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Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Remarks to the Sustainable Development Forum 2008
New York City
May 2, 2008

Thank you Mario. Good morning. I’d like to thank the United Nations Association of Brazil for convening this Sustainable Development Forum. I am delighted to be here on behalf of Secretary Rice.

Over the past seven years, the international community has grappled with some of the most pressing sustainable development issues of our time: safe drinking water and sanitation, improved health care, food security, biodiversity, energy security, and climate change.

Much has been said about sustainable development over these years, but more importantly, much has been done. In 2002, I went to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which was a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. In Johannesburg, I witnessed an important evolution: the world turned the corner from identifying the critical problems we are facing to identifying solutions.Sun setting behind wind turbine. [AP Images]

Indeed, a number of the programs inspired by the Johannesburg Summit have delivered concrete results that are changing lives. I’ll give you just a few examples: In Johannesburg, we announced the President’s Water for the Poor Initiative. This three-year, $1.7 billion effort has supported over 100 water projects around the globe, giving more than 25 million people improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Also at the World Summit, the United States joined dozens of governments and non-governmental organizations in launching the Global Village Energy Partnership, which increases access to modern energy services across the globe. I want to particularly recognize Brazil’s active participation in this initiative, through their visionary Luz Para Todos, or “Lights for All” program, which has provided electricity to over 1.5 million people to date.

This spirit of partnership and implementation carries over into our efforts to address climate change. Armed with the recent significant findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leaders around the world are addressing this growing challenge head on.

Last December's UN Climate Conference in Bali opened a new chapter in climate diplomacy. In Bali, the United States joined the other 191 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in forging consensus on the “Bali Action Plan,” an achievable roadmap toward a new multilateral arrangement on climate change.

Today, I want to highlight three key issues that will be essential as we work to develop a global, post-2012 climate regime: agreement by developed and developing countries to cut emissions, a technological revolution to advance clean energy, and action to counter deforestation.

First, in order to be both environmentally effective and economically sustainable, a post-2012 approach must include meaningful participation from all major economies. The United States will do its part. Two weeks ago, President Bush announced a new national goal of stopping the growth in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and reducing emissions thereafter.

However, even if the United States and other developed countries cut emissions to zero, we would not be able to effectively address the challenge of climate change unless developing countries joined in cutting emissions. The Bali Roadmap also underscored the key principle of common but differentiated approaches, which we endorse. In other words, we all have a common responsibility, but the actual content of what we must do will differ, contingent on our respective capacities and capabilities.

Bali recognized that fact and, for the first time in such negotiations, the developing world joined developed countries in agreeing to consider, in the words of the Bali Action Plan, “measurable, reportable and verifiable” actions to mitigate climate change. This is a critical step forward. The Bali Action Plan also recognized that economic and social development and poverty eradication are global priorities. We must develop our economies and societies while protecting the environment – this is the core meaning of sustainable development.

In support of the negotiations launched in Bali, President Bush initiated a series of Major Economies Meetings on Energy Security and Climate Change. Since last September, seventeen major economies -- including Brazil -- have met in Washington, Honolulu, and Paris to grapple with some of the tough issues that will be fundamental to a future climate regime.

The basic premise of this effort is that we can make an important contribution to the UN Framework Convention discussions by pulling together a relatively small group that represents some 80% of the world’s economic output, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Secondly, we need a technological revolution. We will not be able to cut the ties between carbon emissions and economic growth without developing and deploying transformative technologies across the globe.Clean energy technologies like nuclear power, clean coal, wind, solar, and biofuels are essential to addressing climate change.

The United States Government has allocated $22.1 billion since 2001 to research, develop, and deploy cleaner energy technologies. And, at last September’s Major Economies Meeting, President Bush called for the creation of a new international clean technology fund to make technologies more widely available in the developing world.

American government and industry must lead the way on clean energy solutions, but our nation alone cannot solve the problem of global climate change and oil dependence. Nowhere is this more evident than with our cooperation with Brazil on biofuels. In March 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the development and use of biofuels.

The U.S. and Brazil share a common belief that climate change requires a variety of solutions, and we believe sustainable biofuels are a very promising way to increase our energy security, grow our economies, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As you know, a number of questions have been raised recently regarding the sustainability of biofuels. I’d like to briefly address some of these.

First, we share worldwide concern over rising food prices and we are actively working to keep prices down and meet urgent food needs worldwide. However, we believe that biofuels are only one of a number of factors contributing to rising food prices. Increased production of biofuels accounted for only 3% of the 43% increase in global food prices over the past 12 months, although they had a larger effect on corn prices. The increasing standard of living and improved diets in many developing countries, while an historic achievement, is no doubt also contributing to increasing food costs.

Yesterday, President Bush called on Congress to provide an additional $770 million to support food aid and development programs. Second, our national biofuels policy not only calls for a dramatic increase in our use of biofuels but also mandates that we rapidly accelerate the use of advanced and second generation biofuels. Under the recently passed Energy Independence and Security Act, 9 billion gallons of renewable fuels must be sold in the U.S. in 2008, increasing to 36 billion gallons in 2022.

Also by 2022, nearly 60% of these 36 billion gallons must come from advanced or cellulosic biofuels, with the aim of minimizing food security and environmental concerns. In other words, nearly 60% of our biofuels must come from sources other than corn ethanol by 2022. The Energy Independence and Security Act also mandates that all new biofuels production facilities must achieve certain thresholds of “lifecycle” greenhouse gas emission reductions. For example, biofuels from new corn ethanol facilities must emit at least 20% fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline or diesel fuel. For second generation fuels like cellulosic biofuels, this threshold rises to 60%.

To meet these targets, the U.S. Government is investing heavily to research and develop next generation cellulosic biofuels. We have also established a U.S. Government interagency sustainability group to facilitate strategic planning, coordinate federal activities, and develop domestic sustainability goals and benchmarks.

We are also taking the lessons we have learned domestically and working with our international partners to apply them internationally. The United States actively participates in sustainability discussions in the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), International Biofuels Forum (IBF), and many other fora.

My third point today is that, as we work on a multilateral climate regime and work to foster a technological revolution,we also must find a way to address tropical deforestation. Deforestation and land use change constitutes a significant share -- around 20 percent – of global greenhouse gas emissions.

President Bush believes strongly we can meet multiple objectives—supporting livelihoods, protecting the environment, promoting biodiversity, and improving our carbon footprint—through sustainable forest management and conservation. For this reason, the President has asked Congress to increase resources to address deforestation -- building on a history of strong leadership in promoting forest conservation, combating illegal logging, and promoting sustainable management of forests around the world.

We are also working to address deforestation through public-private partnerships. One such initiative is the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, a partnership with African, European, and North American governments as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations and the private sector to promote economic development and natural resource conservation in the Congo Basin. Again, because of a recognition of the importance of forests to global greenhouse gas abatement, the U.S. agreed to include "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing countries", or “REDD”, in the Bali Action Plan.

Over the next two years we look forward to working with Brazil and other countries to find the best methodologies to measure and monitor emissions from deforestation. We will also learn from the wealth of new projects coming on line that test out new mechanisms for encouraging sustainable forest management and conservation.

We have come a long way on sustainable development since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the 2002 Johannesburg Summit. The spirit of implementation and action that has grown out of these events is visible in international discussions of climate change as well. As we begin this new chapter in climate diplomacy, we look forward to identifying the creative and collaborative solutions that will protect our planet and all of its inhabitants for future generations.

Thank you very much.

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