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U.S. Policy on Sust. Dev, Energy & Climate Change

Paths to a Sustainable Future: U.S. Policy on Sustainable Development, Energy and Climate Change

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Address to the Shell Center for Sustainability Rice University, Houston, Texas March 13, 2003


Thank you, Chris, and the Shell Center, for inviting me to participate in today s discussions. I would like to congratulate the Center on its inaugural conference and on naming Chris Holmes as its executive director this past January. I also want to recognize Ambassador Edward Djerejian, Director of the James Baker Institute for Public Policy, who I know well and have worked with for many years. We miss you at the State Department. In addition, thank you, Amy Jaffee, another friend and colleague. Amy has done a tremendous job of helping to organize this conference. Today, I want to share my thoughts on the Administration s approach to sustainable development.

The Bush Administration has a considered and proactive agenda that links sustainable development with our policies on energy and climate change. Our policy is consistent with, and based on, the overall emphasis we have on promoting energy security, new cleaner energy technologies, and not least, economic competitiveness. Altogether we believe the approach I will outline for you today offers the most promise for the future for developing as well as developed countries. It is based on the fundamental premise that we need to develop and promote sources of abundant, affordable, and cleaner energy. Together with our partners -- in the private as well as public sectors -- we believe we can achieve these important objectives.

From Doha to Monterey to Johannesburg

Over the last year, we have worked hard to foster in the global community a new approach to sustainable development. Through a series of three landmark meetings -- the November 2001 Doha World Trade Organization Ministerial, the March 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, and last September s World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg -- we crystallized this new, results-oriented vision.

At Doha, the World Trade Organization successfully launched a new set of global trade talks that will focus on the role of trade as an engine for economic growth and development. This goes beyond liberalizing global trade to include the need for developing countries to participate more fully in the international trading system. One important aspect of this is helping developing countries build their wherewithal to expand trade. If, for example, we succeed in dramatically reducing agricultural subsidies and opening markets in developed countries, the benefits to developing countries will be enormous, far beyond any conceivable foreign aid increases. In short, Doha underscored the critical linkage between trade and sustainable development.

Four months after Doha, the Monterrey meeting broke new ground, with developed and developing countries reaching consensus on a new bargain on development. For donor nations, this meant a new commitment to the providing of more effective development assistance. For developing countries, this meant a new commitment to create the enabling domestic conditions required to put this assistance to good use.

President Bush led the way in shaping this new consensus by proposing the groundbreaking Millennium Challenge Account. If approved by Congress, the Millennium Challenge Account will dramatically increase our development assistance, ramping up over the next three years to an additional $5 billion per year. This is the largest increase in U.S. foreign assistance in more than a quarter-century! More importantly, the Millennium Challenge Account will target poor countries, which demonstrate good governance, invest in their people and open their economies to enterprise and entrepreneurship. At a time of tightening budgets, President Bush has made a concrete commitment of resources to assist those countries that help themselves.

Finally, at the World Summit for Sustainable Development held last September in Johannesburg, we built on the Doha and Monterrey meetings and turned our focus towards implementing sustainable development in action as well as in word. At Johannesburg, countries came together behind a comprehensive implementation plan that connects poverty alleviation, economic growth and environmental stewardship. Perhaps most importantly, Johannesburg underscored the key role of all stakeholders governments, civil society, and the private sector in this process. The showcasing of public-private partnerships at this scale was truly one of the greatest achievements of Johannesburg. In all, the Summit produced well over 200 partnership initiatives among all nations represented. The United States exemplified this approach. We launched five major partnership initiatives in the areas of water, energy, health, and hunger. And I take note that the Shell Center will be focusing its efforts on two of these key sectors, including water and energy. We also launched additional public-private initiatives related to forests, housing, oceans and geographic information. Our focus was on achieving tangible results -- not just new international agreements.

Let me say a few words about an issue I know we are all keenly aware of when we speak of sustainable development today -- that is the issue of human health. In particular, I refer to illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, as well as tuberculosis, and malaria and the effect that these diseases have on countries trying to maintain momentum in their economic growth and development. A world in which entire populations are decimated by diseases challenges the very concept of sustainability. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is especially troubling. AIDS is destroying workforces, orphaning millions of children, and extinguishing hope in communities, countries and continents. Although at present the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is in Sub-Saharan Africa, the National Intelligence Council reports that unless we act urgently, we will see similar or even worse epidemics in other parts of the African continent, as well as India and China.

In response, President Bush announced in the State of the Union address the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a 5-year, $15 billion initiative to turn the tide in the global effort to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This new commitment of resources is designed to help the most afflicted countries in Africa and the Caribbean wage and win the war against HIV/AIDS, extending and saving lives. This AIDS initiative comes on top of our already substantial efforts both bilaterally and in the instrumental role the United States played in launching the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in 2001. The United States was the first country to make a contribution to the Fund and leads the world in having committed $500 million to it 23% of total fund pledges to date. By reaching out to governments, NGOs and private corporations, the Global Fund demonstrates clearly the positive results which can be achieved through public-private partnerships.

So to summarize, our efforts regarding sustainable development focus on a new results-oriented vision. Our approach has been endorsed and furthered in a number of key international meetings over the last 2 years. We intend to continue this approach next week at the World Water Forum to be held in Kyoto, Japan; next month at the upcoming session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York; and in more international gatherings in the months to come. Moreover, we have coupled this vision with significant new domestic resources -- as exemplified by the President s Millennium Challenge Account and our efforts on HIV/AIDS. These efforts speak volumes about the Administration s compassionate approach to sustainable development.

Climate Change

Let me now say a few words about the Administration s energy and climate change policies. This Administration is focused on climate change and we are committed to addressing this issue. As in Johannesburg, however, we seek to produce results, and not just to produce agreements that burden economic growth while failing to place the emphasis on long-term solutions.

Addressing global climate change will require the combined effort of all nations over the course of this century, as well as major advances in the underlying science. We need what I would call a Revolution in Energy Affairs - that is the development and deployment of newer and cleaner energy technologies that will help us address climate change. In turn, development of these technologies depends on continued strong economic growth. Growth is the solution to climate change, not the cause of it -- because nations with growing economies are nations that can afford to invest in the research, development and deployment of modern, cleaner technologies while promoting energy efficiency.

Recognizing this reality, last February President Bush announced an ambitious and forward-looking climate and energy plan. The plan has three basic components: first, to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions; second, to work with other nations to develop an efficient and effective global response to this long-term challenge; and last, but not least, to pursue assertively new technologies and better science that will give us the means to take prudent and balanced action in the future.

Let me begin with the first component. To slow the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions, the President has set a national goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas intensity -- that is greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of GDP -- by 18% over the next 10 years. Like an absolute emissions target, an intensity reduction of this magnitude requires real effort. Unlike an absolute emission target, an intensity target will not inadvertently hurt our economy. Nor will it give us credit for emissions reductions occasioned by economic hardship.

The President s goal is a 30% improvement over business-as-usual. This goal translates into more than 500 million metric tons in cumulative savings of carbon-equivalent emissions in the United States over the entire decade -- equivalent to taking some 70 million cars off the road. Focusing on greenhouse gas intensity sets us on a path to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and, as the science justifies, to stop and then reverse that growth.

To meet this goal, last month the Administration unveiled the Climate VISION program. Under Climate VISION 12 major industrial sectors, along with the membership of the Business Roundtable, have agreed to meet ambitious commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decade. This program, along with other industry based programs, such as the improved reporting of emissions, demonstrate our near-term commitment to moving the United States onto a glide path to real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while not harming economic growth. In addition, the President s new budget includes support for some longer-term commitments. These include tax credits for the purchase of hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, for residential solar heating systems, for energy produced from landfill gas, for electricity produced from alternative energy sources, and for combined heat and power systems.

The second component of the President s climate change plan is international cooperation. It is critical to involve developing countries as well as developed nations in an effective global response to climate change. Over the last year, the State Department has initiated action-oriented, climate change dialogues with more than 14 nations and regional entities which together represent more than 75% of the world s greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we are increasingly pursuing multilateral ventures in energy R&D on a range of technologies that may revolutionize the way we use energy by the middle of this century.

Reaching out to the countries that emit most of the world s greenhouse gas emissions -- especially developing countries -- is critical. One of the flaws of the Kyoto Protocol is that the developing countries have no obligations. Consider for example, that by 2020 China and India alone are projected to have more greenhouse gas emissions than the United States or Europe. Developing nations already account for a majority of the world s net greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly they need to be part of the solution for the future.

Yet, it would be unfair -- indeed, counterproductive -- to condemn developing nations to slow economic growth or no growth by insisting that they take on impractical and unrealistic greenhouse gas targets. Many developing countries share our views on the need for a different approach, one that will address climate change in the context of economic growth and development. The greenhouse gas intensity approach President Bush put forward gives developing countries a yardstick for progress on climate change that recognizes their right to economic development -- a goal that, unlike that of the Kyoto Protocol s, -- takes account of differing levels of economic growth in differing circumstances.

The third component, as I said, is advancement in science and technology. Absolutely key to our diagnosis and treatment of the climate issue is the need for breakthroughs in new energy technologies as well as better climate science. Our robust R&D on climate science -- equal to the rest of the world combined -- helps us understand better the potential degree, magnitude, distribution and other uncertainties surrounding the phenomenon of climate change.

We have also expanded our investment in developing and deploying cleaner energy technologies both domestically and internationally. Only by such an assertive approach can we expect to achieve the ultimate goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. Perhaps the most exciting element in our climate and sustainable development agenda is a series of recent Presidential energy policy and technology initiatives announced last month. These initiatives involve new technologies to first, capture greenhouse gas emissions, second, to promote hydrogen, and third, to promote nuclear fusion research in the future. The initiatives offer a continuum of new energy technologies out to 2050. Altogether these developments have profound implications for our foreign policy and our long-term economic prosperity.

Just two weeks ago, Secretary Powell, Energy Secretary Abraham, EPA Administrator Whitman, myself, and others, met with the President to announce the Administration s new Carbon Sequestration Initiative. Carbon capture and storage presents a promising technological approach for removing CO2 produced during the combustion of fossil fuels before it can enter the atmosphere. This initiative has two elements. The first element is a multilateral initiative called the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum that is designed to bring together 14 countries to promote research in the area. The goal will be to develop cost effective technologies to separate, capture, transport and store carbon dioxide from fossil energy, particularly coal. A major international kick-off conference is scheduled for late June in Washington, DC. The second element of the carbon sequestration initiative is a $1 billion, public-private effort to construct the world s first fossil fuel, emissions free power plant. The plant, known as Future Gen¸ will be a living prototype of carbon capture and storage, and it will produce both electricity and hydrogen. This is a particularly important technology for many developing countries that will continue to depend on coal for electricity for decades to come. For them, this will be a critical public health tool. For the world, it will be a part of the answer for addressing the challenge of climate change. If the United States and other industrialized nations do not lead in developing these technologies, no one else will.

The President also launched his hydrogen fuel initiative this year. The goal of this initiative is to accelerate our transition to a hydrogen economy, working closely with the private sector. In addition to $500 million currently planned for FreedomCAR , the President s new effort will mean a total of $1.7 billion over the next 5 years to develop hydrogen powered fuel cells, hydrogen infrastructure, and advanced automobile technologies. If we develop this technology successfully, a child born today will have the choice to buy an emission-free car whose only byproduct is water vapor. It would be hard to overstate the energy security, public health, and climate change implications of such a transformation in transportation technology.

Finally, on nuclear fusion, the President directed us earlier this year to rejoin negotiations on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). This initiative positions the United States on the cutting edge of efforts to explore the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

These new technologies, which I have described -- carbon sequestration over the coming decade; hydrogen over the coming generation; and nuclear fusion out to 2040-50, underscore the President s commitment to lead the world on climate change -- and our view that the sine qua non to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions is developing new, clean energy technologies.

Our activities provide an important path to the long-term goal we share with Kyoto Protocol countries of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. Our approach fleshes out a parallel path that does not obstruct or hinder Kyoto. Indeed, technology breakthroughs ultimately will be the deciding factor as to whether the objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can be reached.

Our leadership in developing these new energy technologies will go a long way towards promoting a better future for the world. One need not try too hard to imagine a world where the over 3 billion people in Asia and Africa have access to cleaner energy -- which promotes economic growth and development; while minimizing or eliminating the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In this world the poorest people in the most remote parts of the world, will have, for the first time in some cases, the power necessary to bring them clean water, to improve the amount of crops they can grow in their fields; and to generate the electricity that will heat and cool their homes. In short to bring them the energy that will help their communities develop and lift their people out of poverty. This is the promise of the Revolution in Energy Affairs, and will be one of the key successes of this Administration s energy policy.


Former Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has written, by perceiving ourselves as part of the river, we take responsibility for the river as a whole. This Administration understands this truth, and is committed to global leadership, whether it is in the ensuring the security of America and our allies, preserving economic growth and opportunity, or enhancing global environmental stewardship. Through the efforts I have described today, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to these responsibilities. Thank you very much.


Released on March 17, 2003

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