Press Briefing by the Delegation of the United States COP 11/MOP 1Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation
David Garman, Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment, U.S. Department of Energy; Bill Wehrum, Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Dr. Harlan Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative, U.S. Department of State
Remarks to the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
December 7, 2005
Dr. Paula Dobriansky: Good afternoon and thank you for coming. I would first like to recognize the United States Ambassador to Canada, who is with us today. I am also very pleased to be joined here by my colleagues. I would like to begin by thanking the Government of Canada for hosting this eleventh session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which also serves as the first meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
I would like to thank Minister Dion for his leadership as Conference President. We have valued our close cooperation with Minister Dion and other Canadian officials on these issues through both bilateral and multilateral partnerships.
This conference affords us an opportunity to highlight the array of activities that the United States is involved in to implement our climate change policies. It also provides a forum to discuss ongoing and future areas for international cooperation and partnership. We believe that the best way forward is through different and diversified approaches that leverage these critical partnerships.
In fact, through partnerships with both developed and developing countries alike, we are taking steps to accelerate the deployment of cutting‑edge energy technologies, and foster a long-term global approach to reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of our economies. As President Bush stated in June, "The whole world benefits when developing nations have the best and latest energy technologies." As part of our contribution to this global effort to develop and commercialize transformational energy systems, the United States invests nearly $3 billion annually on such technologies as, hydrogen, carbon sequestration, nuclear energy, renewable fuels and electricity, and highly efficient appliances, vehicles, and buildings.
But our efforts reach well beyond climate change and address the broader issues of clean development. Through public-private partnerships -- many of which were announced during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa -- we are making progress toward improving people’s lives and achieving our environmental goals. For example:
We were pleased that G8 leaders highlighted that the issue of climate change is part of an interrelated set of challenges dealing with energy security, economic development and problems of pollution. The climate G8 document in particular frames the issue in those terms. More importantly, it contains a concrete set of actions and initiatives that the G8 have agreed upon to advance work cooperatively to meet our objectives in those interrelated areas.
In July, we announced a new Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, which combined with the other U.S. energy technology initiatives, will also help achieve many elements of this G8 vision. The six countries that currently make up this Partnership include Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the United States, and together represent nearly half of the world’s economy and population. This provides a tremendous opportunity to identify approaches to address these issues on a large-scale with maximum impact. The partnership will help speed the deployment of cleaner, more efficient energy systems in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.
In sum, the United States is working through a broad range of partnerships to advance sustainable development around the world. Including clean development and energy needs in climate discussions and adding the power of public-private partnerships is an effective formula for achieving positive results and implementing more efficient and results-oriented policies.
With that, I’d like to take your questions.
Alister Doyle, Reuters: Stavros Dimas, the EU Commissioner, quoted from the G8 Declaration saying that you would agree in Montreal to move forward the global discussion on long‑term cooperative action to address climate change. He said he was looking forward to hearing from our American partners how they intend to translate this pledge into action.
There seems to be a feeling among the Europeans that by not agreeing to the Canadian proposal to discuss the future that you are reneging on this commitment somehow.
Do you agree? Will you agree to the Canadian proposal? Thank you.
Dr. Dobriansky: Thank you for the question.
First, let me say that we have always been part of discussions and dialogue on climate change actions in the near term, in the medium term and in the long term. We have done this in our bilateral and multilateral initiatives and also in the context of the G8 meetings, both in the meeting of the Heads of States and also, most recently, in a meeting held in London, there have been many discussions about actions taken, as I said, in the near term, the mid term and the long term. We have been very active participants in that.
In terms of the Canadian proposal put on the table, this concerns formalized discussions -- specifically formalized discussions that provide a basis for negotiations. It is our belief that progress cannot be made through these formalized discussions.
We believe that the best approach and the best way forward is one that takes into account diversified approaches and differing opinions. One size does not fit all.
Let me just add to that that our approach coming into this conference is very much focused on concrete actions. In fact, in the meetings that did take place, for example in London, as I referenced in my remarks, there were a number of specific actions that were requested. One of the ways in which we believe we are meeting those actions is by the formation of the Asia‑Pacific Partnership, which specifically responds to some of the calls that were underscored and outlined in the G8 meeting.
Andy Revkin, New York Times: I guess two quick questions. One is, the Inuit filed their petition against the United States in the Inter‑American Commission on Human Rights over the continued emissions here which they say are interfering with their right to persist as a culture. I would love some input on that. I'm sure you are aware of the plan to do that.
The other is just generally, are you saying basically that under the Framework Convention it is a done ‑‑ the Framework Convention is a done thing? It is not a living instrument, it is basically what you see is what you get and that you feel there is no more use for "addenda‑ing" it or appending it as new knowledge comes in?
Dr. Dobriansky: On the first, I was not aware that they have filed. The last I had heard was that the Inuits were planning to file but had not. Assuming that your information is up to date, that they have filed, we need to review it and then we will respond to it. I don't have any more information on the first part of your question.
As to the second, I think that my previous answer responds to your question. The Conference of Parties does provide a forum for the active exchange of what countries are doing to address climate change in the near term, in the medium term and in the long term.
We have been active participants of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but we also believe firmly that negotiations will not reap progress, as I indicated, because there are differing perspectives. We believe that the best way forward is acknowledging the fact that there are different approaches that have been represented here at this gathering and one size does not fit all.
Tim Hirsch, BBC News: Prime Minister Martin said from this room earlier today, and I quote: "To the reticent nations, including the United States, I would say one thing: There is such a thing as a global conscience and now is the time to listen to it." Why do you feel he felt the need to say that?
Dr. Dobriansky: Two responses.
First, you didn't ask this, but I listened to him today and I made some notes. He said: "We must act. We must act now." We agree with that. We are doing that.
He mentioned that there is a need to have strong actions from all countries. We also agree with that. This is a global problem and there need to be responses across the board.
He also referred to how we produce and consume energy. We place a premium on technologies and the advancement of technologies, cutting edge technologies. It is crucial to revolutionize the way in which we produce and consume energy.
Let me just say with regard to what we are doing; the United States over the last five years has invested some $20 billion in climate change, both in terms of the advancement of technologies and also in terms of research and looking into the scientific issues and research.
Second, we have engaged in bilateral initiatives with some 15 countries and organizations. All of these initiatives have been focused on specific projects that address the issue of reducing greenhouse gases and the challenge of climate change.
Third, we have also put forth a number of multilateral initiatives in the area of hydrogen, carbon sequestration and nuclear programs. All of these initiatives, for the few examples I have given, have also involved other countries. We are very engaged. We are dealing very directly, through practical, direct actions to address the challenge of climate change.
Let me just add that also in the context of our recent Asia‑Pacific Partnership on climate change, this is specifically to deal with the interrelated set of challenges of not only climate change and environmental problems, but also one of the most difficult challenges that we face globally, and that is that of poverty eradication and the advancement and sustainment of development.
The need for access to energy is quite crucial. We see that initiative as being one that addresses not just only the issue of energy security, but also addresses a very vital and crucial need globally.
Richard Ingham, AFP: Dr. Dobriansky, when you say "we" you are speaking of course for the federal government, but of course it is quite a varied picture within the United States itself. You have a number of States which are keen to take their own ‑‑ and rather radical by American standards ‑‑ measures when it comes to emissions.
You also have quite a clamor now from the business community, which is asking for a tougher and sometimes regulatory approach and it seems really quite out of step with what you are saying here with a voluntary technologically driven strategy.
How do you respond to those in the United States who are saying you are not doing enough?
Dr. Dobriansky: First…we act, we learn, we act again. We also benefit, and I think learn from, the varied approaches that are ongoing in the United States, whether the federal government is supportive or not. That is of benefit in this case.
I would say that in terms of the steps that we are taking, I think my previous answer really indicated quite clearly the breadth and scope of the programs.
I did not mention many of the domestic areas; for example, the significant tax incentives that have been provided for industry in the United States, encouraging businesses to pursue renewable energies. In fact, I believe the United States is the largest contributor in this area or has the largest or the highest record in this area.
There have been multiple means, diverse ways that we have been approaching this issue and when there are differences in the United States we think we can benefit from those differences.
Would you like to say something on that?
David Garman: I would be happy to.
Some people have looked at the fragmented nature of 50 States in the United States, each with their own approaches. That is where electricity is regulated at the retail level in the U.S.
We have tried various approaches and actually I think it is a strength, not a weakness, that we have States that do want to try new things. They may have a renewable portfolio standard that might work in one State but would be unrealistic and unachievable in another.
Again, I think this is a strength, a diversity of viewpoints, a diversity of actions that can be taken, and we all tend to learn a lot in what is actually a living laboratory for different methods, modalities and methodologies for reducing greenhouse gases.
Chris Horner, Washington Times: It seems fair to characterize the current circumstance as follows and if you disagree please explain.
Thirty‑some‑odd countries agree to be bound by mandatory cuts, though more than half of them officially project they will exceed their quota, some of them spectacularly, including our host country, and 155 countries that do not, that prefer ‑‑ I suppose you could generally characterize it as a voluntary approach.
The Canadian Minister has called for a new consensus to emerge from this conference. Is it fair to consider recognizing the 155 countries representing the bulk of present and future emissions, the economic activity and growth, as the new consensus? If not, why not?
Dr. Dobriansky: I don't know what can be recognized as the new consensus, but what I can tell you is that from our discussions with a wide range of countries there are differing viewpoints.
That is why as I mentioned before, in terms of how we come to this conference, we think that the best way forward is to acknowledge that there are diversified approaches and that really if you want to have an impact here you have to go with and respect the fact that there are these different approaches that countries are taking.
We have partnerships bilaterally, multilaterally and… whether they are those countries that are developed or developing, whether they are those countries that have supported Kyoto or have not supported Kyoto -- there are many ways to go forward and have a significant impact.
Steve Curwood, NPR "Living on Earth": A couple of quick questions. One is a bit of a technical one. Under the UN Framework Convention there is a call for a transfer of technology and also for financing of that. I'm just wondering if you could update us on what commitments the United States has under the Framework on the transfer of technology and how much money the U.S. is putting into it and how much we anticipate putting into it?
My other question is a broad one, and that is ‑‑ the earlier questioner alluded to this. There may be seven/nine northeastern States that will put a price on carbon by having a cap and trade system. Things may happen also in California and in Oregon and Washington. Also, under the Kyoto Protocol, much of the rest of the industrialized world has a price on carbon. My question would be: At what point do you think that the United States would have a national, that is, a federal mandatory limit on carbon such that there then would be a market for it; there then would be a price for carbon?
Dr. Dobriansky: We are committed to the UN Framework and we live up to our commitments under the Framework Convention.
Specifically with regard to technology, I mentioned over the last five years our expenditure of $20 billion. This year alone we are investing $3 billion toward technology‑related programs. It encompasses a wide variety of programs in assisting developing countries.
Another quick example is the Asia‑Pacific Partnership. There, in dealing with both India and China, there is a great need to acquire access to technologies to be more efficient and have a cleaner approach in the production of energy.
That is what the underpinning of our approach is. That is where monies ‑‑ by the way, in this case not just only from the government, but [also] from the private sector ‑‑ in this initiative will be invested in order to bolster their capacity in having cleaner and more efficient technologies.
Mr. Wehrum: I can respond to the second.
A number of years ago the Environmental Protection Agency was petitioned to regulate CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases from motor vehicles for their possible impact on climate change. We made a final determination on that petition last year and our determination was that we do not have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 and greenhouse gases for their possible impact on climate change.
It is our belief that if regulation of these gases is ultimately determined to be appropriate or necessary, that Congress must act and pass new law to create authority for that to occur.
Charles Clover, the Daily Telegraph: I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about this Asia‑Pacific Partnership and the process? Could you answer when it is next expected to meet? Who will lead the delegation? Which technologies will you be promoting? How will you get them to be taken up without either trading or regulation as compulsion?
Dr. Dobriansky: Maybe we will give a combined answer.
First, with regard to when, the Partnership will be formally launched ‑‑ it was announced earlier this year, but it will be formally launched in January in Australia.
Second, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Department of Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman will be heading the delegation. The delegation will be comprised of not only public officials but, as I mentioned, we also expect participation from the private sector, from businesses.
You asked about the particular areas the countries have talked about. The areas range from power to mining -- there are a whole variety.
Finally, I would just say that there are a number of very specific projects.
As I mentioned before, the interrelationship here is not just only in terms of climate change and environment, but [also] energy security. It is dealing with poverty reduction. It is dealing with sustainable development. The projects we seek to put together we believe will have ramifications in this interrelated context.
Would you like to add?
Mr. Garman: I will just say, in terms of the technologies, we think it is very important to get nations such as India and China started on the technology pathway. Sure, they may not be ready to do an IGCC plant with sequestration, but they may be ready and able and willing to do a continuous fluidized bed coal plant that is far more efficient than the plant that they would otherwise be installing.
That is extremely important since China is installing essentially 1 gigawatt of baseload electricity generation every six days. That is one of those: A "long bomb" may be too much to ask, but a "short pass" may be just the thing. Getting them to get off of direct charcoal burning and on to modern plants with low NOx burners, that is a terrific step toward greater efficiency. There are lots of industrial partners who are anxious around the world to help in that effort. In terms of a total cost, it can be a win‑win situation for these nations that are willing to take those steps.