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Toward an Environmentally Effective and Economically Sustainable Global Climate Deal

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Chatham House
London, England
June 17, 2008

Thank you, Dr. Drexhage, for the kind introduction. It is an honor to speak at Chatham House and to participate in this important forum. Thank you for organizing this timely gathering.

I have three main points to make this morning in addressing the question posed by our organizers: What is needed, from the U.S. perspective, “for a global climate deal to stick”?

First, the United States wants a successful and comprehensive arrangement on climate change for the post-2012 period. We want a deal by December 2009. We are actively engaged in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, we support the Bali Roadmap, and we want a new approach to address the key elements of the Bali Roadmap: mitigation, financing, adaptation, and technology. We also support action aimed at addressing deforestation and land misuse.

Second, developed countries alone cannot solve climate change. If our efforts are to be environmentally effective and sustainable, all major economies must commit to action that will cut global emissions.

Third, the basic tenets of the U.S. approach to climate negotiations are bipartisan. They will extend beyond the Bush Administration.

Climate change, as President Bush has said, is one of the great challenges of our time. The United States is prepared to enter into binding international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- as part of a global agreement in which all major economies undertake binding international commitments -- recognizing that these commitments would be differentiated according to national characteristics.

We are taking action at home to slow, stop, and reverse emissions growth. And we are making progress. If you look at trends in absolute emissions of greenhouse gases you’ll see that the United States compares well.

The European Union and America, for example, have comparable emissions trends for the period of the Bush Administration. Net greenhouse gas emissions 2000-2006 in the United States decreased three percent. Here in the UK, they decreased 2.9%. In the EU-15, they decreased 0.8%. In the EU-27, they increased slightly, by 0.2%. Following these trends is important; we can learn a lot from each other.

The plan we developed at the UN climate conference in Bali focusing on mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology, is a big step forward. We remain flexible and optimistic.

The Major Economies Meetings on Energy Security and Climate Change seek to identify common ground in support of the discussions under the UNFCCC. This process offers an opportunity to build the kind of consensus among the biggest economies that we will need to achieve an effective global agreement. Significantly, the 17 economies participating in the Major Economies Meetings comprise over 80% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, over 80% of the world's consumption of energy, and over 80% of the world's economy.

We are looking forward to a strong statement from Major Economies leaders in July. We hope, in particular, that the leaders can reach agreement on a shared long-term global greenhouse gas reduction goal and on a stated willingness to have midterm national goals and plans reflected in binding international commitments, while recognizing that those commitments would vary by country according to demographics, energy mix, or other national circumstances.

The world in 2008 is a different place than it was in 1990, just before negotiations began for the UNFCCC. Thus, if we are to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, commitments from all major economies are necessary. That’s the environmental reality.

In 1990, OECD countries emitted more greenhouse gas emissions than non-OECD countries. In 2008, the opposite is true. In 1990, the United States was the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Now, according to a study from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, this may no longer be the case.

Just as global emissions have evolved, so too has the global economy. In 1990, capital and investment was concentrated among developed countries, but in 2008, capital is spread across the globe. What this means is that developing countries are in a stronger position today to invest in climate-friendly technologies than ever before.

If we exempt major emerging economies from mitigating emissions, it will be impossible to reverse emissions growth globally. And, in my country, the political consensus among all the parties is that, for any agreement to be environmentally effective and economically sustainable, it must include all major economies.

We know that among the major economies and among all countries, there are different national circumstances. So while the character of the commitment may be common, the content of those commitments will vary from country to country. That is, the U. S. commitment will look different from the commitments of China, India, Brazil, or South Africa, which will, in turn, be different from those of small island states. We fully recognize and support the important principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities that was reiterated in the Bali Action Plan.

What’s essential is that each country contributes to a common long-term greenhouse gas reduction goal in a way that meets its needs for economic growth and sustainable development.

During this period of political transition in the United States, it is important to point out that the U.S. view that all major economies must take action to cut emissions is longstanding and bipartisan. As one leading U.S. presidential candidate said, “If we’re going to solve global climate change, we can’t solve it by ourselves…China is going to be the largest greenhouse gas producer soon…”

The other leading U.S. presidential candidate has also highlighted emissions from major emerging economies and said he would consider if necessary “a cost equalization mechanism to apply to those countries that decline to enact a similar cap” [as the United States].

The pieces of legislation that are under active consideration in the U.S. Congress to regulate carbon dioxide contain provisions to ensure that major emerging economies cut emissions. The United States has been consistent on this. In fact, in 1997, the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 that the United States should not be a signatory to any agreement which would limit emissions for developed countries without emissions limitations for developing countries.

We should work to ensure that all major economies are contributing to a global reduction goal – and that all major economies can be fully supportive of a new post-2012 approach. A post-2012 arrangement on climate change must also recognize the critical role of technology. The United States is joining partners around the world in accelerating support for renewable sources of energy, advanced nuclear technologies, and emerging coal-fired power plant technologies so that we can capture and store carbon.

Last September, President Bush called for the creation of a new international fund to make clean energy technologies more widely available in the developing world. The President has requested authorization from Congress for a U.S. contribution of $2 billion over the next three years to the Clean Technology Fund, and the United Kingdom and Japan have also pledged substantial support. Late last month, we had a successful meeting in Germany which included developed and developing countries and resulted in strong agreement on the parameters of how the Fund will work, how it will be governed, and how it will bring benefits to emerging economies.

We are also working to place new emphasis on public transit and vehicle efficiency standards, including in developing countries where transportation demand is rising rapidly. And advanced biofuels, which use non-food feedstocks, will reduce concerns about competition between food and fuel. Compared with gasoline, these advanced biofuels may cut carbon emissions by up to 86%.

These new ways to produce and use energy will deliver the deep cuts that are needed across the world.

Public investment in research and development is lowering the costs of emerging technologies and making them market-ready.

The United States and the EU have joined in proposing a World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha agreement to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers for climate friendly goods and services. Given how significant these barriers are in increasing the costs of clean technology transfer, we are actively working to include in the Major Economies Leaders statement an expression of our shared determination to eliminate such barriers in the WTO.

Our post-2012 arrangement should recognize that the actions countries take at the national level are critical – particularly, in creating good investment climates and ensuring good governance so that private investment can flow.

In conclusion, our new agreement must ensure that developed countries do their part. The United States will do its share. We have said we will undertake legally binding obligations as part of an agreement. But to have truly an environmentally effective agreement, we believe that all major economies need to undertake binding international commitments.

To have an effective framework, it is imperative that all major economies contribute to a global goal of deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts, and at the same time respect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Our new arrangement must also ensure that we are facilitating, not restricting, economic growth and investment in clean technologies and supporting new, innovative financing strategies.

An agreement that is environmentally effective and economically sustainable will be consistent with the conditions that both political parties of our Congress have set and will address the profound challenge of climate change for generations to come.

I believe that our efforts this year can put us on the path toward a cooperative agreement --- and a path to addressing this critical challenge. Thank you.

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