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Cablegate: Argentina: Raul Estrada Oyuela, Old Lion of Climate Change

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RR RUEHAST RUEHDH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTM
RUEHTRO
DE RUEHBU #1246/01 3171838
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131836Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0027
INFO ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0004

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BUENOS AIRES 001246

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
OES/EGC FOR DREW NELSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KGHG ENRG EIND TRGY PREL EAGR AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: RAUL ESTRADA OYUELA, OLD LION OF CLIMATE CHANGE
NEGOTIATIONS, TALKS ABOUT COPENHAGEN

REF: BUENOS AIRES 1244

1. (SBU) Summary: ESTOff met on November 9 with Raul Estrada
Oyuela, a retired Argentine diplomat who specialized in climate
negotiations and was Chairman of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in
1997. Estrada Oyuela feels that the GoA now has no clear position
on climate change and does not have a high-level interest in the
subject. Still, he believes that the GoA will be much more likely
to support an agreement if financing is available to help in a
transition to a low-carbon economy. He also thinks that the GoA
would be amenable to a political agreement at Copenhagen, but is
not likely to take a leadership role in pushing for such an
agreement. Estrada Oyuela is convinced that no deal will come out
of Copenhagen without a bill passed in the U.S. Senate, and fears
that the USG will be scapegoated if no agreement is reached. His
advice for us is to request a six-month extension to the
negotiations to allow time for domestic legislation to provide a
firm negotiating position. End Summary.

------------------------

OVERVIEW OF NEGOTIATIONS

------------------------

2. (SBU) ESTHOff met with Raul Estrada Oyuela on November 9 to
discuss climate change negotiations. Estrada Oyuela was chairman
of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and considered a crucial
catalyst in achieving consensus in 1997. He is now retired from
the Argentine Foreign Service and works as a consultant.

3. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela believes a substantial agreement in
Copenhagen is impossible, but he is hopeful about a future
agreement in 2010 or beyond. When asked if a political agreement
without specific pledges on emissions reduction or actions would be
sufficient at Copenhagen, he threw up his hands and said, "What
else can we do?" He said that due to the Kyoto Protocol
experience, no one will believe the USG without a climate change
bill having first passed in the Senate.

4. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela said he knew that no real agreement would
be reached when a promising initial draft treaty grew to 200 pages
during June 2009 negotiations. He noted that such level of detail
guarantees that no consensus can be reached on the full agreement.
He is critical of those, including former Danish negotiator Thomas
Becker, who created unrealistic expectations for a conference just
10 months after President Obama took office.

5. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela's advice to the USG is to make a formal
proposal for talks to be reconvened in six months. That, he
believes, will allow time for a Senate bill to be passed and for
U.S. negotiators to come to the table will solid numbers. It is
not too late, he thinks, to push for a delay in the talks and
portray that as a success, not a failure. He emphasized that
timing is everything and, as is his habit, he illustrated this
point with a story. Negotiations were progressing rapidly on the
Kyoto Protocol in 1996, but he worked with U.S. negotiators behind
the scenes to slow down the process until Clinton was re-elected,
knowing that negotiations during an election season would be
unsuccessful. The timing of the final negotiations in Kyoto in
December 1997 was crucial to their success, according to Estrada
Oyuela. The likelihood of consensus may be much higher six months
from now.

6. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela believes there is a great risk that
Copenhagen will deteriorate to a game of blaming the United States.
Thus, the USG needs to work actively to prevent this, in part by
pushing for talks to be reconvened in six months. Estrada Oyuela
also said that the U.S. negotiators should emphasize to the Senate
that without a clear commitment from the United States, the process
will be delayed, and that the risks of further delay are huge.

BUENOS AIR 00001246 002 OF 004


7. (SBU) Despite his concerns, Estrada Oyuela is hopeful that a
substantive agreement can be crafted in the future, hopefully in
2010. He said that several countries, in particular China and
Japan, are playing much more constructive roles. But he noted that
everyone with experience in such negotiations recalls the failure
of the USG to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and that therefore
everything depends on the United States being able to make firm
commitments.

--------------------------------------------- ----

GOVERNMENT OF ARGENTINA IS "IGNORING THE PROCESS"

--------------------------------------------- ----

8. (SBU) While Argentina was a major leader of climate negotiations
throughout the 1990s, it is now much less active. According to
Estrada Oyuela, the GoA is essentially "ignoring the process,"
including not taking any serious domestic mitigation actions and
failing to maintain expertise in the field. Ambassador Silvia
Merega, the current head negotiator on climate change, never worked
on any environmental issues until six months ago and readily admits
that she does not know the issues well. By contrast, Estrada
Oyuela said, in the 1990s he worked to educate a core of diplomats
on the scientific issues. Many of those experts are now dispersed
into other bureaus and Embassies and no longer part of the
negotiating team.

9. (SBU) As an example, Estrada Oyuela said that he worked closely
in the 1990s with Osvaldo Canziani, an Argentine climatologist.
Canziani is a world-renowned climate change scientist and was
co-chair of a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Prize in 2007. By
contrast, the current climate change team has not called on
Canziani at all for assistance. Instead, they are relying on
Vicente Barros, another Argentine climatologist of whom Estrada
Oyuela is contemptuous. He said that he tried to work with Barros
in the 1990s and found him to be "incompetent." Estrada Oyuela was
amazed that Canziani has been left to the side by the current
climate team.

10. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela believes that there are still good people
working on climate change mitigation in the Argentine Environmental
Secretariat, but that they do not have the political support or
power to implement significant new policies. He noted that the
Secretariat's work on energy efficiency, for example, is
inconsequential when the political leadership continues to promote
policies that push in the other direction. (Note: Electricity in
Argentina is approximately 70% subsidized, for example, giving
little economic incentive to invest in energy efficiency. End
note.)

11. (SBU) According to Estrada Oyuela, the GoA is focused on two
issues at it relates to climate change. First, how to create and
preserve jobs, particularly as it relates to exports. Any position
that can be framed in the language of job creation is a popular
one. Second, it is dedicated to creating a fund to finance
mitigation response by developing countries. If financing is
available to help in a transition to a low-carbon economy, the GoA
will be much more likely to enthusiastically support an agreement.
(The GoA's current climate negotiator, Ambassador Silvia Merega,
also emphasized to us the importance of financing for mitigation
actions. See reftel.) Estrada Oyuela believes that the GoA is
amenable to a political agreement at Copenhagen, but is not likely
to take a leadership role in pushing for such an agreement.

-------------------------------------------

BUENOS AIR 00001246 003 OF 004


DEALING WITH OTHER LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES

-------------------------------------------

12. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela believes that there is no easy way to deal
with countries less committed to the process. Venezuela and
Ecuador, as OPEC countries, will maintain their positions demanding
compensation for the negative effects of mitigation. He "couldn't
believe" that Argentina is supporting some OPEC positions, and said
it is essentially a political favor to Venezuela. He expressed
puzzlement at Bolivia's position, and said that a Cuban friend told
him they were concerned that Bolivia had taken all of Cuba's
positions, leaving them without much to say.

13. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela thinks that Mexico should play a much more
prominent role in the negotiations. As an OECD country, but also a
developing country, he sees Mexico as being in a position to help
forge an agreement, but that it is not leading as it should. When
asked whether Argentina, as a G-20 and G-77 member, could play a
similar role, he simply laughed. He said that the current
negotiating team is confused, not politically supported, and could
not lead anything at this time.

--------------------------------------------- -------

BORDER TAX ADJUSTMENTS A MAJOR CONCERN FOR ARGENTINA

--------------------------------------------- -------

14. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela currently works as a consultant to the
Instituto de Promocion de la Carne Vacuna, a beef industry group.
He says the group is very alarmed about the potential damage to
beef exports from mitigation actions. Still, he believes that
Border Tax Adjustments (BTAs) will be implemented by developed
countries in some form, and that Argentina needs to prepare for
them.

15. (SBU) Argentina's agricultural sector is very much aware of the
move in the EU to have carbon emissions labeling on food products.
Argentine producers are also alarmed by a statement from Lord
Nicholas Stern, author of an influential UK climate change report,
suggesting that meat consumption must be cut. (In an October
interview, Stern said that "Meat is a wasteful use of water and
creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on
the world's resources...[People] will increasingly ask about the
carbon content of their food.") Argentina sees such labeling and
comments as linked to the continued protectionist agricultural
policies of the developed world, he said.

16. (SBU) When asked how Argentina should handle BTA concerns,
Estrada Oyuela said that Argentina simply has to take sufficient
mitigation actions to cut agricultural emissions and avoid BTA,
which will require a major adjustment of the agricultural sector.
He cited conversion of the beef industry from pasture-fed to a
feedlot system as one way to reduce methane emissions. BTA are
viewed as a sort of tax by the Argentines, one that will fall
excessively on their shoulders. However, he thinks that such
adjustments are inevitable and that Argentina needs to reform its
agriculture, rather than resist such measures.

-------

COMMENT

-------

17. (SBU) Estrada Oyuela's expertise and experience in climate

BUENOS AIR 00001246 004 OF 004


change negotiations was evident in the way he effortlessly
discussed the intricacies of the current negotiations. He is
optimistic about an eventual agreement (though not in Copenhagen)
and believes that emissions reduction measures, including border
tax adjustments and mitigation financing, will ultimately be put in
place. He feels that green technologies are the real key to
lowering emissions and that the USG is by far best-equipped to lead
(and benefit from) the move to low-carbon economies. End Comment.

MARTINEZ
MARTINEZ

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