Council on Environmental Quality Conference CallPaula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Jim Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Conference Call Briefing With the White House
December 3, 2008
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Thank you very much, and good morning, everybody -- or evening, depending where you are. Paula Dobriansky and I are here to give you an overview of both sort of the policy setting, so where we are in terms of programs and actions, which is what I will do -- and then what's coming up in the context of the climate change discussions and negotiations in Poznan over the course of the next two weeks.
As most of you know, President Bush initiated a process over a year ago called the major economies process, which is an effort to bring together 16 of the largest economies, both developed and developing, to see if we can find common areas of actions and work through some of the more difficult issues that surround reaching future agreements in the international context related to climate change.
We had a very successful leaders meeting in July at the time of the G8 in Japan this year. And that produced a declaration by the 16 leaders in which we actually made progress on a number of very important issues. And the meeting was so successful that Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy, invited everyone to continue the process and indicated that Italy would host the next leaders meeting next July. So we have been working toward creating an agenda for that set of activities.
On the domestic front, as a matter of policy and substance, the U.S. has come an enormous distance in laying out its midterm strategies. This includes a series of new mandates, a dramatic increase in the available incentives and funding for new technologies, and then a whole series of work programs on cooperative actions in different sectors.
As the U.S. comes to the meetings in Poland, the U.S. was second only to France in its performance in addressing greenhouse gases since President Bush took office. Between 2000 and the end of 2006, according to U.N. data, the U.S. enjoyed a net reduction of greenhouse gases of 3 percent. Now, that progress -- we hope to sustain that progress, and we will do that through a series of mandates that President Bush called for and are now in law in America.
We have new mandatory fuel economy standards for vehicles. We have new mandatory renewable fuel standards for fuels, which will be carbon weighted. We have a whole new series of appliance efficiency regulations coming on board. The U.S. will have one of the most stringent lighting efficiency requirements of any nation on Earth. Government operations have to dramatically improve their efficiency. And then we've been working with the states on renewable power mandates, as well as on new mandatory building codes.
In addition, the U.S. -- with U.S. leadership and strong leadership by several key developing countries, we are going to be mandating an early phase-out of HCFCs, which are very potent greenhouse gases. That early phase-out, which includes commitments by China and India, is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least as much as the Kyoto Protocol, and perhaps three or four times more than that. And so we are putting in new regulations in the U.S. to meet that new international commitment.
On the incentives side, the U.S. now has increased its budget for technology research and development from about $1.7 billion in 2001. The U.S. technology spending annually now is well in excess of $4 billion. But on top of that, the U.S. now has about $67 billion -- that's with a "b" -- in new loan authority and loan guarantee authority for low-carbon technologies. So that is the most dramatic and the largest commitment to helping to finance low-carbon technologies anywhere on Earth.
In addition, at the international level, President Bush has initiated, and we now have several contributors, a new clean energy technology fund. And we are hoping to raise at least $10 billion for that fund to support international projects, and we hope that that will be a topic of discussion in Poznan.
Finally, before turning it over to Paula, there's a whole series of early actions that we're working on in addition to the negotiations that will be occurring in Poznan. So there will be discussion related to technology financing, to work in key industrial sectors, as well as trying to get common systems of measuring greenhouse gas emissions and sinks.
So that's the overview of what we're bringing to the table. It's highly consequential. Almost all of it is now in law in America, so it's not even a question of whether these policies will exist -- they now are in law. And we hope that will be a good catalyst for inspiring other countries to round out their portfolios.
So with that I'll turn it over to Paula.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Thank you so much. First, Poznan, I think all of you know, marks the midway point of the two-year Bali action plan and that parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change launched last December, and it's a key step toward the shared goal of developing a new global climate architecture in Copenhagen for next December.
In Poznan, our highest priority will be to set the stage for an effective outcome in 2009. And what this means specifically is that we hope that Poznan can produce a deeper understanding of parties' priorities and expectations, and then also our objective there is to reach consensus on a practical work plan -- a work plan that will guide us and the new team into intensive negotiations into the spring period of next year for agreement at Copenhagen in December in 2009.
The United States is fully committed to reaching agreement by 2009 on a post-2012 climate agreement that is environmentally effective and economically sustainable. And in achieving this, this will require significant action from all major economies, including ours. And similarly, all major economies must measure and report their actions in a verifiable manner.
Let me also add that we expect that Poznan will highlight the importance of research and development in clean energy technologies to effectively address climate change. We need nothing less than a clean technology revolution. Recent modeling that was commissioned by the Department of Energy indicates that an effective R&D investment effort could lower the cost of mitigation by some 70 percent, and that's a huge potential. We welcome the fact that the Polish government has placed a premium on this area and, in fact, there were discussions that took place just last week on these issues.
Finally, let me just say that in Poznan we are working also to ensure a smooth transition -- not only before Poznan, during Poznan, post-Poznan -- a smooth transition to the new administration on January 20.
The U.S. delegation in Poznan will include members of Congress and congressional staff. In fact, we think it's important to keep in mind that all of the elements in the Bali action plan -- shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology, and finance -- are all linked. I mention this because we also, as part of our transition, are looking at addressing issues in Poznan, but not closing doors for the new administration, or foreclosing options for the new U.S. administration.
I will stop there. And I look forward to questions.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Thank you, Paula, and operator, we're ready to take questions.
Q Thanks for holding the call. I guess one specific is that China has recently made public statements saying their main commitment is to lead on efforts to get technological assistance and money from rich countries. How do you see that as playing out either here in Poland or through the coming months, if they're not showing signs of specific willingness on some of the points that Paula mentioned?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: This is Jim Connaughton, and I'll let Paula pitch in right after. There is broad agreement among the major economy leaders that we want to do a lot more to advance the distribution of advanced technologies all around the world. So that's good. There's also recognition at the leader level that we have to look at all of the available tools for doing that. And that takes us well beyond sort of the more classic U.N.-style discussion where you try to create a specific fund.
That will be a piece of the equation, and the President has already, as I indicated, put on the table $2 billion of U.S. money over the next three years to create such a fund, and we're trying to get at least $10 billion -- hopefully more. But we're also focused on ways that we can reduce the cost of technology. So the U.S., joining together with the EU, has proposed an elimination of the tariff and non-tariff barriers, these very significant costs that are imposed on existing technologies that are, in fact, affordable and would otherwise -- could be sold throughout the world but for these prohibitive tariffs.
So that's one example, and that's a multi-billion-dollar benefit, and it's something that all the world community could do immediately and easily. It actually makes absolutely no sense that any government is imposing tariffs on these technologies, which effectively raises the cost of them.
So that's one example, Andy. And then in addition, we're trying to be a lot more thoughtful about how countries themselves are structuring their policies to create incentives for moving to next-generation technologies. So it does you no good to do a bunch of individual projects unless you can actually scale them into mass-producible outcomes.
So to give you one practical example, what we've done in the Asia Pacific Partnership is we have found out that methane capture is a very profitable activity; it's just many of the countries that emit a lot of methane -- which is 20 times more potent than CO2 -- they just don't have the experience or the infrastructure to actually pull it off. So when China -- what we did is we helped co-finance their largest methane capture project. As a result of the success of that project -- which actually costs almost no money from the U.S. end; it was a technology development assistance grant and then a loan -- China is now creating a national business of capturing methane all over the country, so China itself financing a dramatic amount of greenhouse gas reductions and making a profit off of it. So we're trying to do more of that kind of activity, as well.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I just have two comments, Andy. First, Jim referred to and I just would like to add, we do believe that countries across the globe need to cut high tariffs on the imports of climate-friendly technologies, and create the legal and regulatory conditions required to mobilize the trillions of dollars of private sector investment that will be needed to address climate change. But clearly, undertaking such steps of cutting high tariffs and creating the legal and regulatory conditions are -- those are critical steps that need to be taken.
Let me also mention that just today, on a more specific note, we just held a signing ceremony here at the State Department this morning in which we had Senator Cantwell of the state of Washington, the Chinese Embassy, and representatives from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The signing ceremony was a $518,000 grant; it was awarded to the Pacific Northwest National Lab to basically -- through the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate -- and specifically, this is helping China create more energy-efficient buildings.
As you know, there are some 150 projects, roughly, of the Asia Pacific Partnership, many of which are in China, many of which are in other APP countries, like India, for example. And they have specifically been targeting key areas that both China and the United States and the other countries have identified as key areas that have an overall impact in terms of bolstering clean energy technologies and also boosting energy efficiency.
Q Thanks very much. On the technology and technology transfer issue, a number of countries -- developing countries -- are calling for flexibility in intellectual property rights, some even calling for compulsory licensing. Can both of you speak to that and how much of -- how big of an issue do you think is going to be going forward?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Thanks for the question, and it's a very present and relevant one. The U.N. just sponsored a conference with China on technology transfer in Beijing a few weeks ago that I had the pleasure of attending. They took a good report and record of that meeting, and what we learned from that meeting -- at least one of the things I took away from that meeting -- is the issue of intellectual property in this context, in the context of energy systems, is not a big factor in whether or not technology is being distributed or deployed.
It is information about the technology, it is the technical capacity to use it, and it's the ability to obtain financing. Intellectual property aspects of these technologies is a very, very tiny component of the overall cost. There are legal and regulatory obstacles that Paula identified that are much bigger barriers. And so when you're talking about technology transfer, most of the equation has nothing to do with intellectual property. And I think that was a reasonable conclusion from that meeting, but it requires folks to catch up on this.
It's very different than the debates over pharmaceuticals. Making pills is a very different investment equation than building large powerplants, transmission lines and pipelines, to produce low pollution and low carbon outcomes.
So we really need to move the conversation about technology transfer -- 95 percent of it needs to be about the roll up the sleeves effort to get financing and build these projects, rather than spending 90 percent of our time discussing intellectual property, which is a relatively inconsequential component.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I would just add the fact that that forum took place and there was a multilateral discussion underscores the importance that countries do attach to this issue, and I think a desire to come forward and to work out constructive, realistic, and viable solutions to this important issue. And Jim mentioned participating. There were others also from other countries who were represented there, and I think it was a very, very important discussion.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: One other comment. President Bush made clear last year that we should do a lot more cooperation in the development of new technologies -- so China and India working together to develop new technologies with the U.S. and Europe, as a means of deploying them at the same time, rather than what we often face as where it might get deployed first in the U.S. and then in Europe, and then countries like China and India follow. We can't afford to wait for countries to follow each other on the deployment of new technologies; we need to be doing it together. And that's an important aspect, as well.
President Bush also committed that to the extent the U.S. government is developing technologies, that we will work to share them at low or no cost, in terms of the intellectual property aspect of that.
So we've been responsive to all these concerns, but as I indicated, the bigger challenge and the bigger opportunity is in areas that have nothing to do with intellectual property.
Q Good morning. I was just wondering if you could speak a bit more about the degree of consultation and cooperation taking place between the official delegation now and the congressional delegation that's going to Poznan.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I will begin on that one -- this is Paula Dobriansky. First, as part of our delegation we always have, in fact, one individual that serves as a liaison to the congressional team. She is already on the ground. Before even getting to Poznan, she reached out to determine who, in fact, was coming -- that's the first day -- and whether it's for the first week, the second week. Secondly is the congressional staff, those representatives who are on the ground, they're part of the delegation. As part of the delegation, we always hold morning meetings, daily morning meetings, and that is open for all the delegation members to come to. It serves as an opportunity for exchange and sharing of information.
Secondly, we look forward, when we're on the ground during the ministerial portion, we always reach out -- we've done so in the past and we certainly will do so on this occasion -- to members of Congress who come to the climate change meetings. We have offered them, if they desire, to have a briefing and/or exchange either given by us or by the team that's already there, again, depending on the timing.
Thirdly, I'd also just say that both Jim and myself, from our respective spots, we also have already been engaged in transition issues. And here in my building, at the State Department, I have already had discussions on the full range of areas that I deal with in my portfolio, including the area of climate change. And I know -- and Jim may want to say something further with regard to this question and also transition.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Yes, let me speak first to the relationship with Congress. We have long enjoyed, actually, a very good relationship with Congress in advance of each of these meetings, and this is no exception. I have already personally spoken with seven members of Congress from both sides of the aisle directly. Many of them, it's going to be hard for them to get to the meeting because the Congress is actually going to be here in Washington next week. But they wanted to find out what's going on, wanted to provide their own input, and be sure that we stay in touch with them.
I would underline two in particular. Senator Kerry, on the Senate side, has been -- he regularly goes to these meetings, and he regularly speaks with us in advance of these meetings. I have not spoken with him yet, but I hope to. And then Congressman Sensenbrenner, a Republican minority leader on the Science Committee, he also has been one of the more regular -- regularly active members of Congress in relation to these meetings, and we -- I've already spoken with him in advance of the meeting. But there are many others on both sides of the aisle with whom we regularly communicate, and I hope to hear from -- I hope we'll hear from more of them. And we remain open to those conversations.
As to transition, we've had -- we've spent a lot of time already in transition. It's been going very smoothly. We're getting into a lot of detail, sharing a lot of the information about the leader-level meetings that have been taking place on climate with my counterparts, similar to what Paula has been doing with her foreign affairs counterparts.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: May I add one more, by the way, because Jim mentioning specifically before Bali, and then also with Poznan before Bali, in fact, Senator Kerry did go to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali. We spoke by phone in that case, in that particular one. In this particular case, we are planning to meet directly in Poznan. So that's why I was focusing on not only what happens before, but most of it happens on the ground usually. And in this case, we are planning to meet while we are in Poznan with him, for example.
Q It's just a follow-up really on the previous question. My information was that Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer will be there. Can you confirm that will be -- they are the two representatives of Congress? And to your knowledge, will the Obama team be sending anybody to Poznan, and will you be meeting with them?
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I'll jump forward. First, Senator Kerry has indicated his desire to go to Poznan, and that's why I've mentioned we're looking to try to arrange a meeting on the ground there. As my colleague, Jim, indicated, you never know what happens with congressional schedules. But that, as I understand, this is stated intent.
With regard to Senator Boxer, we have no indication at this time about her plans of attending. There are other members of Congress on the House side who have expressed an interest -- Jim mentioned Congressman Sensenbrenner. There have been several others. But right now, they're not confirmed. And again, it's mainly because of what will happen in the congressional schedule. Some of them have expressed a desire to go, but they may or may not in the end.
With regard to President-Elect Obama sending a representative, he gave a speech about two weeks ago, I believe it was; in it he specifically stated that he's welcoming the congressional delegations and staff that will be going to Poznan, and that his expectation is to draw from their comments and insights upon return. But to my knowledge, there are no other, should I say, specific representatives. The representatives are through -- the representation is through the congressional presence.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Also I would just note, through our presence, because, of course, what we learn and do at Poznan is an essential piece of what we communicate to the new administration as part of the transition process. So I think they'll be hearing directly from both Paula and from me about the state of play, the range of issues, where our budgets are, all of the -- the high level of detail, actually, will be directly communicated by us to the officially identified representatives of the Obama team.
Q Thank you. Many people say that in 2009, Copenhagen 2009, is too -- the time is too short to negotiate a new agreement. What's your opinion on that? Do you think it will be -- because of the financial crisis and all the worries to work first with the economy -- will it be possible to reach an agreement in 2009, or will -- is there going to be -- like in The Hague?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: This is Jim Connaughton. The leaders of the major economies, reenforced by leaders in the APEC process, reinforced by all of the participants in Bali, which is a very senior official level, have committed to reaching conclusion on agreed outcomes by the end of 2009. So there is a very strong leader-level commitment, and not just from the U.S., but from all of these other major countries, to that outcome.
The question you would then ask, is it possible? And the answer to that question is, certainly it is possible. It all turns on the kind of an agenda that can be set for next year, and the sort of creativity and flexibility that is being brought to the table about coming up with more constructive and more cooperative outcomes.
And so there's a wide range of things that can occur by the end of next year in relatively straight order. There are other approaches that actually may take many years to negotiate. So it all depends on what the parties going into next year decide to focus on, in terms of advancing this significant, shared effort. And we can't really go into more specifics beyond that, because Poznan is really about setting that agenda, and we'll have to see what happens at the end of the next two weeks, in terms of creating an agenda that is comprehensive enough, but also that is flexible enough to accommodate the prospect of some pretty consequential outcomes by the end of next year.
So I remain optimistic, but it does turn on all countries sort of learning from the past and building on that to design a new approach going forward.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: I would just add that also out of Bali, the Bali road map, there was an expressed commitment, and the United States as part of that is fully committed to reaching agreement by 2009 on a 2012 agreement. And as my colleague indicated, one of our key objectives -- and I mentioned earlier -- one of our key objectives in Poznan is to develop a work plan that can lead to intensive negotiations into next year. And we're very committed to laying that foundation.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Also, one other point. There are a number of elements to the Bali action plan that don't have to wait until the end of next year if there's political will to accomplish them. The establishment of a clean technology fund, for example, does not have to wait until the end of next year. The development of common systems of measurements, reporting and verification -- getting that work going does not have to wait until the end of next year.
And as I indicated in my earlier remarks, the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers is something that has been discussed for more than six years now, and there's a general sense of the products and services that would be covered by that. That is something that could occur very rapidly if there's political will.
There has long been political will on the part of the U.S. in all three of those areas; that kind of political will has been lacking by many other countries. So I would also just note, 2009 -- the end of 2009 is an important date, but what happens during 2009 is also important.
Q Thanks for taking the question. I'm going to try to sneak two in here. Just following up on that last answer, is it possible to get a little more specific about what types of outcomes do you think are reasonable to expect in a year, and what are the types of approaches you say that could take many years to negotiate?
And just very quickly, going back to your initial opening statement, Mr. Connaughton, you said that U.S. greenhouse gases fell, I think, 3 percent from 2001 to '06. I'm looking at a report just today out of the Energy Information Administration that shows that, in fact, according to them, from 2001 to 2007, we had a 4.6 increase in U.S. greenhouse gases, and '07 was really the second highest year in that period. So I'm just wondering if some of the measures, mandates, and incentives that you outlined are really as effective as you seem to be saying.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Let me start with your second question first. The EIA report focuses only on the energy sector, the energy generation and the main fossil sectors. The U.N. report, which is submitted every year and then gets compiled, deals with net greenhouse gas emissions. So that's all sources of greenhouse gases and all -- and so that is the report -- (telephone feed drops) -- so the 3 percent net reduction that occurred between 2000 and 2006, occurred before all of the policies I just described for you.
Now, there was one big one on sinks that related to President Bush's support for more than doubling of conservation payments to farmers that led to more sequestration projects, and some other market-based activities, that we had greater productivity in some other very important developments just from good old-fashioned economic efficiencies that occurred during that period. But these new policies will dramatically amplify in both categories -- both greenhouse gas mitigation, as well as these sinks, the opportunity for more biological sequestration.
So we are -- we can expect strong future performance in the United States with these new policies. Now, I can't overstate it; it will be reasonably aggressive outcomes over the midterm. It will still be a challenge for the U.S. to get back to 1990 levels in the midterm, which is why we have focused so aggressively on a significant increase in the technology research funding, as well as this big, multi -- tens of billions of dollars of new financing authority so we can get more deployment of these technologies to reduce emissions. But that's going to take about a decade to build out. So there's going to be a period of quite substantial reinvestment that's got to occur before we can begin to see significant declines and sustained declines in the U.S.
So that's the first part of your question -- I'm sorry, the second part of your question. On the first part of your question -- I'm sorry, let me just say one more point. Most other countries in the world are in the exact same place as the U.S. Whether it's Canada or Japan or Europe, or whether it's China or India, there is a very important step we all have to take together in the next 10 to 15 years to demonstrate and mass-produce power generation technologies that have lower carbon profiles, as well as alternatives to gasoline. And that includes both biofuels and electricity. And every country is in the same boat. It's going to take about 10 to 15 years to get the new technologies demonstrated, proven, and moving into the marketplace, and then at that point, assuming availability of a greater array of alternatives, the globe can begin to take a substantial step toward sustained reductions.
But we have to be quite honest about the fact that these technologies are going to take about 10 to 15 more years to develop and bring online, and we've got to dedicate ourselves to making sure that happens without delay.
As to your first question, as I indicated, there's now a wide range of multilateral activities that includes quite significant international agreements. For example, on mitigation strategies in individual sectors, such as steel and cement, there is a strong group of countries interested in creating a clean technology fund. There's strong alignment among the big countries that we need good measurement systems.
So I could give you a dozen or more very specific areas where we can reach agreement quickly, in some instances, without having to rewrite the treaty. These would be implementing agreements under the Framework Convention. Others would require additional agreements both inside the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change process, but also, potentially outside of that process, but in support of it.
The example I gave earlier on the Montreal Protocol is one. The U.S. and other countries have floated another proposal under
the Montreal Protocol -- that's a different treaty -- that would result in a dramatic decrease, further decrease in greenhouse gases, which would be in support of our treaty commitments under the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
So there's great opportunity if we break the problem down into its component parts. If this is more like a negotiation where you have to agree on everything before you agree on anything, that increases the prospect of this taking many, many years.
Q Thanks for giving me one more chance here. The R&D thing you kind of alluded to there at the end -- do you think the world adequately recognizes how long this is going to take, even with an aggressive effort? And do you think the world is remotely engaged at the level of R&D and deployment at large scale of things that matter? The evidence I see and have written about the last several years is to the contrary.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: My answer would be no, as well. I've been very engaged, as has Paula, in these very high-level discussions. The level of technical awareness -- that's before you even get to the economics -- about both the current state of technology development and the amount of time it will take to prove it is very minimal among senior policy leadership.
And then what's even -- and then as a result -- I think you've seen statistics from us before -- right now, the U.S. and Japan currently, on the government side, fund 70 percent of the world's research into new technologies in this area. Now, the lion's share of Japan's money is in the nuclear area. And so right now, the U.S. is the only country, in my view, that is substantially and sufficiently funding in every major technology category. And we've been working hard over the last year to get other countries to really up their level of effort, and it is significantly lacking. Countries like Germany, the UK, some of the other Northern European countries, they're making investments, and that's good, but it's not at the level of funding needed. And we can do a lot better job on collaboration in these technology spaces.
But just as important, as I indicated, is the system of incentives and the removal of barriers to the actual deployment of these technologies. And so in the U.S. for example, you can't get a gigawatt-scale renewable energy farm financed if you can't get the electrons delivered from the remote area where it's being produced to the population center where it's needed. And so no amount of carbon pricing is going to solve your problem if you can't get the political agreement to build the new transmission line.
The same thing is on carbon capture and storage. It can be an option in many places in the world, but it requires liability rules and a whole new pipeline infrastructure that you got to -- that will take many, many years to build out, and you've got to start now.
Right now, from what I can tell, no country is coming close to the U.S. level of effort in investment on carbon capture and storage, though many countries are doing a good initial job. That includes Canada, Germany and the UK, and China is starting into carbon capture and storage. But you're not talking about high-level participation with real in-country commitments in all coal-using countries, and that's what we need. Same thing on fuels.
Q So should we have had a framework convention on technology change instead of a framework convention on climate change way back when?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Way back when I think the answer to that is probably yes. And fortunately, we now have technology as one of the four central planks for these discussions. And so that was a great innovation, and an important advancement under the Bali action plan, Andy.
But what's happening now is, how do you give it shape? That's why when we talked about comprehensiveness and flexibility, a lot of people, and in the U.S. a lot of people on both sides of the aisle -- we have taken ideas very extensively from many people who are currently senior advisors to the Obama team on how to think through creative future approaches. We had one treaty, the Montreal Protocol, that proved to be enormously successful by taking more of a technology feasibility-based approach, and breaking the commitments out into both substances and sectors, and actually doing specific technology reviews, and then setting goals based on internationally agreed understanding of the prospect of availability and affordability. And look what happened, right? We had dramatic success under the Montreal Protocol.
So that would be one example. There are others.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Andy, I would say in, like, 30 seconds, as I mentioned at the beginning, we expect that Poznan is going to highlight the importance of research and development in clean energy technologies. This is a critical area. I think you're right in posing the question. And as I said earlier, to really effectively address climate change we do need nothing less than a clean technology revolution.
I thought that that data by the Department of Energy, that modeling that indicated that effective R&D investment effort could lower the cost -- let me repeat it again -- could lower the cost of mitigation by 70 percent. And that's really a huge potential. This is a critical area, and you're right to really pose the question.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: For any who are interested, Christie in my office will be happy to provide you with a slide that I routinely use to describe what Andy has indicated, which is what level of effort is needed. And let me just give you a sense of the scale. Today there are -- we need to cut -- if we're going to cut emissions in half, you're talking about cutting emissions by about 40 gigatons -- it's 40 billion tons -- against projected levels.
But what is a gigaton? This is what people don't really understand. But if you want to get to 40 gigatons, let me give you a sense of what that takes. Currently, there are 400 nuclear powerplants on Earth. If you want to get a piece of what you need, you're going to need about 2,000 or 3,000 nuclear powerplants. Currently there's about, I think, 500 million cars on the road. But you need to make all of them 40 percent more efficient, and you need to probably do that twice. That's the scale of it.
On biofuels, you need to take a barren area twice the size of the UK just to get one gigaton. So if you wanted to get 4 or 5 of the 40 that you need, you're talking about a barren area that's 10 times greater than the entire geography of the United Kingdom. Windmills -- there are about 80,000-85,000 windmills around the world today, but what you need is close to half a million, or a million of these larger windmills on big windmill farms.
So we are many, many, many years away from being able to build the alternative energy systems out at that scale. And the point here is you need all of them. One, you need it just for resiliency, so you have lots of choices and competition. But two is you can't -- there is no single option that gives you everything that we need to get dramatic CO2 reductions. We can do pollution reductions because we have controls for that, but we don't have technological controls for CO2 reductions.
So this is an enormous undertaking. And as I indicated, the biggest issues are each country doing its part to fund research, development and deployment, and the removal of some of the major obstacles to making these alternatives competitive with the infrastructure that's currently well in place for fossil fuels.
And that -- again, that's not driven by carbon price; that's driven by political choice and regulations and a lot of other issues. So while carbon price is also a useful tool through incentives or through regulatory programs, it is not a sufficient tool. You need these other political decisions if you really want to make carbon markets take off.
So we look forward to hearing more from you. We'll be available for more questions later on. Paula and I will both be out in Poznan next week, on Thursday and Friday, so please stay in touch with us and with our communications directors as the week unfolds.
UNDER SECRETARY DOBRIANSKY: Thank you so much.