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Green Diplomacy

Colleen P. Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy
Webchat Transcript
Washington, DC
October 27, 2008

Moderator: Welcome to today's webchat on "Green Diplomacy". We'll get started soon.

Colleen Graffy: Hello! Colleen Graffy here, delighted to be taking part in this web chat! Let's go to the first question...

Moderator: Welcome everyone. Colleen Graffy is working on answers to your questions now.

Question [Bienvenu Akodigna]: I am a staffer from Public Affairs Section in Cotonou. This concept is rather new for me. Could you give more details about it?

Answer [Colleen Graffy]: Hello Embassy Benin! (for those that are interested, Embassy Cotonou’s website can be found here http://cotonou.usembassy.gov and I note they have something up on Earth Day 2008! Great!)

In the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department -- in addition to our traditional public diplomacy efforts on educational exchanges and cultural diplomacy and sports diplomacy -- we now have “green diplomacy.”

Green diplomacy is our effort to engage on environmental issues with the people of other countries in a way that communicates our values, culture and policies.

Our green diplomacy ranges from environmental protection for areas of cultural heritage -- such as the Ateni Sioni Church I visited recently in Georgia where we are helping to preserve the building and its ancient writings from environmental degradation -- to recycling projects in Cyprus, water aid in the Balkans and forestry projects in Russia.

But it also includes environmental issues that relate to trade and climate change.

Our Ambassador in Sweden, Michael Wood, has been conducting green diplomacy by working with Swedish officials to bring together Swedish clean tech companies with American investors. Because both are interested in developing technologies to combat climate change as well as increasing jobs and investment opportunities.

Another example is USAID’s Global Climate Change Program, which has been working in more than 40 countries in Europe and Eurasia and has dedicated over a billion U.S. dollars to fund environmental programs that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions while promoting energy reforms. They are helping developing and transition countries achieve economic development without sacrificing environmental protection.

To give you one example: A recent USAID forest conservation project helped our ambassador in Bulgaria bring together American and Bulgarian volunteers to plant more than 500 trees to help replace those burned in forest fires in 2007.

So, I hope that gives you some details about this new concept. We encourage all embassies to reach out in this way -- connecting to people of another country through "Green Diplomacy!"

Q [Douglas]: What is Green Diplomacy?

A [Colleen Graffy]: Hi Douglas, see my answer above but you also might be interested in our "Green Diplomacy" newsletter. Here is the link: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/105097.pdf

Q [Marion Abela]: How can the U.S. justify its stance on emission reduction targets at last year’s UN conference in Bali demanding goals be imposed on developing economies.

A [Colleen Graffy: Thanks for your question Marion, the United States is committed to an environmentally effective international agreement to combat climate change. In order for an agreement to be effective -- all major economies -- including major developing countries -- must be involved and must commit to action. China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases today and is building one new coal-fired power plant every week! The developed world could cut our emissions to ZERO -- we could turn out the lights today -- and it wouldn't solve the climate change problem without China and other major developing countries committing to action as well.

Q [Yunus ARIKAN]: Considering that USA is not a party to many of the multilateral environmental agreements including UN Convention on Biodiversity and Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, do you foresee change a possibility of change in the approach of the new administration at the White House for a greener diplomacy of the USA at the federal and international level

A [Colleen Graffy]: Hi Yunus, actually the United States is party to many multilateral agreements and arrangements working to combat climate change. We are party to the Montreal Protocol -- working successfully to remove CFCs from the atmosphere (and remember -- CFCs not only damage the ozone layer -- but they are extremely potent greenhouse gases). The U.S. is also an active participant in the UNFCCC and the largest contributor of scientists to the IPCC.

Q [LC Karachi]: [Naimat Ullah Khan]: Can you brief us, what practical steps United States have taken for its Green diplomacy?

A [Colleen Graffy]: Yes, happy to give you an example of some of the practical steps that the U.S. has taken. A very successful green diplomacy initiative is The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) -- which includes Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the United States. An example of the types of projects we work on in the APP is a program in China to produce new energy efficiency labels on appliances, similar to those in the U.S. ENERGY STAR program. This project is expected to bring about an annual carbon emission reduction of 17.7 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of removing three million cars from the road.

Q [LC Karachi]: Environmental challenges are geographical challenges or global challenges?

A [Colleen Graffy]: Environmental challenges are BOTH geographical and global challenges -- Green House Gas emissions don’t recognize borders! Emissions from China cross the Pacific and affect California and Washington State. That is why we need everyone at the table to work on GHG reductions.

Q [LC Karachi]: What is the roadmap for this Green Diplomacy? Can it be role modeled at grass root level? Can you suggest something in this context?

A [Colleen Graffy]: Environmental issues in the U.S. are approached on a Federal Level (see e.g., the Energy Independence and Security Act), on a State level (Governor Schwarzenegger in California for example) and on a community level (my home town of Santa Barbara!) and I think this is the most effective way of tackling environmental problems -- from the top down and from the bottom up!

So, yes, grass roots efforts are vital.

Our Green Diplomacy efforts via our embassies should help empower citizens and communities to help make a difference in their community. But we should also be working with governments to partner and share our knowledge.

Q [LC Karachi]: Despite the U.S. & Europe's sincere efforts for environmental protection, it is observed there is no command & control in developing countries like in Asia especially where a common man is not taking these challenges as seriously as the West is taking this issue? So how you are planned to convey the seriousness of this issue to those who are more interested in saving some coins instead of saving our dear earth?

A [Colleen Graffy]: There should be no conflict between being economical and being green. In order to succeed in combating climate change -- we must work to break the link between economic growth and the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

We must work to develop new clean energy technologies that allow countries like China to continue to develop their economies and bring prosperity to their peoples -- but do it in a cleaner and more efficient way. Countries like China want to develop more efficiently -- because it costs less -- so they will want these new technologies both for economic AND for environmental reasons.

Q [LC Karachi]: What are the basic principles of Green Diplomacy?

A [Colleen Graffy]: See my first and second answers but I should also have mentioned another example of Green Diplomacy is the Green League of U.S. Embassies -- a grouping of our posts overseas working to make their operations more energy efficient and environmentally responsible. Through the Green League, some of our posts are putting solar panels on their buildings, contracting to buy electricity only from renewable sources, and even contemplating constructing wind turbines. I am in Malta now and learning about their new embassy which is being built and is part of the Green League. Here is the link to their web site http://malta.usembassy.gov and scroll down to the text box on the right hand side: New Embassy in Malta Project.

Q [LC Karachi]: How Governments around the world are responding to U.S. initiatives on environment?

A [Colleen Graffy]: Governments around the world are responding positively to U.S. initiatives and leadership in the fight against climate change. President Bush launched last year the Major Economies Process -- which is a grouping of the 17 largest economies of the world -- representing 80% of the world's economy and 80% of the world's emissions. The President launched this initiative in an effort to support the UNFCCC process -- hoping that if the largest economies could agree to some key principles and ideas -- this consensus could provide momentum and support the larger UN process.

The major economies met several times last year and actually had a summit in July on the margins of the G8 summit. The summit was the first time that the leaders of these major economies met to discuss climate change. All the participants agreed that meeting in this smaller setting was beneficial and agreed to continue the process in 2009.

Governments also responded positively and are actively participating in other U.S. initiatives -- like the Asia Pacific Partnership (mentioned earlier), and a program to deal with methane -- called the Methane-to-Markets program.

Q [LC Karachi]: What do you suggest for developing countries to practically involve in environmental advocacy?

A [Colleen Graffy]: Before I answer this question wanted to also add a link to give you more information on the Methane-to-Markets. Here is the link: http://www.methanetomarkets.org/

Colleen Graffy: Back to your question...

I mentioned earlier the need to break the link between economic growth and the growth of greenhouse gases. We need to show the developing world -- but not only the developing world -- that going green is also economically beneficial. Green collar jobs and greening your economy will help to create jobs and spur economic growth.

In addition to economic reasons -- there are health reasons. We already see environmental advocacy on the rise in China. People are tired of dirty and polluted rivers -- they're tired of not being able to breath clean air in their cities.

Also the U.S. and Europe are working to reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in green goods and services. This initiative places priority on technologies that are directly linked to addressing climate change and energy security.

I am confident that green technologies that break the link between economic growth and green house gas emissions will create whole new industries and jobs -- this will be a positive direction during these financially challenging times.

Colleen Graffy: Thank you for spending time with me on this Web Chat to learn more about our "Green Diplomacy" and thank you for your questions! Colleen

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