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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate

Remarks at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Copenhagen, Denmark

December 17, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all for coming this morning. I arrived in Copenhagen several hours ago. I’ve just had a briefing on the state of the negotiations. I'd like to give you a brief report on where we stand and then make an announcement.

First, let me thank Todd Stern and the terrific team representing the United States at this conference. Actually, they’ve been representing us ever since the beginning of the Obama Administration over this past year.

We appointed Todd Stern as our first-ever Special Envoy for Climate Change because we understood that this is one of the most urgent global challenges of our time, and it demands a global solution. Climate change threatens not only our environment, but our economy and our security -- this is an undeniable and unforgiving fact.

So in addition to the robust actions that the Obama Administration has taken at home -- from the historic investment in clean energy included in the Recovery Act to the new efficiency standards for cars, trucks, and appliances -- we have pursued an unprecedented effort to engage partners around the world in the fight against climate change. And we produced real results.

President Obama launched the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate which brought together key developed and developing countries. He also spearheaded an agreement, first among the G20 and then the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations, to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

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And after a year of diplomacy, we have come to Copenhagen ready to take the steps necessary to achieve a comprehensive and operational new agreement that will provide a foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth. Our U.S. delegation includes not just the President of the United States, but six members of his Cabinet.

We have now reached the critical juncture in these negotiations. I understand that the talks have been difficult. I know that our team, along with many others, are working hard and around the clock to forge a deal. And we will continue doing all that we can do. But the time is at hand for all countries to reach for common ground and take an historic step that we can all be proud of.

There is a way forward based on a number of core elements: decisive national actions, an operational accord that internationalizes those actions, assistance for nations that are the most vulnerable and least prepared to meet the effects of climate change, and standards of transparency that provide credibility to the entire process. The world community should accept no less.

And the United States is ready to embrace this path.

First, we have announced our intention to cut our emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately in line with final climate and energy legislation. In light of the President’s goals, the expected pathway in pending legislation would extend those cuts to 30 percent by 2025, 42 percent by 2030, and more than 80 percent by 2050.

Second, we also recognize that an agreement must provide generous financial and technological support for developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. That’s why we joined an effort to mobilize fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012 to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of countries in need.

And today I’d like to announce that, in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries. We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. This will include a significant focus on forestry and adaptation, particularly, again I repeat, for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

So there should be no doubt about the commitment of the United States to reaching a successful agreement here in Copenhagen and meeting this great global challenge together.

But ultimately this must be a common effort. We all know there are real challenges that remain in the hours left to these negotiations. And it is no secret that we have lost precious time in these past days. In the time we have left here, it can no longer be about us versus them – this group of nations pitted against that group. We all face the same challenge together.

I have often quoted a Chinese proverb which says that when you are in a common boat, you have to cross the river peacefully together. Well, we are in a common boat. All of the major economies have an obligation to commit to meaningful mitigation actions and stand behind them in a transparent way. And all of us have an obligation to engage constructively and creatively toward a workable solution. We need to avoid negotiating approaches that undermine rather than advance progress toward our objective.

I am deeply concerned about the consequences for developing countries - from Bangladesh to the Maldives, from the Caribbean to West Africa and the Pacific Islands - if we cannot secure the kind of strong operational accord I’ve described today. We know what the consequences will be for the farmer in Bangladesh or the herder in Africa or the family being battered by hurricanes in Central America. Without that accord, there won’t be the kind of joint global action from all of the major economies we all want to see, and the effects in the developing world could be catastrophic. We know what will happen. Rising seas, lost farmland, drought and so much else. Without the accord, the opportunity to mobilize significant resources to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation will be lost.

Over the next two days, we will be discussing these issues further. This problem is not going away, even when we leave Copenhagen. But neither is our resolve. We must try to overcome the obstacles that remain. We must not only seize this moment, but raise our oars together and row in the same direction toward our common destination and destiny. And the United States is ready to do our part. Thank you.

MODERATOR: We’ll take a few questions. John Broder, from the New York Times.

QUESTION: The commitment toward a hundred billion dollar fund by 2020 is in line with, although at the lower end of, what Great Britain and the EU have proposed. You mentioned that it would include some alternative forms of finance. Could you spell that out a little bit? And do you seriously believe that a hundred billion dollars is going to be enough, and going to be enough to move this process to a conclusion tomorrow night?

SERETARY CLINTON: Well, a hundred billion dollars a year is a lot of money. That’s a commitment that is very real and can have tangible effects. There is a pipeline that both has to be filled and then the funds disbursed. So we actually think a hundred billion dollars is appropriate, usable and will be effective. There are a number of different ideas about how we can pursue the financing to achieve the annual one hundred billion dollars commitment. I don’t want to go into that here, because, you know, there are many different ideas. The important point for the next two days is not to talk about how we would fund money that we haven’t yet agreed to fund, but to make the agreement that that is what we’re going to do. Because I want to underscore what I said: in the absence of an operational agreement that meets the requirements that I outlined, there will not be that kind of financial commitment, at least from the United States.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), TV2 Denmark. Two questions. Number one, as you may have heard, there has been sort of a stalemate in the negotiations. Who will now drive the negotiations forward? And number two, there’s been rumors that President Obama may not come tomorrow. Will he come, actually?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first question, we all have to drive the negotiations forward. I’m here today, not only to make this announcement, which is a significant commitment from President Obama and the United States, but to underscore the importance of engaging in a very constructive and active way over the next hours. We’re running out of time. It’s unfortunate that there has been problems with the process, difficulties with certain parties being willing to come to the table, all kinds of discussions and disagreements, sometimes about the past rather than about the future. But the underlying reality is, we have to do everything we can to reach this agreement. Because in the absence of a new agreement that binds everyone to their relative commitments and responsibilities, where the developed countries take on these obligations and where the developing countries work on their own mitigation and adaptation measures, with a transparency mechanism, there will not be the kind of concerted, global action that we so desperately need.

The President is planning to come tomorrow. Obviously we hope that there will be something to come for.

QUESTION: Thank you. Margaret Ryan with Clean Skies News. Are you saying if China - we have reports this morning from Reuters, The Post and so on - where the Chinese officials are saying no, they will not commit to the kind of transparency, incorporating their commitments into an international treaty that the U.S. is asking. If they continue in that position, will the U.S. walk away from an agreement here?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We think this agreement has interlocking pieces, all of which must go together. And we have set those out continuously. There have been numerous instances in the past year where parties have agreed to the elements of the agreement that we are seeking - at L’Aquila, the G8, the Major Economies Forum, the bilateral meeting between President Obama and President Hu Jintao in their statement in Beijing. Time and time again leading up to these negotiations, all the parties have committed themselves to pursuing an agreement that met the various standards, including transparency. It would be hard to imagine, speaking for the United States, that there could be the level of financial commitment that I have just announced in the absence of transparency from the second biggest emitter - and now I guess the first biggest emitter, and now nearly, if not already, the second biggest economy.

QUESTION: Thank you Madam Secretary. David Corn, of Mother Jones Magazine and PoliticsDaily.com. Can you outline some of those requirements? You have just mentioned China a little bit. What would be the standards that you would expect China and other major developing nations to meet in order for there to be a deal in which you could go ahead with this financial commitment?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have presented and discussed numerous approaches to transparency with a number of countries and there are many ways to achieve transparency that would be credible and acceptable. But there has to be a willingness to move toward transparency in whatever form we finally determine is appropriate. So, if there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that’s kind of a dealbreaker for us. In the absence of transparency of some sort - and I am not going to prescribe from this podium exactly what it must be - but there has to be a commitment to transparency. We’ve said it consistently As I just referenced, there have been occasions in this past year when all the major economies have committed to transparency. Now that we are trying to define what transparency means and how we would both implement it and observe it, there is a backing away from transparency. And, you know, that to us is something that undermines the whole effort that we’re engaged in.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more.

QUESTION: My name is (inaudible) from the Tokyo Chunichi newspapers. I was wondering about the fast start financing because the EU has committed about 10 billion dollars, Japan 15 billion. So what is the EU offering on that – sorry, the U.S. offering on that, obviously?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are committed to the fast funding start, and we are going to do our proportion of it, right Todd?


MODERATOR: We’ll take one more.

QUESTION: I’m from the Norwegian Broadcast Corporation. I am just wondering, this “should” instead of “shall.” What does the word mean when you take it back to the U.S?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well it depends upon what you’re referring to. If you’re referring to transparency, there shall be a transparency requirement. How it is defined and implemented is something we should leave up to the negotiations.

QUESTION: I was wondering, the change in the text that you – the U.S. asked for a change in the text that they wanted a conditional “should” instead of a “shall” in terms of reduction.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s text negotiation that the negotiators are doing. You know that the advantage of being the Secretary of State is I’m up here at the large macro level, and they have to get down into the nitty gritty and determine exactly what verb and modifier needs to be used. But the point is that as we negotiate text, we should be negotiating over transparency. There should not be positions taken that transparency is off the table for certain countries, because that is unacceptable in the overall international agreement we are trying to forge. Will you just add a word?

TODD STERN: On that specific question; look, the effort that’s going on right now that Prime Minister Rasmussen has led, is to get an operational, political accord leading up to, hopefully next year, a politically binding agreement. “Shall” is a word that is typically used in legal agreements and not in non-legally binding agreements. So that’s maybe more than you want to know, but that’s the textual answer.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.


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