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Energy Security and Climate Change - An International Overview

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Remarks at Business Roundtable: Opportunities in the Caribbean Renewable Energy Sector
Nassau, Bahamas
July 24, 2008

Thank you, Ambassador Siegel, for that kind introduction and for hosting this important conference on the Caribbean Renewable Energy Sector. I commend you for your outstanding service. Yesterday’s ceremony was most memorable. You and Stephanie are simply wonderful. Ambassador Johnson of Jamaica, Ambassador Ferguson of New Zealand, Rob Mosbacher of OPIC and my other colleagues from the U.S. Government, it is very good to see you all here.

Special thanks to Andy Karsner, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Energy, who has worked tirelessly to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in the United States and across the globe I’ve had the great pleasure of working with him on a wide range of energy and environment issues.

And, I also want to recognize again Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii. The Governor has spearheaded some groundbreaking work on renewable energy and also was generous enough to host the 2nd Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change in Honolulu earlier this year.

I want to also thank our Bahamian hosts and Ministers. It’s wonderful to be back in Nassau and to have been with the Prime Minister last night at Ambassador Siegel’s residence.

The fact that this issue has drawn together such high-level participation of policy-makers from the United States, from Caribbean nations, and island states across the globe conveys a great deal about our shared hopes and expectations for renewable energy and the broader questions of energy security and global climate change.

These two intertwined issues are critical to our foreign policy. As President Bush said when he addressed the inaugural Major Economies Meeting last year, “energy security and climate change are two of the great challenges of our time.”

I would like to begin by offering an international perspective on energy security and climate change. Recent movement on the global front gives us all cause to be optimistic.

Opening a New Chapter on Climate Change

In Bali last December, the United States joined the other 191 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in opening a critical new chapter in climate diplomacy. The result of that conference was the Bali Action Plan, which set us on a course to develop a new global post-2012 climate regime by the end of 2009.

What made the Bali Action Plan possible was a refreshingly new consensus on what it will take to combat climate change. This consensus revolves around two concepts:

First, any future global arrangement needs to be environmentally effective, which means it has to include all of the world’s major economies. The world today is a vastly different place now than it was in 1992, when the UNFCCC was established. In 1990, OECD countries were emitting more greenhouse gases than non-OECD countries; today, the reverse is true. Even if the United States were to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero immediately, global emissions would continue to rise over the next 50 years if developing countries failed to also reduce their emissions. So we need to include all Major Economies – developed and developing – if the post-2012 agreement is to be environmentally effective.

Second, the next regime needs to be economically sustainable. It has to recognize that national circumstances vary and that nations must be able to pursue higher standards of living and development for their citizens. Economic development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are not mutually exclusive.

We also have an important new vehicle for moving our diplomatic efforts forward. In May 2007, President Bush announced, and the G8 endorsed, an initiative to advance the UNFCCC negotiations called the Major Economies Meetings on Energy Security and Climate Change. In September, we convened 17 economies – representing 80 percent of the world’s economic output, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions – to begin tackling some of the critical issues that will be essential to a future agreement. The Major Economies met again in Honolulu, Paris, and Seoul, culminating in an unprecedented Leaders Meeting two weeks ago, alongside the G-8 Summit in Toyako, Japan.

There, leaders set out some important details on what we will do in the long-term, mid-term, and near-term. We still have our work cut out for us to reach our December 2009 deadline, but the Major Economies Leaders Meeting was a very important step in the right direction. And, all agreed to hold another Major Economies Leaders Meeting on the margins of next year’s G8 Summit in Italy.

The Toyako G8 Summit also led to some important breakthroughs. G8 leaders underscored the need for all major economies to undertake meaningful, binding steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of a post-2012 climate regime. G8 leaders also agreed to seek international consensus on a global goal of reducing emissions at least 50% by 2050, recognizing that this will require major technological change. In this regard, G-8 leaders committed to dedicate annually $10 billion to technology research and development and to support the new international Clean Technology Fund, to which the United States is seeking to contribute $2 billion.

These developments give cause for optimism, but there is much to be done, both in the negotiations and on the ground, to turn our political commitments into practical results.

Renewables and Energy Security

The United States is not alone in recognizing the necessity of bold new approaches towards energy security. Here in the Caribbean, high energy costs, limited fossil fuel capabilities, and a heavy reliance on foreign sources of energy are significant barriers to sustainable development.

Renewable energy will play a key role in overcoming these barriers and addressing our shared concerns about energy security and climate change. We are witnessing the emergence of a new clean technology revolution, and Caribbean countries can do much to advance, and benefit from, these changes in the years ahead.

Earlier this year, I co-authored an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal with Jim Woolsey, a former U.S. Government official and an energy expert, on the urgent need to end America’s addiction to oil. We wrote of our shared experience at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) in March of this year. WIREC was a remarkable event, with over 9,000 participants from all corners of the globe and from the public and private sectors joining to discuss the technologies and policies that will facilitate the spread of renewable energy worldwide.

At the conference, President Bush underscored the tremendous potential of renewable energy: “ I fully suspect that this conference will seem unbelievably outdated within a decade,” he said, “that people will marvel about how far technology has helped change our habits and change the world.”

President Bush also spoke unequivocally about America’s commitment to expanding energy security, investing in renewable energy and working with our friends and neighbors to advance these goals – in concert with reducing greenhouse gas emissions – for our collective benefit.

We are making progress in the United States. Since 2001, wind energy production in the U.S. has increased by more than 300 percent and our solar energy capacity has doubled. Our use of biofuels is growing, with ethanol now accounting for five percent of U.S. gasoline supplies.

One of the important outcomes of WIREC was the “Washington International Action Plan,” a collection of over 140 pledges from WIREC participants. These pledges ranged from small – an American college committing to offset 75% of its electricity usage with wind energy credits – to large –a pledge from the Government of Turkey to increase the share of solar and wind power from 0.5% to 10% of their overall electricity mix. The common theme in all of the pledges was concrete, practical action aimed at making a difference on the ground. The United States, for example, pledged to launch a $10 billion loan guarantee program to stimulate investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

A number of excellent pledges came from the Caribbean region:

  • The Government of Jamaica pledged to increase the share of renewables in their electricity mix to 10% by 2010 and 15% by 2020. 
  • The Government of the Republic of Haiti pledged to pursue new national legislation that would help foster the development of renewable energy.
  • A non-governmental organization in Dominica pledged to work toward the development of a wind project that could provide up to 25% of the island’s energy needs.
  • The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis pledged to pursue a multi-year initiative on geothermal, wind, biomass, and efficiency, which they estimated could save them $37 million in diesel fuel expenses.

Regarding this last pledge, the United States is proud to be cooperating with Brazil to help ensure sustainable biofuels provide a path to greater energy security in St. Kitts and Nevis and elsewhere in the region, with Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador. Through the partnership, the world’s two largest ethanol producers are working together to promote biofuels as an alternate energy resource and, in the process of doing so, strengthening the relations between the U.S. and Brazil.

As we prepare for UN Climate Conferences in Poland this December and Copenhagen next December, energy security and climate change will undoubtedly remain front and center on the foreign policy agenda.

The recent agreements in Bali and Toyako, the pledges from WIREC, and this morning’s launch of the International Partnership for Energy Development in Island Nations, show exactly what we can do when we commit to work together to improve our energy security, grow our economies, and protect our planet for present and future generations.

The United States looks forward to continued cooperation on these fronts, beginning with a successful conference today.

Thank you.

Released on August 8, 2008

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