March 2009: Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern
Todd Stern Press Roundtable, Berlin, March 27, 2009
Special Envoy on Climate Change
Friday, March 27, 2009
Special Envoy Stern: All right, well, I could go ahead and get started. Thank all of you for coming, for welcoming me for my first meeting in Germany.
We're going to have a set of meetings today here with the Chancellor's Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Environment Ministry, a collection of NGOs and business folks, and I'm quite interested in listening to and getting the perspective of both government and private sector people here in Germany, as well very interested in attending and starting off the meeting in Bonn, where I'll go tomorrow for a set of bilateral meetings and discussions. Then, on Sunday, I'll make the first presentation for the United States when the actual UNFCCC meeting opens on Sunday. You know, I was quite keen on coming to the meeting in Bonn -- Jonathan Pershing is going to lead the delegation and stay for the full session, I guess about ten days – but I was quite keen on coming to begin with and to make the initial presentation for the United States because, frankly, the United States has been on the sidelines as far as we're concerned for the last eight years, and that's going to stop. I am keen to demonstrate the fact that there is a genuine commitment on the part of the United States, a genuine commitment on the part of the President, the Secretary of State and others in our Administration, who see this issue as a matter of real urgency. It is a core priority for the President both at the domestic level and the international level. And I wanted, frankly, to signal that by coming personally to open the session for the United States. As well, I'm very keen on getting as many views and consulting with as many people as I can. We've had a great many bilateral meetings already in the number of weeks – not that many weeks – since we started, and we want to continue that. We'll be meeting with a lot of other players, including, by the way, a number of representatives from the more vulnerable countries, who I haven't had the opportunity to meet with yet, so I'm looking forward to that. I'm actually going to have dinner with a group of those countries.
The President has embarked on a strong domestic program already and there is much more coming. The program started really I think with the stimulus plan which was put together obviously to deal with the severe economic crisis that all of us are in. And there was a great deal of work on that done even during the transition period – I worked in the transition actually right down the hall from where the President was, the President-elect at that point – and there was a tremendous amount of focus by the President and by his team on making the stimulus a vehicle for making the right kinds of investments, in other words, a " green" recovery stimulus, not just a stimulus that would lock in investments in the wrong kind of technology and the wrong kind of infrastructure. So about 80 billion plus of the 780 billion dollars is devoted to clean energy investments and incentives. In addition, our EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, has already started moving aggressively in the direction of using its regulatory authority to cut emissions, in the first instance with respect to vehicles. So those are two elements that have already been put in place, but, in addition, the President has called for – in his speech to the joint session of Congress a few weeks ago and again in the budget submission that he made – a major nationwide cap-and-trade program which will be I think the centerpiece of the U.S. effort on climate change. And there will be in addition a set of complementary energy policies that will have to deal with renewable energy: he's called for a 150 billion dollar, ten-year research and development and demonstration program, RD&D as we say, that will be financed partly by the proceeds from cap-and-trade programs. This is about three times what the existing spending is in the United States on energy technology. So a big domestic program and, again, an important commitment to get an international deal done as well in Copenhagen.
I'm going to say just one more thing, I actually didn't come with any prepared remarks, but I'm just trying to share a little bit of perspective on that at the top and then I want to take your questions – but I think it is fair to say that my overall perspective on this is that we need to be guided internationally by a combination of science and pragmatism. Those two things really need to go together. It does not serve anyone to do a kind of weak-kneed compromise that doesn't move us in the direction that the science is telling us we need to go and, by the same token, it doesn't serve anybody to have an agreement which is scientifically pristine and perfect and which cannot be supported by our public back home. We do not have any interest, in the United States, in having a repeat of the Kyoto experience, where we signed an agreement that was dead on arrival when we brought it back home. So we are very much imbued, I am very much imbued with the notion that these two things, science and pragmatism, need to go together and that we need to approach, the international community needs to approach, the negotiations this year from that perspective.
So let me just stop there and open it up for questions.
Acting Press Attaché Mitchell Moss: Before we begin I'd like to introduce Jonathan Pershing. He's the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change policy and he'll be leading the negotiations in Bonn.
Jonathan Pershing: Nice to meet you all.
Todd Stern: Sorry Jonathan, I should have done that (laughter).
Question: You referred to the domestic pressures in Congress. What scope for maneuver, what negotiating mandate do you expect for Copenhagen?
Special Envoy Stern: I don’t so much look at it that way, you know. The situation that we face right now with respect to Copenhagen is a very, very different one than the situation with respect to Kyoto, and I was working on this issue in the White House back then for President Clinton. In the following respect: Back then, the entire framing of climate change policy was done in connection with the Kyoto negotiations, there was not a domestic policy backdrop. So when we were thinking about and we were trying to develop policy with respect to what would the target be that the United States could take into Kyoto, what would the United States be prepared to accept, all that kind of thing, it was done in connection with Kyoto, not with any backdrop of domestic policy. Here, the reality is that the cap-and-trade program that I referenced a few minutes ago and that President Obama is committed to pursuing is fundamentally going to frame what we can do, what the United States can do, with respect to at least the mitigation side of a Copenhagen agreement. So it’s not so much a question of what’s the negotiating instructions that Congress is going to give us, or what are we going to come up with in our own internal deliberations, or what we are prepared to do in Copenhagen. It is going to much more be framed by what is done in the Congressional legislation because, as a matter of practical reality, once an overall domestic package is put together and passed, that says, you know, we are going to have a reduction that goes 80 percent by 2050 and X percent to 2020, it is not going to be practical to think that we're going to then go in internationally and get Congress to do more than that. This will be a big, big fight to get the domestic piece done. I think we will prevail, but it is not going to be easy. And then you are not going to turn around, and say, oh, sorry guys, actually we have to do the following that’s different from what you just did. That’s not going to happen, I mean, just politically, it’s not going to happen.
Question: So the idea is that you will get the domestic program up and running before Copenhagen?
Special Envoy Stern: I didn’t say that (laughter). I would love that to be the case. That would be, I hope that's the case. Certainly not up and running, by the way. I would hope that it would get passed. I mean, up and running implies implementation and no, we are certainly, we are not talking about that under any circumstances. But what I would hope in the best-case scenario is Congress would pass legislation, the President would sign it, and all that would be done before Copenhagen. That would be the best. I can’t predict whether that will happen or not, it could happen …
Question: So Copenhagen will be doomed? I mean, if the U.S, Congress …
Special Envoy Stern: No, no, no, I don’t think Copenhagen will be doomed, but it will be … I actually don’t think that at all, but I think that we will have to approach Copenhagen with an understanding that there is, you know, that there is this element that is kind of still hanging out there and that's going to need to be, the structure of the agreement will need to accommodate that fact, and there are different ways to do that, as a matter of drafting and structuring the agreement. But it would be easier if we had the U.S. plan completed. It is by no means, it by no means dooms Copenhagen if that is not the case but it certainly … make my life easier if it was done, but I just don’t know whether it will be done.
Question: Will the guideline for the domestic package be what the President was offering by the stabilization of the 1990 levels to 2020 or do you already plan to make that more ambitious?
Special Envoy Stern: I don’t know the, I don’t know what will be put in, what the Congressional legislation will …
Question: What will come out? I … nobody knows …
Special Envoy Stern: No, no, but even, no, but even what goes in we don’t know, actually, because the legislation will be introduced in the first instance … likely, the first piece of legislation that will be introduced will be legislation by Congressman Henry Waxman from California. That is quite likely and, indeed, may happen within the next week or so. The Administration has obviously been talking on a regular basis with Congressman Waxman and others, but it will be in the first instance what he puts in will, you know, will be the initial vehicle, and whether it will be 15 percent below 2005 or something more than that I don’t know. But stabilization is your word, not mine (laughs). But I don’t think it will be less than that, and it may be that it’s more than that, I don’t know. Look, I think that the proposal the President made in this campaign and that was embodied again in his budget is, from the U.S. perspective, quite ambitious. It is, it is in fact about 15 percent below 2005 and if you, you know, there's all different ways to look at comparability, and the 1990 baseline is a way of looking at comparability which actually accentuates the difference between the EU and the U.S. If you looked at different measures – and Jonathan is more expert at this than I am – but if you look at measures such as cost; if you look at measures such as what the reduction would be off of business as usual by 2020; if you look at a different baseline year like 2005, you have the apparent difference between what the EU has proposed and what President Obama proposed shrinks quite a lot, sometimes it shrinks to almost nothing. So it does depend a little bit on how you define this. I think that what the President proposed is, I think it would be something like about a 30 percent reduction off of business as usual, and I think the European proposal is also about a 30 percent reduction off of business as usual, it may be a little bit more. So, you know, it depends on how you define comparability. But to your specific question: Will Congressman Waxman put in this same proposal or something a little less or more, I don’t know. I don’t think it’ll be less. I think it will be where the President is or maybe it will be a little bit more than that. But we’ll have see.
Question: I'm wondering, obviously there's tension between developing countries and the Annex 1 countries, it continues to be quite stark. I'm wondering how you see resolving that issue as we move towards Copenhagen. Everybody's keeping their cards very close to their chests, but what seems to be the easiest approach or mechanism in order to get the developing world, China especially, on board with targets, with specific targets?
Special Envoy Stern: Tension, I don’t see any tension. You think there's tension (laughter). No, just kidding. No, it is actually interesting though, I’ve had actually very constructive conversations so far with the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, and I don’t know, I can’t say for sure how this is all going to shake out. I think that it is quite clear that there will need to be, that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is going to be preserved, and I think should be, in all of its meanings, which is we have differentiated responsibilities and there are also common. Which, as I read that, means not exactly the same thing but everybody has got to do real things. I think that with respect to the larger developing countries like the ones or some of the ones you mentioned, clearly, if you, let me just go back to my basic principles, which, again is science and pragmatism. So the science part of that equation is that if you intend to get somewhere in the vicinity of what the science tells us we need to do, you can’t do this without significant action on the part of the major developing countries, you simply can’t. I mean, in a speech that I gave a few weeks ago, I had, you know, one of the principles that I cited in a bunch of principles that I referred to I called do the math. I mean, add it up, you just can’t get there unless you have significant actions. So, I think that there needs to be significant steps taken. I am I am struck by the fact, in talking with a number of these countries, and China and India are two good examples, that they are doing a lot, and they are doing a lot domestically. They have, I think, quite taken on board the need to take action and are doing in some cases some very impressive things. So it’s not, there is a piece of this actually which has to do with an educational process for people on the developed countries' side, and yet, while they’ve done a lot, they are going to have to do a lot more, and I think that they actually recognize that, I think we have to figure out ways to capture what they are doing, encourage more to be done, and what the exact mechanism for that is we don’t know yet. But I don’t, you know, you are right that there has been historical north-south tension and I think, to the greatest extent possible, I would hope that we can that we can improve upon that situation.
Question: One problem seems to be that the developing countries were promised financial aid at Bali and then they agreed, and since then nothing much has happened. Can you say anything about no funds have been specified and no mechanisms how to generate the money? What's the U.S. position on that?
Special Envoy Stern: Well, I think that the U.S. position is that it is clearly going to be important to provide significant financial flows to developing countries both with respect to mitigation and adaptation. I don’t think anybody has any doubt about that. The question is, and there are a lot of complicated questions that have to do with where the sources come from, I think, given the scale that is required, it is going to be some money from official government sources, but I think that’s not going to be the main part of it. I think that would even have been true if we weren’t in the middle of a major economic crisis, but we are in the middle of a major economic crisis on top of it, so I think that the capacity for large public financial flows, whether from the United States or Germany or elsewhere in Europe or Japan, is somewhat constrained. There are other possible sources of financing and obviously carbon markets is a good example. So I think that there is a question of, there's of amounts, there is a question of sources, there is a question of institutional arrangements, there is a question of governance. All of these things are highly important. On the issue of governance, I think that it is fundamentally important that developing countries have a say and a real say in how all of this gets put together and how financial resources can flow. I think it’s important that there be transparency. I think on the developed countries’ side it is also important that there be a sense of accountability and that there be an understanding of how the monies are going to be used. And I think that these things must, can, and will come together. I am not a bit surprised that, you know, you say that nothing has been done yet since Bali, well Bali set in place a two-year negotiation that is meant to culminate in Copenhagen – parenthetically, for us guys in the U.S., it is actually about a nine-month period instead of a two-year period but we’re living with that – and it's natural that the big elements are going to get developed along the way and probably not, you know, not finalized until we get there.
Question: It seems that your government has a rough idea of the revenues it could make with a cap-and-trade system, do you have a rough idea of the cap for the industry as well?
Special Envoy Stern: You mean what the emission limit is going to be? This is a little bit what we were discussing earlier. President Obama in his – going back to his campaign, again reflected in the statement he made before Poznan, again reflected in his budget submission from a few weeks ago – has indicated a number which could be expressed either as 1990 levels by 2020 or, taking a more recent base year, something like 15 percent or so below 2005 levels. That’s what the president has said. The legislation will, in the first instance, be, as it always is, will be introduced by members of Congress. Henry Waxman from California is the most likely initial sponsor of legislation, and I think that he will – and that is expected to be quite soon, to be introduced quite soon, maybe as early as next week – and I think that he, I expect that there will be a cap reflected in his legislation which is around where the President has talked or maybe even a little bit more stringent than that, but we don’t know for sure yet. And, by the way, I should also say that both with respect to the president and with respect to, I think with respect to what Congressman Waxman will do – certainly this is true with respect to legislation introduced last year – the United States has always, well, not always, but in the last few years in any event, been looking at this problem not as a 2020 problem, like, let’s look at the year 2020, but let’s look at the pathway to 2050 all the way, including midterm targets along the way, not simply a long-term goal but also not simply looking at it in a 2020 context. And that’s, I mean, I think, I didn’t bring this up earlier when I was asked about the stabilization question, but that’s a critical part of the United States’ proposal and President Obama has always said, again, not just 1990 levels by 2020 or 15 percent below 2005 but 80 plus percent reduction by 2050, so it’s that whole package, that whole pathway is a key part of the way we look at this and, frankly, the way we hope it will be looked at in the international context as well.
Question: I would like to elaborate on the meaning of the word "pragmatism"? What does it really mean? If I understand you right, pragmatism does not mean that America is not prepared to give figures, to commit to figures?
Special Envoy Stern: No it doesn’t. No, I don’t mean that at all.
Question: … because the opposition of science, meaning figures, and you are saying science plus pragmatism. It seems to me in the beginning that, don't stick to figures, just say we do the utmost we can do in the economic situation …
Special Envoy Stern: No, no, no …
Question: … so America's prepared to give figures in Copenhagen and to stick to the?
Special Envoy Stern: No, I do not mean by pragmatism what you are saying. What I do mean by pragmatism …
Question: But this was my question …
Special Envoy Stern: Yes, but what I do mean is that I think that there needs to be at the same time as we are keeping our eye on the science, we are also keeping our eye on what is practical, what can be politically achieved, and we are approaching things with some spirit of flexibility. We are trying to understand what your constraints are, we are trying to understand what the Chinese and the Indian constraints are; they are trying to understand what our constraints are, etc., so that we actually get a real deal done, not a weak deal that's not going to get us anywhere, but, you know, a robust deal. But there’s different ways to think about that. But no, I am not suggesting anything about numbers. The United States is talking about, the President is talking about a mandatory domestic plan with real numbers by real dates, and that is what we are talking about. But I don’t want to have, Kyoto was a good example of something that was not, in the end of the day, from the United States’ point of view, pragmatic, because we couldn’t do anything with it when we got home. That didn’t help the world. You know, believe me, nobody wants another deal with the United States on the sideline. Not useful.
Question: That was just what I wanted to refer to. What was in your point of you the problem with Kyoto, because the former President Bush was always very strongly attacked here in Germany for not signing it, for abandoning it. What was wrong … ?
Special Envoy Stern: Well, look, I attacked President Bush for abandoning it, too, I didn’t think that that was the right thing to do for any number of reasons. But put President Bush aside, because President Bush is not the issue anymore (laughter). The reality is that, had Al Gore been elected, it would have still been extremely difficult to get Kyoto ratified in the United States. That’s just … I mean, I am telling you the truth, that’s just the political reality. It would have been extremely difficult. It was looked at as, it did not have political support in the United States. I think we are going to, this is going to get … it was a different moment, there was no domestic legislation that had formed the kind of essential backdrop to the thing; there was a perception that the developing countries weren’t doing anything. There were a lot of problems that were associated with Kyoto and not the least of which, by the way, was the sense that it had the odd quality, at least in the United States, of being hard to do and costly and not getting anywhere anyhow, because it was just in this four-year, there was no kind of larger vision of where you were going to go over the space of the decades and how you were actually going to solve the problems. So I think that those things combined made it very problematic, and, you know, the truth of the matter is that maybe, ironically it may be … well, I’ll skip that, but (laughter). I’ll skip that.
Question: Special Envoy Stern, thank you so much for coming and spending some time with us today. Thank you.
(end of transcript)
Jump to Stern's Prepared Opening Plenary Intervention
Press Briefing of the U.S. Delegation
UNFCCC Climate Change Talks
March 29, 2009
TODD STERN: I would like to say a few words before taking your questions. I’m very pleased to be here in Bonn representing the U.S. in my capacity as the Special Envoy of the President for Climate Change. I am glad to have Jonathan Pershing with me and our whole team here. I look forward to joining the opening plenary session this afternoon and to making the first intervention on behalf of the United States.
My team and I came here determined to make up for lost time. America is now once again strongly committed to developing a global response to climate change. We do not doubt the science, we do not doubt the urgency, and we do not doubt the enormity of the challenge before us.
President Obama and his Administration are fully committed to action, both at home – where that action is well underway already – and abroad.
During the past two days in Bonn, we have had productive discussions with representatives from many countries, both developed and developing.
Let me say, in the course of our conversations here and in the course of conversations that I have had over the past six weeks -- we have been doing a lot of listening, a lot of sharing of ideas with many of my counterparts -- I am more convinced than ever that it is important that we be guided in these negotiations by a combination of science and pragmatism. Our job in these negotiations is to define a path forward that will be supported by the people that we serve so that our agreements can actually take effect with all countries participating, and can then start to make a difference.
The task in these negotiations is quite difficult, but if we can, all of us, open our minds and think creatively, I think we can and will succeed. What has been particularly heartening and encouraging in the consultations that I have been having the last number of weeks is hearing about — and being able to focus on a bit — the impressive and innovative things that people are doing, countries are doing, all around the world, [including] countries in the developed and developing world. The transformation of the global economy from a high carbon to a low carbon base is ultimately going to have to happen at the national level and indeed at the local level in some cases, so it is important that we have international agreement that is designed to support and bolster those efforts.
Let me also just say a quick word about the economic situation that we are in. This bears on the work that we are doing here on energy and climate. The path to a low carbon economy is also the path of long term, robust sustainable growth, which is why President Obama is extremely focused in shaping and forming the stimulus package and having a large clean energy, green component of that plan — some $80 billion in funding and loans for clean energy development that he included in his plan — that he was extremely focused on putting in there. That is also why he is committed to more than tripling the traditional level, the current level of U.S. investment in R&D for energy to a level of $15 billion per year over ten years. That’s what his plan is. As you know, the current level is in the three to four billion dollar range.
We think it is imperative that other countries seize this opportunity as well. I would note that China has, much like the United States, taken an important step by having a significant clean energy component of its stimulus package, but more can and must be done to pursue the path of low-carbon development. Many other countries -- South Africa, India, Brazil, and others have also designed projects and have plans for clean energy transformation that are quite important, and they are going to help them get on the path to sustainable development. It is vital in general that the global community support the efforts of developing countries to leap frog the carbon-intensive fossil fuel stage of development that industrialized countries have followed.
Let me just add one last word, before I take your questions, on the major economies process -- the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate that we are going to pick up on. Some invitations went out several days ago to the presidents and prime ministers of various countries. The leaders’ session will happen in the aftermath of the G-8 in Italy. We anticipate that there will probably be three preparatory sessions before that. The first one will be April 27-28; we are going to host it in Washington. We expect that the next two, probably one in May, one in June, will be hosted someplace else, but that has not been determined yet. This isn’t a negotiating forum but we hope that it will be an opportunity to have the kind of discussion among leaders and their representatives in the course of the preparatory sessions that can hopefully facilitate agreement in Copenhagen. And it will also be a forum for other kinds of discussions to pursue clean energy partnerships and the like; an important place I would hope to help move discussions along for Copenhagen, but obviously not to replace the Copenhagen discussions. With that, I will be happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Has America not left it too late for Copenhagen, to have a meaningful settlement? And are you going to be unveiling any fresh proposals over the next two weeks?
TODD STERN: America hasn’t done anything about leaving it too late. The Bali Action Plan set the timeframe of the end of 2009, which gave the rest of the world two years – and basically gives us nine months. But we accept that. We are going to work within that timeframe. And we are committed to getting a good, strong, robust deal done in Copenhagen. So we are certainly intending to go forward but I don’t think it would be accurate to say that the United States has been dawdling here. The new administration just got in.
We will be working with all of our counterparts to try and fashion an agreement that includes what we all know to be the critical elements, which would involve mitigation and financing, technology, adaptation, and the like. We are working quite intensively at home to develop what will be our approach, and that we will then certainly start discussing with other Parties. I would say that probably at some point later in April -- again we have been in place a short time; I have been at the State Department probably six or seven weeks at this point -- and so we have a quite intensive, quite high octane process going to develop policy.
In addition to having gotten there recently, we didn’t want to just walk in and come up with our own policy in a vacuum. I have probably met at this point with 20 or 25 countries in the course of the time that I have been there. And we quite deliberately wanted to reach out, consult, hear what others had to say, in the developed world, in the developing world, in Asia, in Europe, in South America, all over the place. And actually I am looking forward tonight to a dinner we are having with representatives of a number of the more vulnerable countries and states from Africa, which also have an important voice. So we are trying to listen to everybody, think about our own ideas, and in the relatively near term, I think we will be having some ideas that we will look to share with you.
QUESTION: There is very high expectation with this new American delegation coming here and joining the process. I think you know that. Maybe you have something to say about it. At the same time, there are already some concerns, actually two concerns. The one is the level of ambition announced by President Obama that sounds a little low for what is demanded by the scientists.
TODD STERN: We don’t actually agree that what President Obama has talked about is low at all. It’s important to understand what he has proposed and also to pause maybe for a moment on the issue that goes under the general heading in these negotiations of comparability. President Obama is proposing to reduce U.S. emissions by something in the order of about 16-17 percent from where we are right now, about 15 percent from 2005 levels, and about 80 plus percent by 2050. That is a significant reduction. I am well aware that there is a historical affection for the year 1990; and that in 1990 terms, the President has proposed to be at that level, the 1990 level, by 2020. But it is a 16 or 17 percent reduction from where we are right now. So the notion that this is sort of a zero level of stabilization is, we think, not accurate.
It depends on how you look at comparability. If you look at that 1990 level baseline, then you appear to have this 25 percent gap between what the EU, for example, is proposing and what the President has proposed. There are a lot of different ways to look at this. If you look at what the reduction against the “business as usual” level would be for the United States between now and 2020, it would be about 30 percent, probably just about what the European reduction would be. If you look at what the cost would be to the United States, in terms of what the likely prices of allowances would be, as against European, probably about the same. If you look, like I said, against a 2005 baseline, the 25 percent gap shrinks to about 10 percent. So it really does depend on how you look at this thing.
And the last point I would make, is we really do not think, and we don’t think that science thinks, that the best way to look at this is simply by focusing on the 2020 year. What the President is talking about is a pathway that would go all the way to 2050, with a very significant reduction, as I said, at 80 plus percent levels. And we think that that is not low at all, [rather] quite robust and actually quite consistent with what other, [including] the most ambitious countries are also talking about.
QUESTION: The second concern was about Congress, how far the Congress will be ready to go by the end of the year and the fear that you may have a disconnection between the administration and the Congress, and reproduce the mistake of Kyoto that was signed abroad and never ratified at home. So how will you manage to make sure that the Congress will be ready in December for an international agreement in Copenhagen?
TODD STERN: Well, I can’t guarantee when Congress is going to be ready. I am hopeful… The centerpiece of the President’s domestic program is the so-called cap and trade legislation. I am hopeful that legislation can get done this year before Copenhagen but I have no idea whether it will… Maybe yes; maybe no. It is extremely far-reaching and ambitious legislation, so it’s impossible for me to predict.
If it isn’t ready by the time of Copenhagen, then we’ll have to try and structure the agreement to accommodate that fact. I mean the one thing that is a working assumption for us, and it connects to the point that you just made about Kyoto, is that we need to be guided in the international setting by what the ultimate legislation, domestic legislation, that Congress and the President are able to arrive at. If you follow this at all in the U.S. press, you will know that this is going to be a very challenging, very difficult exercise to get this legislation done. I am confident that we will get it done but it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of effort.
There is going to be a lot of negotiation, among a lot of different parties. It is not just partisan, by the way. It is regional as much as it is partisan, because there are all sorts of different interests and concerns that come into play. But at the end of that negotiating effort domestically, there will be a bill and there will be a number. And I do not think that it is realistic to believe that we will then be able to go into an international setting and get a higher number than that -- and take it back to the same Congress, and get even more votes than we got for the domestic [legislation]. I don’t think that’s going to happen. So if it’s not done by December, then there will have to be ways that we structure the agreement to accommodate that fact. I don’t want to negotiate the agreement in this setting. There are different ways to think about doing that but it is absolutely one of the challenging aspects of this exercise for the United States.
QUESTION: I haven’t – this could be my fault of course – but I haven’t seen a lot said about financing an international deal. Is there any thought on the part of the administration to reserve part of the revenue from the cap and trade for international costs?
TODD STERN: You haven’t seen it publicly because we have been diligently working on this privately. In all seriousness, the financing issue is extremely important in our judgment. I think that it is extremely important in the discussions that you will see going on here and throughout the course of the year. So, yes, we are very focused on it. There are a number of different aspects of the financing question that are interesting and complicated. Those include: what the ultimate amount of money is; where is it going to come from; is it going to come from appropriated funds; is it going to come from carbon markets; is it going to come from some element of using allowances that are distributed, whether internationally or domestically; is it going to come from the use of policy measures, like loan guarantees that might help unlock private sector funding? There are a lot of different ways and places it could come from.
There are a variety of different kinds of institutional arrangements that could be involved. You could be talking about a centralized fund. You could be talking about using the existing different kinds of resources that are lodged in different institutions. And there are important issues that have to do with governance. Developing countries have a very legitimate interest in wanting to have a say and some influence on how resources are used, and I think a very legitimate interest in there being transparency and not too much bureaucracy in the way funds are able to flow. And developed countries, the donor side if you will, has a very legitimate interest in there being accountability and in making sure that when funds are provided they get used to best advantage.
All of those issues are I think going to be the subject of a very significant negotiation. We have been working quite actively internally, in Treasury, the State Department, the White House, etc., to put together our notion of a proposal. And we are in the middle of doing that. I think we will start discussing that with other countries, probably pretty soon.
QUESTION: I am curious what you think is the most essential and critical issue that will be discussed here in Bonn and what you think, at the end of the ten days or so, will make this particular session a success. Can you come out and say, what’s been successful, what was done well, how are we moving forward in the process?
TODD STERN: Contextually in the Bonn discussions? Well, I’ll make a stab at that. I think to some extent my answer is broader than Bonn but liable to be true in Bonn also. Jonathan may have some other thoughts.
I think that the most fundamental issues in this negotiation in general have to do with how to think about, capture and express the actions and the level of the undertakings to be taken by major developing countries as well as the developed countries. We already know the developed countries have already traditionally been in the mode of making commitments and undertakings. Now we are obviously adding the United States to that package. And I think we also need to add, in a different way, in a differentiated way to be sure, the major developing countries. And again I say that in a way that harkens back to my comments in my prepared remarks about the centrality of science here. I am fond of saying, if you do the math you simply cannot be anywhere near where science tells us we need to be… You cannot directionally be where you need to go on the science if you don’t have China above all, but also other major developing countries taking real steps. I think how that is captured, how that is understood and expressed, quantified, committed to, etcetera is going to be extremely important.
The other thing that I think is very related to that is the question that the gentleman from AP just asked about financing. I think that those two things go hand in glove. Certainly developing countries understand and are seized by the importance of the financing and inter-related technology questions. I think those are in my mind the most important, and the trickiest, most difficult issues in the negotiation.
As to Bonn in particular, Jonathan, I don’t know whether you have [comments]?
JONATHAN PERSHING: Let me say just two words about this particular negotiation. The first point is that we are now in the middle of a two-year process that was launched in Bali, with the Bali Action Plan. And beginning with this meeting and going forward through the remainder of this year, the intent is to develop a set of recommendations that emerge in the form of a text. This is the first meeting where that’s been as specific as that. And so we are looking forward, as the U.S. delegation, to examining ideas in that form and beginning to make our contributions although, as Mr. Stern said, we are still very much in the listening mode and collecting ideas. A success from this meeting will therefore be an outline of what we think will go forward over the remainder of the year, the beginning of the framework that sets us on that course. This is not a meeting where we will resolve particular questions. This is a meeting to explore options and issues. And a success will be if those are on the table in an open and transparent way for consideration.
QUESTION: It seems to me there are quite high expectations towards the new U.S. administration. I am just wondering how are you going to meet these expectations? Are you confident that you can meet these expectations?
TODD STERN: I think that there are high expectations for President Obama in a whole variety of areas. That flows, I think, in part from the extraordinary figure that he is, and going back to his campaign, and the extraordinarily difficult times that we find ourselves in, with respect to climate change and many other issues – the economy and any number of foreign policy issues… Yes, I am confident that we can have a success here if we use our heads properly. Yes, the United States is going to be powerfully and fervently engaged in this process. But that doesn’t mean that anybody should be thinking, and I don’t think people do, but this is sort of part of your question, that the United States can ride in on a white horse and make it all work. Because we can’t.
What we can do is return to the table with energy and commitment — with a commitment to science and a commitment to pragmatism in the sense of trying to get a deal done that will be doable, that will allow the international community to have all major players – including the United States – part of an ongoing deal and an ongoing process. And I think that we absolutely can do that… The natural inclination, which is often true in broad negotiations like this or any other, is to kind of lock in on your entrenched positions, re-state the orthodoxies, stick to your talking points, and not try to collectively get to yes. I think that’s the kind of thing that can de-rail us but I think if we can work together, the United States is going to be a partner. We mean to be a partner to developed countries and we mean to be a partner to developing countries. But we are all going to have to do this together. We don’t have a magic wand.
Delegation of the United States of America
Prepared Opening Plenary Intervention
Special Envoy for Climate Change
March 29, 2009
I am pleased to be here in Bonn today for this important session. As the President’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, I want to say on behalf of President Obama and his entire team that we are very glad to be back, we want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us.
I look forward to working with all of you and listening to your ideas so that we can chart a new and more effective course forward.
You will not hear anyone on my team cast doubt upon or downplay the threat of global climate change. The science is clear, and the threat is real. The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenarios. The costs of inaction—or inadequate actions—are unacceptable.
But along with this challenge comes a great opportunity. By transforming to a low-carbon economy, we can stimulate global economic growth and put ourselves on a path of sustainable development for the 21st century. I would go so far as to say that those who hang back and cling to a high-carbon path will be economic losers in the end because with the scientific facts of global warming getting worse and worse, high-carbon products and production methods will not be viable for long.
My central belief is this: that to succeed in containing climate change we must be guided by both science and pragmatism.
Only if we are flexible and pragmatic, respecting each others’ different circumstances and concerns, will we be able to make strong and decisive progress. Too much time has been lost over the years locked in sterile debates. Now, as we face a gathering danger, let us focus on finding the common ground that can lead to agreement, rather than holding our ground on fixed positions. None of us has a monopoly on truth.
Let me suggest that we can establish a foundation for a strong agreement in Copenhagen upon the following five building blocks.
First, we need a long-range vision that is guided by science. We would like to see Copenhagen chart a clear path to solving the problem. The Montreal Protocol is the most successful environmental treaty that we have, and one of the reasons for its success is its vision: not a series of short-term stopgaps, but a pathway to the elimination of ozone depleting substances over the course of many decades.
We can and should do the same when it comes to addressing greenhouse gas emissions. We would like to see an outcome in Copenhagen in which all countries set a long-term pathway and develop strategic actions that will collectively put the world on the road to a low-carbon future. We will need clear milestones along the way, and we will need to be able to adjust as the science demands.
Second, the United States recognizes our unique responsibility both as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases and as a country with important human, financial, and technological capabilities and resources. America itself cannot provide the solution, but there is no solution without America.
President Obama has taken that responsibility to heart, articulating a powerful and comprehensive commitment to transforming the United States economy to a low-carbon base.
We have many tools at our disposal to make this happen, and President Obama is intent upon using them. For instance, the President’s economic stimulus bill provides some $80 billion of new spending and loan guarantees to accelerate the clean energy transformation of the United States. This is an historic achievement. I would note that China has taken similar strong steps to promote clean energy in its stimulus plan. The world needs to make this a green recovery.
In addition, President Obama is working actively with key members of Congress to implement a nationwide cap and trade program that would cut emissions by more than 15% from current levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Our Environmental Protection Agency is paving the way for more stringent standards for auto emissions and other regulatory measures. And the President is pursuing a ten year, $150 billion investment program for clean energy research, development, and deployment to speed key technologies to market and make the mitigation effort easier for all countries in the coming decades.
This overall effort, especially the centerpiece cap and trade program, will largely set the level of the mid-term target and the longer-term pathway that the United States will take for reducing carbon emissions.
Third, there must be a global response, with truly significant actions by all major economies. The simple math of accumulating emissions shows that there is no other way to make the kinds of reductions that science indicates are necessary.
Countries that are most responsible for past carbon emissions and countries that are on track to be most responsible for future emissions must join together. That is the essence of our common responsibility and we must discharge it for the common good.
Of course our responsibilities are differentiated as well. Developing countries face urgent challenges in lifting their citizens out of poverty and providing them with a better life.
But part of the development challenge is making sure that developing countries have the opportunity to follow a cleaner path forward. I like to tell the story that earlier this decade India had only about 55 million people with phone service, but, rather than insist on following the industrialized countries’ path of wired service, India leap-frogged to cell phones, with the result that a few years later 350 million Indians have phones. We need a similar leap-frogging of fossil fuels in the world of energy.
I should say that I am enormously impressed by actions that many developing countries are already taking—India, South Africa, Brazil, China, Mexico and others. I have learned a great deal in the course of the very active consultations I have been conducting in the six weeks since I was sworn in at the State Department, and look forward to continuing that process.
Fourth, as part of our contribution, we have been working intensively on the question of how to establish a structure to ensure that significant funds flow to developing countries. We want to ensure that this structure is well balanced, providing for a robust amount of resources, transparency, sound governance, and the right incentives to establish policy and regulatory environments that can leverage private investment and unleash innovation both in developing countries and around the world. And we must develop appropriate protocols to ensure that low-carbon technology is effectively developed and diffused.
The fortunate among us also have a responsibility to assist developing countries in adapting to the previously unanticipated burden of climate change. We will have to use our adaptation resources effectively, in a way that takes good advantage of the institutions and processes that exist to promote development, and we will need to focus our efforts on the most vulnerable countries and populations, including small island states.
Fifth, we need an agreement that is supported not simply by negotiators, but by the people we serve so it will enter into force with all countries participating. Ultimately, this is a political process, and politics is the art of the possible. We’ll get much further if we do not cling to arbitrary numbers or inflexible dogma.
Let me speak frankly here: it is in no one’s interest to repeat the experience of Kyoto by delivering an agreement that won’t gain sufficient support at home in all of our countries, including my own.
Once again, our way forward should be steered by science and pragmatism. It serves no one to produce a weak political compromise that is inadequate to the scientific task at hand, but it no more serves anyone to produce a scientifically pristine agreement that fails politically.
I would suggest that we fashion an agreement that is guided by the laws, regulations, and programs we put in place nationally. I have observed often that when we look at what the major economies of the world – both developed and developing – are actually doing and planning, there is substantial cause to be encouraged.
But too often when we start negotiating, we find heads being pulled back into their shells like turtles and an atmosphere that is more contentious than collaborative. I think that our challenge as negotiators is to try to capitalize on the creative energy and dynamism we see at the national level and that gets those heads popping back out of their shells.
What matters after all is that we get on a viable, ambitious path to mid-century so we can solve the problem. And that we start now. Stalemate is not an option.
If America does what President Obama believes it can and must, and all of us collectively do what we can and must, then this negotiation can mark the time when we turned the corner and finally put the world on a safe and sustainable trajectory. We will not have solved the problem once and for all, but we will have made a powerful beginning in a more coordinated and comprehensive manner than at any time in history.
We look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, in the days and months ahead.
TRANSCRIPT: Press Briefing of the U.S. Delegation UNFCCC Climate Change Talks
Dr. Jonathan Pershing
Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change
Bonn, April 8, 2009
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thank you very much. I apologize for being late. The negotiations next door are not quite concluded and we had an opportunity to make a concluding statement, which I just completed. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to hear it. I hope I was eloquent and I’ll probably be nowhere near as eloquent here, but thank you all very much for coming.
Really I think there are a few things only that I would like to start this session with before I turn to your questions. The first one is perhaps in some ways to reiterate a point that was made by the Climate Change Envoy, Todd Stern, at the beginning of these negotiating sessions, and that is to know that we are extremely pleased as a country to be back and to be more formally and fully engaged in this process. I would note that over the course of the past two weeks we’ve had a chance to have bilateral sessions with dozens of countries here and there has been a sense that the appreciation of our reengagement is high. The expectations from us are high, but the hope that we can continue to do the work and be successful in the next nine months in the run up to Copenhagen is appropriately high, too. We intend to take this path forward to work aggressively to make a success out of that meeting. This was a start to those negotiations for our new team. The second thing that I wanted to say is that we continue to underscore both in the negotiations formally and in the informal dialog, the twin approaches that we are following. We are seeking to marry a scientific basis with a pragmatic approach. The science demands urgency, the science demands a long term prospective, the science demands a significant magnitude of change. The pragmatism demands that we consider all points of view; that we look domestically to see what we can deliver and not bring home an agreement that cannot be ratified; that we consider the circumstances of other countries and the needs of others in this process, because an agreement that we might be able to bring home that doesn’t bring others with us is equally invalid. The third thing that I’d like to say is that the negotiations themselves are just starting. Those of you who have been following them see from the floor statements the diversity of views, the breadth of concerns that countries are raising, the wide array of issues that are before us. This is a complicated subject. The simple headline that temperatures are rising captures the public imagination, as it ought. But the difficulties, the complexities, the nuance of what you do about it requires a great deal of time, of energy and of sophistication on the part of negotiators to work through. And for every issue that’s before us there are usually two or five or ten different perspectives, and finding common ground will take some time. So at this session we unsurprisingly saw the beginning of the establishment, the setting forth of that diversity of views. We’re encouraged that in some areas there is increasing commonality. We’re encouraged that, for example, people are beginning to talk about long-term pathways. We think that’s appropriate. We’re encouraged that there is a mention of the action by all countries. That begins with the Bali Action Plan, an agreement developed in Indonesia at the beginning of this process, but it continued here in this session; a consideration of what all countries might do. People are bringing actions to the floor, framing discussions of what they intend to do next and how they can contribute to the problem, the solution to the problem. That framework, I think, will stand us in good stead. But we also are hearing areas where divergence is wide. Countries have sought to have targets that have changed over the course of this meeting, in some cases asking for targets by countries, like the UK, of a reduction of 75 percent in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. That seems to me implausible. We also are hearing from many countries a request that there be enormous sums for financial transfer and that those come directly from government coffers. One, two, three, five per cent of GDP should be transferred, is the claim. That seems implausible. Finding some common ground around the realism of what we can do, the necessity of what we must do, in some scientifically credible manner and politically sustainable agreement is the objective over the next year, and, in spite of these differences, I remain encouraged that in our conversations there appears a great deal of area in the arena where we can come together. So with that I turn the floor over. Susan can have questions, very happy to take any that you might have, but I appreciate you being here. It’s only through these kinds of conversations with you in the press, that we can tell people what’s happening on what I think is one of the most momentous agreements of our time.
Question: Gerald Wayne (sp?) from Reuters. I'd like to ask, following up on your last point there about the demands from developing countries, some of those are a little too ardent, to use a word I've heard today. What do you accept that developing countries, do you accept these demands from developing countries on financial assistance and targets that we've been hearing for so long?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thank you very much. My sense about the demands from developing countries is they fall into really two broad categories. There is a very real need for financial assistance for technical and capacity building that goes around to countries that cannot currently act on their own and that need to have some facilitation and some support to move in the direction that we seek to move. A great number of countries fall into this category, a great number of countries are going to be severely impacted by the consequences of climate change and we take seriously our responsibility to work with those countries to move them forward. Unfortunately, there are a number of countries that I think are using this as a negotiating gambit and it's unsurprising – this is after all a negotiation. So we're looking to find some common ground around a realistic result.
Question: Arthur Max (sp?) from Associated Press. I wonder if you could tell us how you 0see this process and the MEF process working together or how is one going to affect the other, and is this process going to take more of a backseat in terms of political decision-making compared with that?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thanks very much. The MEF, for the Major Economies Forum, is an initiative that this Administration under President Obama is seeking to relaunch. Our sense has been that there is a group of large economies, politically powerful economies, that could in fact seek to create new momentum around a successful climate change agreement. Our intent is to try and bring that group together to create exactly that impetus and that momentum. We seek in that process, through a series of preparatory sessions culminating in a meeting of the heads of state later this year, to try and generate a new level of political will. If we look at the last couple of years in this negotiation, it has made only very modest progress and our hope is that through this kind of a Major Economies Forum we may be in a position to stimulate additional success, additional movement, considerable progress, in support of Copenhagen. But we have stated, and I will restate here, our intent is to use this process, the UN forum, to create an agreement. That process is an aid, that process hopefully will catalyze new movement, new action, but we remain committed to an agreement under the UN Convention.
Question: Fiona Harvey from the Financial Times. We've heard a lot from developing countries about asking for finance and so on, and some developing countries have said quite clearly – India for instance yesterday – said quite clearly that they wouldn't anything on the table about any commitments they would make until there was money on the table, you know, a large amount of and figures, dollar figures put on it, from developed countries. When might we see the U.S. come up with its proposals for financing?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: I think there are two issues that you raise. The first one is when the U.S. might have financing, the second is when countries like India might take actions and commitments. Let me answer the second one first because I think what I am impressed by are some of the commitments and actions being taken by countries like India, like China, like Indonesia. If we look at their domestic programs, they've already begun to take significant steps forward on climate change. I'll give you a couple of examples. In the Chinese case, we now see an energy-intensity program, we see a renewable energy program, we see a afforestation and a reforestation target that would be the envy of many developed countries. Significant efforts also underway in India; we see programs on renewables, programs on land management, programs that address adaptation already now in advance of any action of formal commitment by the Convention Parties. The second part of your question is when we may see developed countries move forward, and, in particular, when the U.S. might move with financing. One of the disadvantages of coming so soon after a change in administration is that those policies take some time to develop. I was sworn in on March 19th, only about a week before I came here – not a lot of time to begin to move things forward. I would note of course that while at this meeting that may be a successful response to your question, it won't be so for very long, and our effort going forward is to begin actively to work – we've already begun – to continue our active effort to develop those policies, including on finance, and hopefully to come forward in June with a much more detailed set of policy recommendations, including in our own domestic models.
Question: (inaudible) of Japan. I have a question on the legal form of the outcome document. There have been several options presented, one by Australia, others the same like Japan, like for Japan, that there should be a new Convention. What is the preferred way for the United States? Also, in your opening statement you've mentioned that it has to be pragmatic, it has to be ratified by the Hill. Is Kyoto still a dirty word?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Let me answer the last question first. I had the privilege of working for the U.S. government during the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol and found the city and the people remarkably warm and the agreement in many ways an extraordinary achievement. It was one the U.S. could not ratify, we did not ratify; there were concerns and constraints domestically around a number of issues that I think we'll have to address in our next agreement. Part of what we hope to do is never again to have a process in which we conclude something that we can't take home. My sense about the legal form is that there, too, we have not yet reached a resolution. The United States is not a party to the Kyoto Protocol and, as a consequence, we're as an observer somewhat limited in the kinds of interventions and the kinds of recommendations we are making in that discussion. But there are a number of aspects of the Kyoto Protocol that we would very much to be part of and to engage in. In particular, I note that the United States is in the process of developing a cap-and-trade program at home; that's one of the core elements of the Kyoto Agreement. In the next steps, there are certainly discussions around how that might be extended and how the Kyoto Parties might link to others, perhaps including the United States. We're interested in those discussions, be they under Kyoto or under other aspects of the negotiations here. So our effort is to engage, our effort is to find common ground, we have not yet made a determination about the exact legal form of the final conclusion.
Question: Darrel Demonte (sp?) from the (inaudible) Sun Times in India. Following from the legal format, I wanted to ask about the institutional form. Does the United States, is it thinking of another body to manage the funds that will be required for adaptation, especially in view of the fairly stringent criticism of existing multilateral institutions?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thank you. I think, as the question notes, there has been quite a lot of criticism of the existing international institutions. I would note that there are a number of questions that that raises. The first one is, are we better served establishing new organs, new frameworks, or are we better fixing the existing ones. Historically, our effort often has been to say this one doesn't work, we'll create something new. I think our going-in preference would be to try and fix the things we've got because, often, creating new ones hasn't been a solution. Having said that, there are new elements in this agreement that do not in fact mirror the work of any existing institution as precisely as Parties might choose. So one of the things that we're going to work on is to examine the existing institutions, to examine the demands on those institutions, and to consider whether or not they might be best modified or whether there is a gap in there operations that might be best served by something new. We do take on board the concern that the balance of representation may not be fully adequate. We'll examine that. We do take on board that often there is a question as to whether or not the disbursement of funds is rapid enough to meet the needs that it is seeking to meet. We're working on that. These are the kinds of areas that next steps have to address. We hope to come back in June with more detail.
Question: Just a quick follow-up on the previous question. Do you plan to make a submission by the April deadline? And if I can ask you a little more complicated question, do you see a way – your focus on the long-term vision of a pathway to a long-term objective – do you see a way of reconciling this with the 20/20 goals that are being espoused by most of the delegations here, so that both can be incorporated somehow into the Copenhagen Agreement?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thank you. As to the April 24th date, you are all probably aware that the Secretariat has made that a deadline for submissions by Parties in order to prepare a new text, a text that will then serve as the basis for further negotiations in June. The United States will in fact be working toward a submission. It is not clear that we will be in a position to submit information or recommendations in all aspects of the text. We are currently working to look at which aspects we might take on over the next two and one half weeks through the 24th, trying to be as comprehensive as possible. Your second question about the linkage between a long-term pathway and the near-term numbers, I'm reminded of the phrase that negotiations in politics are the art of the possible. I think it is possible, I think it will require a compromise, I think it will require clever drafting – but I think ultimately it requires some collective understanding of what we're seeking to do and in my mind the success historically that we've achieved is when we've found that common ground. It remains to be seen this early in the negotiation where exactly that ground is, it shifts all the time, but I think it will happen and it will probably have something that speaks to milestones going forward and something that speaks to the long-term vision about where we want to get.
Question: I'm (inaudible) from (Shin Wan?) News Agency. As we all note, President Obama wants to really do something and even if he has the goodwill as we all know for success, the U.S. Congress is a little about complex, it need time, so I think in your opinion is it really likely or unlikely to have a final agreement at this end of this year? Thank you.
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thank you very much. I think many of you are fully aware of the U.S. process, a rather unusual one in the international arena, where we have three co-equal branches of government, including the executive branch, which I represent, our congressional branch, and our courts. In this particular case, the executive branch has got the authority to negotiate, but it then must seek the advice and consent of Congress to ratify and, ultimately, Congressional action to implement many of the provisions. All these branches work extensively together, this is not an independent process where we launch off into a negotiation without consultation. A great deal of our emphasis and focus going forward will be to bring information back to Congress to seek their input going forward and to try and make sure that we're on board, that we're on the same page. Whether or not they achieve their success in time of Copenhagen is something that we also have some influence over – we can push, we can prod, and many of them will come here. Representatives, staff of representatives from Congress, are attending these meetings. We look forward to having many more at future meetings. It provides an opportunity for them to hear from other delegates the concerns that delegates have in the process. I don't know what the answer's going to be about Congressional capacity to move forward quickly. I'm hearted by some of the initial progress that's been made. An interesting proposal by Mr. Waxman, the chairman of an important committee on the House of Representatives, was introduced last week I look forward to additional action on the part of the Senate, which we understand will be forthcoming, and I think there's an intent to begin to move this process. We look forward to working with Congress to make that happen.
Question: (inaudible) from Peruvian newspaper El Comercio. Are you coming with concrete proposals in June no matter what other countries are going to do, or are you waiting, for instance, what is the European Union going to do about finance?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: Thank you very much. I think the European Union has indicated quite strongly the kinds of positions that it's seeking to take. It's got quite aggressive targets that it sought to announce. We're very impressed with what they've pulled of and managed to do, and we're excited about working with them as we both go forward. But the U.S. policy I think is one that we're developing at home taking into account things that others have done, but, perhaps more importantly, taking into account what we see as the important science, what we see as our political capacity, and what we see as the urgency of the issue. We look forward to working both with the European Union member states and with the Commission as we take those policies. We have consulted widely here including with the European Union and its member states and brought those ideas into our discussions. We very much look forward to continuing to do that, but we won't be waiting for someone else. One of the things that I think the President has made clear is that we look forward to being ourselves a leader and moving again aggressively in this arena.
Question: My name is (inaudible) from (inaudible) Indonesia. I would like to ask you the simple question that I think a lot of people want to hear. Do you think that the U.S. will be able to cut their emissions lower than what President Obama promised during his campaign? If so, why do you think it is able, and how? Thank you.
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: The President's actually made an announcement of what his intent is. His intent is to seek an emissions reduction of 20 by 2020 to return to 1990 levels and then to reduce substantially below that in 2050, 80 percent. We’re currently looking how that might be formulated, we're working with Congress on legislation that might implement that. The final provisions of the U.S. law are going to be a consequence of a negotiation between our Congress and our Executive branch and activities that have yet to be seen over the next several months of those negotiations. I'm quite excited about those numbers. We have fundamentally changed the U.S. position with this Administration, we've gone from a policy which didn't think climate was important to a policy which thinks that climate change is one of the central issues of our time and we've begun to take serious measures to implement that vision. The kinds of reductions the President is talking about are huge. If we look at a business-as-usual trajectory, it's substantially greater than the 15 percent that we might look at if we look only at a 1990 or 2005 level. These are huge changes in our economy that we are committing to and they go down from there very aggressively.
Question: Hi, Elizabeth Rosenthal from the New York Times. I've heard a lot over the course of the meetings here today, a lot of representatives of other countries are saying, as they have for a while, we don't want to put our cards on the table until we see something really concrete from the U.S. in terms of targets, in terms of dates, in terms of financing. Will those kinds of concrete numbers be there by June from the U.S?
Deputy Special Envoy Pershing: I think probably the people to ask are members of Congress, who I think will be those who dictate what the numbers will finally be, with the President's acquiescence. I'd be a bit surprised frankly if Congress finishes its entire portfolio and decides on a policy and frames the details by June when we begin the meeting. It's certainly possible, but at the moment I would have to say it's somewhat improbable. That to me does not suggest that they won't complete their work this year and it also does not to me suggest that other countries and the United States cannot work together on an array of details in this agreement. They include things like technology; they include things like institutions around finance and around monitoring and around verification; they include aspects of technology development; they include questions on how you might frame adaptation. These are central issues for a climate change solution that are not dependent on a number for a long-term target and frankly, not dependent on a 2015 number for financing. Those are central questions for the debate of course, for the negotiation, but they're not contingent questions. We certainly could move forward on an array of critical issues without their resolution, and our intent with our submission and our negotiations going forward is to do just that.
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- photo gallery
- Concluding Plenary: Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action Under the Convention (AWG-LCA), Bonn, Germany, April 8, 2009 Intervention by the United States of America Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change
- Press Briefing of the U.S. Delegation UNFCCC Climate Change Talks Bonn, Germany, March 29, 2009
- Intervention Opening Plenary Session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA)