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US Climate Change Press Conf In Montréal, Canada

US Climate Change Press Conference - Montréal, Canada

COP 11/MOP 1 Press Conference


Dr. Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative and
Alternate Head of the U.S. Delegation

Montréal, Canada
November 29, 2005


Dr. Watson: Thank you all for coming here today.

Good afternoon. The United States is focused on making progress under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP 11, which is being held in parallel with the first meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol here in Montreal. We remain committed to the Framework Convention and we are doing much to contribute to its objective.

In 2002, President Bush set an ambitious national goal to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the United States economy by 18% by 2012. This is a first step toward a long-term effort to slow, and as the science justifies, stop and then reverse the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Our "emissions intensity" approach ensures a focus on policy measures that reduce emissions while fostering a growing, prosperous economy. The President's policies harness American ingenuity and innovation to develop and deploy cleaner, more efficient and effective energy technologies.

Our approach is working. We are already well on track to meet the President's 2012 goal and we are reducing our emissions intensity at a faster rate than many countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol. The United States is actively pursuing our climate change strategy; we are in the implementation phase; and we are spending approximately $5 billion annually -- more than any other country -- on science and technology.

And through bilateral and U.S.-led multilateral partnerships with nearly all major developed and developing countries, we are leading a global approach to achieving our shared commitments to address climate change. The United States and our partners around the world believe that effective actions to meet energy needs, advance clean development, and address climate change require integrated solutions that achieves sustainable development.

We are moving forward on a multitude of local, regional and global energy, clean development and climate change initiatives that support the broader goals of promoting economic growth, meeting the need for greater energy resources for poverty eradication, enhancing social conditions, and protecting the environment.

So, in short, the U.S. has a three-prong approach to climate change that addresses both its near-term and long-term aspects. First, by slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by reducing our greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012; laying important groundwork for future action through major investments in science and technology; and third, cooperating internationally with other nations to develop an efficient and effective global response.

We have in place more than 60 mandatory, incentive-based, and voluntary Federal programs designed to help meet the President's greenhouse gas intensity goal, which would reduce emissions by more than 500 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent by 2012, an amount equal to taking 70 million cars off the road. And we have made steady progress toward this goal. Between 2000 and 2003, President Bush's first three years in office, the United States managed to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1 percent, while growing our economy by $1.23 trillion -- almost the size of the entire economy of China -- and increasing our population by about 8.6 million people , which is roughly the combined population of Ireland and Norway. This emission trend is the fifth best among developed countries during these three years. These reductions have come from desirable improvements in efficiency and deployment of advanced energy technologies and practices, the continued structural shifts in our economy to lower emitting industries, and an undesirable shift of higher-emitting energy intensive industries to other countries with significantly lower energy costs.

The United States continues to lead the world in funding on climate change science and technology. We are advancing the development and deployment of a broad range of key technologies, such as renewables, energy efficiency, advanced fossil and nuclear, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage, that together have the potential to achieve substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions. And nearly every major provision of the broader Energy legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President this summer will help advance and deploy many of the President's priorities for cleaner, more efficient, and less greenhouse gas intensive energy systems, including over $11 billion in incentives for production of wind, geothermal and solar power; consumer tax credits for highly fuel efficient hybrid and clean diesel vehicles; clean coal technology; emissions-free nuclear power; and renewable bio-fuels.

The Administration's international engagement on climate change issues centers on five key ideas, all of which extend from and build upon our own experience at home in the United States:

First, a successful international response to climate change requires developing country participation, which includes both near-term efforts to slow the growth in emissions and longer-term efforts to build capacity for future cooperative actions.

Second, we will make more progress on this issue over time if we recognize that climate change goals fall within a broader development agenda -- one that promotes economic growth, reduces poverty, provides access to modern sanitation and clean water, enhances agricultural productivity, provides energy security, reduces pollution, and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions. Countries do not look at individual development goals in a vacuum, and approaches that effectively integrate both near-term and longer-term goals will yield more benefits over time.

Third, technology is the glue that can bind these development objectives together. By promoting the development and deployment of cleaner and more efficient technologies, we can meet a range of diverse development and climate objectives simultaneously.

Fourth, we need to pursue our international efforts in a spirit of collaboration, not coercion, and with a true sense of partnership. This is especially true in our relations with developing countries, which have an imperative to grow their economies and provide for the welfare of their citizens.

And finally, we need to engage the private sector to be successful. While the right kind of government-to-government collaboration can pave the way for great progress, we will need to harness the ingenuity, resources, and vision of the private sector in developing and deploying technology.

And we are putting these ideas into practice. Internationally, the United States is implementing bilateral and multilateral climate change partnerships. Bilaterally, we have partnerships with 15 countries and regional organizations, including the European Union, and we are working with our partners on over 400 activities in the areas of climate change research and science, climate observation systems, clean and advanced energy technologies, and policy approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We also continue to assist many developing country efforts to build the scientific and technological capacity needed to address climate change.

The United States has also initiated six climate change science and technology initiatives. These include the Group on Earth Observations; the Generation IV International Forum on Nuclear Technology; the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, which is developing carbon capture storage technology; the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy; the Methane-to-Markets Partnership; and, most recently, the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Finally, I want to address the issue that received much attention here in Montréal -- to a so-called "post-2012 process." Kyoto Parties are legally obligated to commence discussions here in Montréal on a second commitment period, which for them would presumably begin in 2013. We respect that obligation and expect that they will meet their commitment to do so. However, the United States is opposed to any such discussions under the Framework Convention.

We are involved in climate discussions on an ongoing basis through many government and non-governmental venues, including the G8 and bilateral and regional discussions with other countries.

These engagements provide many opportunities for countries to join together to discuss climate policy, often focused on practical steps to advance climate change, such as accelerating the development and deployment of advanced energy technologies.

Within the Framework Convention, we have had numerous opportunities for countries to join together to discuss climate policy and have welcomed our ability to participate in and to learn from the discussions that have taken place during official COP roundtables and the Seminar of Government Experts in Bonn last May.

However, formalized discussions under the Framework Convention -- which is the current proposal by some Parties -- are in fact negotiations. The U.S. position remains consistent. We see no change in current conditions that would result in a negotiated agreement consistent with the U.S. approach.

The United States seeks to focus attention on progress toward the shared objectives of the Framework Convention rather than to detour positive approaches toward a new round of negotiations based upon the Kyoto process. We are not a party to the Kyoto Protocol and we do not support any such approach under the Convention for future commitments.

U.S. climate policy is founded upon the conviction that actions bring results. We believe that it is best to address this complex issue through a range of programs and technology initiatives that address climate change issues through partnerships based upon both near-term and longer-term sustainable development and clean energy objectives.

Thank you for your attention. I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Alister Doyle with Reuters: You've said you're not interested in further discussions and developing on the future of the Convention and yet in the G8 declaration did say that we are committed to move forward in Montreal's global discussions on long-term cooperative actions to address climate change.

How will you be meeting that G8 commitment here?

Dr. Watson: We are moving forward. We are making progress under the Convention. And we are discussing things like technology development, longer-term things. We are having major discussions with many of our partners both regional and bilateral about how to move forward in a constructive manner. So we are moving forward.

Tim Hurst with BBC News. Tony Blair said this morning, in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, in London: "I believe there will be a binding international agreement to succeed Kyoto when the Protocol expires in 2012 that will include all major economies."

I take it from your comments just now that he is plain wrong.

Dr. Watson: Well, I haven't seen all the words that go around that. The Prime Minister has made several statements of late. I really don't want to put words in his mouth -- but, no, we would certainly not agree that the United States would be part of a legally binding targets and timetable agreement post-2012.

Marty Coyne from Platts: Thanks. To clarify, if countries here that have ratified the Treaty went ahead with their own post-2012 framework, decided on that -- call it strategy or whatever -- the U.S. wouldn't oppose them from doing that?

Dr. Watson: No, absolutely not. And, in fact, they are required to. We view the activities under the Convention itself as well as the activities under COP and MOP -- they are two separate and distinct legal instruments, the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention.

Parties that have ratified Kyoto are obligated. They have signed. They ratified. They are obligated to initiate those discussions here.

As I said earlier, we expect they will meet their commitments.

Alex Von Geyer with the publication Sustainable Development International: Just before I ask my actual question, I am interested to note that if the 15 percent GHG reductions are achieved by 2012 -- My question is, as you are not actually signatory to Kyoto, how much lost technology capacity will there be in terms of CDM and carbon capture storage?

Dr. Watson: I really don't know the answer to that question. CDM is being reviewed here. There are many projects in the pipeline. Again, I don't know the situation with what decisions may or may not be being taken with regard to carbon capture and storage within the CDM.

Aline Gobeil, Radio-Canada: When we talk to Americans who are interested in this conference, many always remind us that the U.S. position at this conference does not represent the opinions of major groups in the U.S. including the American Senate, which has passed a resolution in June asking for the U.S. to go ahead pressing for more involvement. There is also a resolution that was introduced very lately by Senator Biden and Senator Lugar, a Republican, from the Foreign Affairs committee, asking for more involvement.

I would like to have your comments on the American negotiation team's position at this conference compared to what is going on in the American Congress now.

Dr. Watson: There are a number of things that are going on in the U.S. Congress and we certainly appreciate the interest of, you know, the members of Congress both in the House and the Senate on this issue and, particularly, Senators Lugar and Biden, and their efforts to further constructive dialogue.

Let me tell you the basis. If you read the resolution -- basically it says what we are supposed to do is to negotiate agreements, which would a) not hurt the U.S. economy and b) involve developing countries. In context, it is basically no different than the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which was passed in 1997.

Everything that the previous Administration came back from Kyoto with in terms of binding the United States -- or attempting to bind the United States to that agreement was totally counter to what the U.S. Senate had instructed.

So, nothing has changed. There is no interest among developing countries for binding targets and timetables, nor should there be. We wouldn't expect them as Prime Minister Blair said recently. We, in fact, can't expect any country it is a political reality -- we can't expect any country to sacrifice its economic growth to solely address climate change, in particular, large developing countries.

So we have a situation where you are not going to have developing countries join in any agreement which is 1) essentially major criterion that the U.S. Senate just put upon us. And, second, we don't see that any agreement, particularly pushed by Parties that would call for an additional 15 to 30 percent reduction by 2020 over and above what is required for those who are in the Protocol would have anything but devastating impacts to the U.S. economy.

So it's a mixed message.

Jeff Jones with Reuters News: We heard from representatives of major environmental groups this morning that, basically, the whole process is flawed and kind of doomed to failure without U.S. participation in a full sense. I am wondering if you might react to that.

Dr. Watson: I didn't see that particular ... I did see the reference this morning. I think it was in ECO that was urging folks to go ahead under the Protocol itself. I don't know why it is doomed. There is more than one way to address climate change. There are many approaches.

The idea that you have to be bound by a Kyoto-like structure to address the issue we believe is a fallacious one. Once again, look at the data. Look at the data. The United States has done better in the first three years of the Bush Administration in addressing greenhouse gas emissions than the EU15, EU25, the UK, France, Germany -- I mean, I can go down the laundry list for you. We are not taking a targets and timetables' approach.

I reject the premise that the Kyoto-like agreement is necessary to address the issue. There are many approaches. We are on a different one From the Kyoto parties. We're all coming forward at the end -- the main objective is to lower emissions in the long run.

Kathryn Kovac from Radio Canada: If you are so much opposed to post-2012 what do we intend to do here until 9th of December and -- do you have other countries here that are in favor of your position and who are they?

Dr. Watson: I am not sure where other countries are on this particular issue. If you look at the COPs Parties' agenda, there is a full slate of activities under the Framework Convention as well as a full slate of activities and issues to be considered under the MOP and the Protocol. Chief among those, of course, under the Convention are the work on the five-year program of adaptation for climate change and on adaptation, which was agreed to and developed in Buenos Aries last year and capacity building research systematic observations, a number of funding issues, et cetera, et cetera. So there are a whole slate of issues that will keep our delegation quite busy over the next two weeks.

Thank you.

Released on November 29, 2005


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