadmap. So, it’s been a very interesting 24 hours. We have learned as much as we have taught, and we look forward to the next 24 hours.

Question: Right in the beginning of these talks you said that the U.S. did not want to be a road block to the negotiations in Bali. The European Union’s chief negotiator said this morning that the U.S. was the main block to progress in Bali, referring to the fact that the U.S. will not subscribe to the same levels of emissions cuts that other developed countries are, referring to the range of emissions cuts in the text. What would you say about that?

Under Secretary Dobriansky: If I may make a few comments on that. First, we want a shared vision here. We want to be able to explore all avenues with other countries to achieve a shared vision. And we are working very hard to achieve consensus. I think yesterday we addressed a number of these points that we are looking at -- how to go forward, very specifically, and in which everyone is on board; that we do have a comprehensive agreement, we have a comprehensive roadmap. So that is the underpinning of what we are trying to achieve here.

Question: We hear that there seemed to be a little bit of a tiff with the French last night. Can you give your side to that?

Under Secretary  Dobriansky: We had a bilateral with the French delegation; I thought it was an excellent exchange. We got into quite a bit of detail about our own respective national programs, many of the steps and measures that we are taking domestically, the kind of mix that we have of mandatory, voluntary tax incentives. We spoke to the French approach and in particular their use of nuclear as part of their equation for dealing with the greenhouse gas emissions. We also had the opportunity to talk about the Major Economies Meeting that the French have offered to host, which we very much welcome.

Chairman Connaughton: I would add, you used a characterization that does not match the meeting that I attended, if that’s what you’re referring to. You didn’t tell us what you’re referring to. But I would note, every meeting we sit in, especially with the number of new ministers, we outline the very aggressive current programs and we describe in detail the new programs that President Bush is implementing, that our states and localities are implementing. And without exception, every time we leave one of those conversations, our counterparts tend to be quite surprised and almost as often impressed because of the lack of awareness of the scale and the ambition of what we are working on in America. And so, even as we talk about mid-term strategies, I think we can see that in some areas our friends in Europe are moving slightly ahead of us, and there are other areas where there’s no question that we have a much higher level of dedication. And that’s what these next two years of conversation needs to be about: each nation or region’s relative strengths in making progress and then understanding each nation’s relative weakness in the ability to make progress and how we can move all of that forward.

Question: You talk about a long-term global goal and we know that you have a meeting planned in Honolulu in the end of January. Right now there are long-term goals on the table with this document. There’s also a mid-term goal, it looks like. What are you waiting for? Why not do it now when the document is on the table? Are you trying to steer this process toward the Major Economies Meeting with respect to actually getting numbers?

Chairman Connaughton: Actually, the main effort here in Bali is to get all of the countries to agree in concept that they will collectively support a long-term global goal for reducing emissions. That’s the first step before you can then sit down and work through the specifics of what that goal might be. We are pleased to have several proposals that are under consideration put forward by the EU, put forward by Japan and put forward by Canada. But that’s going to require a fair amount of deliberation and discussion before you can get all of the countries to agree on what that should be and how it should be described. I think those who are suggesting that you can magically find agreement on a metric when you are just starting negotiations -- that in itself is a blocking effort. We need to free up this conversation so that we can have the deliberation to buy as much consensus and as much collective, constructive engagement as we can. That will provide a lasting and agreed outcome when we reach the end of this process in 2009.

Question: You’ve said several times now that you want a shared vision on a global roadmap. Can you give us a little more detail as to why that is not yet on the table and why we don’t have agreement about that as it stands right now?

Under Secretary Dobriansky: Well, this is part of a discussion here and I think the discussion is moving around the four key areas – mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing. And, as I’ve indicated in my opening comments, we are looking for, with others, ways of expanding in some cases what has already been on the table. Let’s take for example, and let me elaborate a little bit more in the area of adaptation. As I think most of you know, there is an adaptation fund. We are looking at not only support for a fund but looking at very concrete, tangible ways of assisting developing countries in building their capacity in the area of adaptation. When we attended the pre-ministerial, if I had to pick out one area that was very strongly addressed by many developing countries was, we really need to have a broader, more holistic, developmental approach to dealing with such an issue. So, here we are trying to look at not only some of the areas that are on the table which we support, but ways of expanding and addressing some of the very direct concerns.

Chairman Connaughton: Let me make one observation related to that. We actually are looking at a comprehensive agenda for this roadmap. So it’s the four elements with a number of component parts. And we’re glad for that. Because there are a number of component parts, each one of them has to be deliberated and discussed. If we’re only talking about the four subjects, we would have been done weeks ago, but this is good because we need a comprehensive global approach if we’re going to make lasting progress. So the amount of time we’re putting into this meeting is exactly what’s required.

Question: The Secretary General, when opening the high-level segment of this conference, said that the issue of equity was crucial in tackling climate change. Would you endorse that, and if do you endorse that, how does that square with the objections which we’ve heard that your delegation has been raising over issues such as technology transfer and funding adaptation?

Under Secretary Dobriansky: With regard to this issue, we have indicated that we very much support the notion of the character of responsibility should be common to all, but the content should be differentiated. So how does that translate? That translates in looking at -- you have developed countries which have a responsibility. The United States has a responsibility which we’ve spoken to and which I think we’re devoting a significant amount of resources, some $37 billion, to providing, particularly in the area of technologies and access to technologies, development, deployment, commercialization of technologies. At the same time, it’s how do you grapple with the need for all to have responsibility so that we can have an arrangement -- an agreement that is environmentally effective here and also economically sustainable? So that’s what we’re striving to fathom through here. You have also major emerging economies that can have certainly, and should have, a responsibility. And we think that their contribution, just as our contribution, is just as important in terms of the totality. All must act. And then finally, for those that are least developed countries, well this is where, as I’ve just indicated, we are focusing on adaptation. We’re looking at holistic approaches, not only the creation of a fund; but looking at ways of building economic growth, building capacity on the ground which has been a request made by many of the least developed countries participating here.

Chairman Connaughton: I need to specifically speak to technology transfer. The U.S. is one of the largest foreign direct investment countries in the world. And through that foreign direct investment, we are massively transferring technology and skills all around the globe. That is backed-up by very significant investments through our international development bank activities, as well as, by the way, bringing some of those technologies and skills, to build them and make them, bring those technologies back to America. In fact, in the clean energy technology area, America is a net importer of technologies built and put together overseas in this arena. So, when you’re looking at the particular issue that I think you’re referencing, there’s some legalistic issues in the weeds of our negotiations related to what is meant by and how you structure tech transfer. But let there be no doubt, America is engaged in the transfer and receipt of technology on a massive scale.

Question: Two quick questions. One, is there a risk that we will leave here without an agreement? And second, the G-77, as you have heard many times I’m sure, talks about this historical responsibility. This question takes us beyond Friday, but do you believe that the coal and oil that helped make America and Europe so wealthy -- you can ask developing countries to turn away from that without any compensation?

Under Secretary Dobriansky: If I may address the first part of your question, there is a strong desire, I think, by all the participants and the United States included to have a successful outcome here in Bali. We want a Roadmap that charts a path forward, that launches and advances negotiations and that has a deadline. We’ve been working very hard. We want to have consensus and we want to have a shared vision. And I think there’s a strong determination to reach that outcome here.

Chairman Connaughton: I also need to reflect on specifically -- given the urgency of action necessary to, and the scale of emission reductions that must be achieved, it requires all the major producers of greenhouse gases to move forward as aggressively as they can consistent with their national circumstances and in particular with the developing countries, their sustainable development objectives. We can’t wait for any country to act given the scale of what’s needed to be accomplished. And so, we will lead, the U.S. will lead, and we will continue to lead, but leadership also requires others to fall in line and follow. And it’s critically important at this stage, especially after the recent IPCC report that has elevated the global attention to the need for urgent action. Everyone’s got to pull together, and I think the Secretary General emphasized that point very effectively in his opening remarks, and I think he emphasized it with the appropriate sort of acknowledgement and discretion to the needs of the major emerging economies who still have as a central objective to lift their people out of poverty. So, we have to find a way to provide people access to more energy and do it with a much lower environmental footprint and we have to do that together.

Question: Yes, I know we had a late night chat last night and you’re very optimistic that the 20-45, 25-40 rather, would not be in the text this morning and you said that you had a lot of people who are very comfortable with that and it’s obviously appeared in the text today and you’re saying that a lot of people are comfortable where the U.S. are with the negotiating position. But I’ve been speaking to an awful lot of delegations who don’t seem to be very comfortable that things are going very well indeed. And I know Harlan said that you wanted to try and get as much as possible into the major emitters group. I think we’re including things like technology and adaptation in there as well, where you said everything into the major emitters group and I’m just thinking, people are saying, this basically undoes everything that the UNFCCC actually represents and in that case would also put you in breach of your commitment in the G-8+5 in Germany that you would…well, would that actually then put you in breach of the G8 +5 and therefore does it mean that can people actually really trust what the Americans are saying? This is what a lot of people are saying to me.

Chairman Connaughton: I’m sorry, was this a presentation? Okay. Actually, we’re moving forward on the commitments in the G-8 + 5. The G-8 + 5 agreed that we need to focus on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. Within the context of the G-8 +5, we also recognize the need in each of these categories some subcomponents. And I said, we’re very pleased that many of those are reflected in the text along with additional items that countries have brought to the table. In terms of the obligation going forward, under the Framework Convention, all of us are obligated to take actions to mitigate greenhouse gases. So what we’re discussing here is how we achieve that; so what we’re going to do and how we achieve that. It’s also the case, by the way, that every country has a negotiating position, not just the United States. It is also the case that many countries have raised questions and concerns about other countries’ proposals. That’s why this is a negotiation and from what I can tell, there is no alignment of any single country against or for any other country. There are a variety of perspectives being brought in this conversation, that’s why this takes so long. And so, on any given issue, there are a variety of viewpoints and we have to work through them. So, I think we need to understand the complexity of this. The tendency to oversimplify is attractive -- it is not constructive.

Thank you.

Released on December 14, 2007

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