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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2001

U.S. Position on Climate Change

Dr. Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative
U.S. Department of State
Remarks to to the Fundacisn Gas Natural and Spains Ministry of Environment International Seminar on Climate Change: International Agreements and Mitigation Alternatives
Madrid, Spain
November 29, 2001

Thank you for the opportunity to offer remarks on the U.S. position on climate change this morning at this important seminar sponsored by the Fundaciůn Gas Natural and Spainís Ministry of Environment. I am delighted to be in Spain. As President Bush said in his October 11 National Day Message for Spain: "Spain and the United States share deep bonds of history, friendship, and common values. The strong support we have received from your government and people in this difficult period has reinforced these ties. We reaffirm our determination to defeat the terrorist threat to civilization and our way of life. The people of the United States look forward to a strong partnership with Spain in the days and years to come, founded in our deep commitment to advancing human rights and democratic ideals and ensuring peace and security in the world."

I want to address two topics this morning: (1) the U.S. perspective on the results of the recently completed Seventh Session of Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-7) held at Marrakech, Morocco, and (2) the status of the Cabinet-level review of U.S. climate change policy.

At the resumed COP-6 in Bonn in July and at COP-7 in Marrakech, the U.S. indicated that while we did not support Kyoto, we would not discourage countries from finalizing the Kyoto rules -- other countries must act in their own interests -- although we would protect our national interests at both of these meetings. At Marrakech, we worked constructively with other Parties while continuing to engage and defend U.S. interests on Convention issues, as well as Kyoto issues that raised legal or Convention precedents.

In Marrakech, the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change resolved the major differences on outstanding issues from Bonn. Three key decisions at Marrakech included:

  • The decision to postpone until after the Kyoto Protocol enters into force any decision on whether there should be legally binding consequences for non-compliance;
  • Regardless of whether ultimately there are binding consequences, to allow a Party to use the Kyoto Mechanisms even if it has not subjected itself to such consequences; and
  • To provide Russia with a greater ability to use sinks to meet its target than had been agreed in Bonn.

Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky, the head of the U.S. delegation at COP-7, emphasized in her closing statement that "our not blocking consensus on the adoption of the rules for the Kyoto Protocol does not change the United Statesí view that the Protocol is not sound policy. Among other things, the emissions targets are not scientifically based or environmentally effective, given the global nature of greenhouse gas emissions and the Protocolís exclusion of developing countries from its emissions limitation requirements, as well as its failure to address black soot and tropospheric ozone." In addition, the decisions reached at Marrakech on the Kyoto Protocol rules -- "including arbitrary restrictions on both the Kyoto mechanisms and credit for carbon sequestration -- reinforce our position that the Kyoto Protocol is just not workable for the United States."

Let me now turn to the status of the Cabinet-level review of U.S. climate change policy.

In March, when President Bush announced that the U.S. would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, he committed to addressing the climate change issue in a manner that protects our environment, consumers, and economy. He directed his Cabinet to review our climate change policy and to make recommendations for new approaches -- both domestic and international -- to address this complex issue. He also directed the Cabinet to consider approaches that:

  1. are science-based,
  2. encourage research breakthroughs that lead to technological innovation,
  3. take advantage of the power of markets,
  4. encourage global participation,
  5. ensure continued economic growth and prosperity for citizens throughout the world, and
  6. are consistent with the long-term goal of the Framework Convention of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

The review process is continuing, and President Bush and his Administration have made several interim announcements, including: (1) the Presidentís National Energy Policy in May; (2) the Presidentís June 11 speech providing an interim report on the climate change policy reviewís progress, including the announcement of three new initiatives -- the National Climate Change Research Initiative, the National Climate Change Technology Initiative, and Promoting Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere and Beyond; (3) the Presidentís July 13 announcement of the first set of actions the Cabinet had taken to advance progress of the three initiatives; and (4) additional activities at the sub-Cabinet level.

Although it has been mischaracterized by many, the Presidentís National Energy Policy announced in May contains more than 40 recommendations -- out of the 105 total -- to promote energy efficiency and conservation and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through the use of alternative, renewable, and advanced forms of energy, including biomass, clean coal technologies, geothermal energy, hydropower, nuclear, solar, and wind. The National Energy Policy also encourages the development of long-term alternative energy technologies, such as hydrogen and fusion energy. These recommendations include the following:

  • Efficiency and Conservation Measures

-- Promoting the use of combined heat and power through tax incentives and other initiatives.

-- Reviewing and providing recommendations on establishing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFe) standards as well as other market-based approaches to increase the national average fuel economy of new motor vehicles.

-- Directing all Federal agencies to use technological advances to better protect our environment.

-- Promoting energy efficiency, including expanding our Energy Star program, which is a public-private partnership to promote energy efficiency in buildings and consumer products.

-- Conserving energy at our Federal facilities, which will cut greenhouse gas emissions in Federal buildings by 30% below 1990 levels by 2010.

-- Improving and expanding appliance standards.

-- Promoting traffic congestion mitigation technologies.

-- Reducing demand for transportation fuels by establishing a ground freight management program.

  • Alternative, Renewable, and Clean Forms of Energy

-- Increasing Americaís use of renewable and alternative energy through expanded research and development programs, expedited geothermal lease processing, and new and enhanced tax incentives -- including tax credits for the purchase of new hybrid or fuel-cell vehicles and residential solar energy equipment, for new landfill methane projects, and for electricity produced using wind and biomass.

-- Promoting new construction of nuclear capacity that could significantly reduce future greenhouse gas emissions.

-- Expanding the use of natural gas.

-- Developing a market-based three pollutant strategy to establish a flexible, market-based program to significantly reduce and cap emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from electric power generators that will provide not only significant public health benefits, but also ancillary carbon benefits.

-- Increasing research in clean coal technologies -- including expenditures of some $2 billion over 10 years.

Legislation implementing many of these provisions has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently being considered by the U.S. Senate, and we hope legislation will be enacted in the very near future.

On June 11, in a speech in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Bush provided an interim report on the climate change policy reviewís progress. He summarized the kinds of briefings the Cabinet had received on the science of climate change, and highlighted some areas where more scientific work needs to be done to reduce the uncertainties of how and how much the climate could change in the future, and what that means for us.

The President also announced, as I mentioned earlier, three initiatives that build upon the nearly $4 billion that the United States spends annually on climate change-related activities and programs:

  • Advancing the Science of Climate Change through the U.S. Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI) to set priorities for additional investments in climate change research and to fully fund priority research areas that are underfunded or need to be accelerated. This is to build upon nearly $1.7 billion the U.S. Government spends annually on climate change research. This initiative includes up to $25 million and calls on other developed countries to provide matching funds to help build climate observation systems in developing countries.
  • Advancing Technology to Address Climate Change through the National Climate Change Technology Initiative (NCCTI) to improve climate change research and development, enhance basic research, strengthen applied research through public-private partnerships, develop improved technologies for measuring and monitoring gross and net greenhouse gas emissions, and support demonstration projects for new cutting-edge technologies.
  • Promoting Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere and Beyond to build partnerships within the Western Hemisphere and throughout the world and identify areas for enhanced cooperation in climate change activities. In the Presidentís Plan, this cooperation has five components:

-- Building on the June 7, 2001 CONCAUSA declaration with seven Central America countries, which calls for "intensified cooperative efforts to address climate change."

-- Strengthening and expanding scientific research within the Western Hemisphere to explore opportunities for collaboration through existing partnerships with research institutes, such as the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research and others, to better understand regional impacts of climate change.

-- Revitalizing U.S. efforts to assist developing countries to acquire the tools and expertise needed to measure and monitor emissions, and to identify and act on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

-- Promoting the export of climate-friendly, clean energy technologies, building on the Presidentís National Energy Policy.

-- Promoting sustainable forest conservation and land use in the developing world.

On July 13, President Bush described further progress made in the review process, and announced the first set of actions the Cabinet had taken to advance progress of the three initiatives.

First, with respect to the CCRI, he announced that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will invest more than $120 million over the next three years in four areas:

  • Carbon Cycle (more than $50 million, in addition to current activities) -- Recognizing the key role carbon dioxide plays as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and as a key constituent in human, plant, and animal life in the biosphere, NASA is selecting 80 new projects to conduct remote sensing-oriented research on how carbon cycles through the Earthís system and influences climate change.
  • Water and Energy Cycle ($20 million) -- To improve understanding of the global cycle of water and energy, particularly the roles that clouds and water vapor play in climate change.
  • Chemistry-Climate Connection ($22 million) -- To help determine whether aerosols have a net warming or cooling effect, and whether climate change will hamper the recovery of the ozone layer.
  • Computational Modeling ($10 million) -- To improve the computer simulation of a broad range of physical and biological climate change systems, taking advantage of ever-increasing computational capabilities of new computer models and hardware.

In addition, on July 19 the United States and Italy agreed to undertake joint research on climate change in several critical areas, including atmospheric studies related to climate, low carbon technologies, global and regional climate modeling, and carbon cycle research. The Administration has also taken steps to initiate cooperative efforts with Japan, and on October 18 the U.S. National Science Foundation and the European Commission signed an Implementing Arrangement for Cooperative Activities covering scientific cooperation in the field of environmental research, including climate change.

Second, with respect to the NCCTI, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed $25 million to a number of projects to develop enhanced carbon sequestration technologies, and plans to leverage approximately $50 million in contributions from the private sector and foreign governments. Two initial projects under this effort include:

  • The Nature Conservancy Project -- DOE will work in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and companies such as General Motors Corp. and American Electric Power to study how carbon dioxide can be stored more effectively by changing land use practices and investing in forestry projects. The project will use newly developed aerial and satellite-based technology to study forestry projects in Brazil and Belize to determine their carbon sequestration potential, and will also test new software models to predict how soil and vegetation store carbon at sites in the United States and abroad.
  • International Team of Energy Companies -- DOE will work in collaboration with nine energy companies from six nations to develop breakthrough technologies to reduce the cost of capturing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion and safely storing it underground.

And third, the initial stages of cooperation in the Western Hemisphere and beyond include:

  • Debt-for-Nature Swaps with El Salvador, Belize, and Thailand -- On July 12, 2001, the U.S. Government signed an agreement with El Salvador to generate over $14 million in funds to conserve tropical forests, leveraging each dollar in debt relief for nearly two dollars in tropical forest conservation in El Salvador, including protection of El Salvadorís cloud forest, which is globally outstanding in terms of its biological diversity. The U.S. Government also completed a debt-for-nature swap with Belize on August 2 that will reduce Belizeís debt obligation by some $1.4 million and that will leverage $9 million over 26 years into local tropical forest conservation efforts in exchange for Belizeís protection of 23,000 acres of vulnerable forestland in the Maya Mountain Maribe Corridor, which includes 16 miles of pristine Caribbean coastline. Finally, the U.S. signed a debt agreement with Thailand on September 19 to reduce Thailandís debt by $1.2 million and to leverage $9.5 million over 28 years into local forest conservation activities. Similar efforts with Peru, Panama, Jamaica, and the Philippines have also been approved, pending provision of additional funding by the U.S. Congress.
  • Climate Change Cooperation Among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico --On June 29, 2001, the Environment Ministers of Canada and Mexico and Governor Whitman, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pledged "to explore further opportunities for market-based approaches for carbon sequestration, energy efficiency, and renewable energy in North America." The U.S. already has significant climate change collaborative efforts in place with Mexico, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Interior, and the EPA, and we anticipate that these programs will continue. It is expected that the additional participation of Canada will complement the existing U.S.-Mexico work.
  • Scientific Cooperation Among the U.S., Mexico and South America -- The U.S. Department of Commerce, through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation are bringing together more than 100 scientists from the U.S., Mexico, and South America to conduct experiments based out of Hualtulco, Mexico for the Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Change experiment, the so-called EPIC experiment. This work will produce a better understanding of the interaction of stratus clouds, precipitation, and cool ocean surface temperatures by studying stratus cloud decks located off the west coast of South America. Achieving the EPIC objectives is expected to resolve a number of certain difficulties in the performance of coupled atmosphere-ocean models.

These initial actions are just the beginning of the cooperation that will take place under the three initiatives. As the elements of these initiatives are worked out in more detail, we anticipate there will be additional announcements that further reaffirm that the Bush Administration will continue to play a leadership role in addressing the long-term challenge of climate change both at home and throughout the world.

The Kyoto Protocol is not the only answer to the challenge of global climate change. We believe that our approach must be flexible, and must be based on global participation that takes into account the multifaceted activities that different nations are undertaking. President Bush has pledged to be creative -- we are committed to protecting our environment and improving our economy, to acting at home and in collaboration throughout the world, and we look forward to continuing to work with our friends and allies as we address the challenge of climate change. Thank you very much. 

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