GREEN CANARY WAS THERE: U.S. SETS TONE FOR COPENHAGEN CLIMATE AGREEMENT
by Wendy Reed, Green Canary Consultant
US Climate Envoy Todd Stern with Sen. John Kerry. photo by Kevin Tuerff
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Last week, representatives from 17 of the world’s major economies gathered in Washington, D.C. for President Obama’s “Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.” The meeting was the first of three scheduled for the purpose of preparing for December’s Copenhagen gathering, where a climate agreement is slated to be adopted that will take us beyond the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Green Canary & EnviroMedia attended a reception last week for international
delegates last week at the Kennedy Center, and a briefing this week on the
forum at the U.S. State Department. Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy
for Climate Change, shared discussion topics and outcomes from the meeting with a group of approximately 20 climate policy and industry trade
organizations. We met Sen. John Kerry and forum participants from Great
Britain, Mexico and South Korea.
According to Mr. Pershing, several country representatives at the Forum
commented that more was achieved with the United States at this one meeting than at all climate change meetings that came before. This was attributed to a shift from the past of focusing on what the United States didn’t want to do to what it would do. Just yesterday, Mr. Pershing told a group of business leaders via teleconference the has U.S. State Department has submitted to the United Nations an “implementing agreement” for Copenhagen, saying “It’s a story for where we want to go.”
Monday’s Forum was broken into two main topics: transformational technologies and core issues to resolve before the meeting in Copenhagen. First was the discussion on transformational technologies – technologies with the potential to help mitigate the effects of climate change if advanced on a global scale. This discussion proved to be the least contentious at the Forum.
The topic was introduced by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and was followed by presentations from Australia and India. Australia presented on global carbon capture and storage, a topic popular among the group according to Mr. Pershing. India gave a presentation on the importance of energy efficiency, with a focus on buildings, emphasizing that energy efficiency can produce the biggest outcome for the least investment.
-Technologies Template In Development-
The group came away with universal agreement to put together a technologies “template” that would form the basis of a few options that could be advanced collectively through public-private partnerships, with a goal to significantly reduce CO2 emissions globally. This template is to be prepared and potentially agreed upon prior to Copenhagen, and should consist of a set of fewer than 10 technologies the Forum countries as a whole would be willing to support, work together on and put money toward.
The second Forum topic regarding core issues to be resolved, was to be divided into discussions on “mitigation” and “finance.” The United States, South Africa and Mexico gave presentations on their thematic approaches to mitigation. The U.S. presentation positioned climate change as “real and urgent, requiring significant yearly actions and not small incremental changes.”
The goal of the core issues segment at the Forum was to discuss and come to agreement on both mitigation and finance approaches by the preparatory meeting scheduled for July in Italy. Mitigation, which included the discussion on how to determine individual country CO2 target numbers for the next agreement, consumed 2 ½ hours. This left the finance discussion essentially postponed until the next global economies meeting in June.
Questions about U.S. priorities for financing climate change mitigation were raised by several groups at the briefing. They expressed a desire to see Congress appropriate funds in a way that gives a boost to U.S. industry sectors that could be part of the solution, and encouraged the State Department to develop part of the climate strategy by first taking stock of U.S. industry capabilities and then determining the appropriate matching tactics.
-U.S. Priorities for Climate Change Mitigation -
Mr. Pershing shared that his perception is that Congress’ top 3 priorities for how to appropriate taxpayer dollars for climate change mitigation are:
1. Adaptation efforts for poor countries experiencing the worst effects,
2.Forestry projects to slow the destruction of rain forests, and
3. Technology investments.
He agreed that U.S. companies could benefit from addressing climate change. He also asserted a desire by the U.S. government to do its best to maintain a level playing field internationally for U.S.-based companies and to facilitate the creation of public-private partnerships at home. “We don’t want to disadvantage companies,” he said, “but carbon.”
Characterization of the Forum’s success was cautionary in nature at this week’s briefing. Trust issues are a barrier for the United States in working with the other countries who have been present all along in
international climate talks and agreements. There is concern that the U.S. will not follow through on promises. As a result, many countries are looking to the U.S. to set short-term goals as well as the long-terms goals shared at the meeting – goals that would have to be met within a Presidential term of office, not passed on to the next U.S. leader who could then change the terms. U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern asserted a U.S. goal at the Forum to reduce domestic emissions to 1990
levels by 2020 and to attain an 80% reduction from that by 2050.
Another barrier to success, with the United States joining the talks at this stage of the climate agreement process, is the fact that many of the countries who signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol have already arrived at CO2 reduction target numbers and appear inclined to hold on to their long-term positions. This leaves less room for fresh dialogue on how to determine country-by-country reduction targets, something the United States would like to see happen. Parity and “comparability” in terms of country commitments, among developing and developed countries alike, was a key issue that kept Congress from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in the past. Based on the briefing, this theme continues to be of utmost importance to U.S.
climate agreement negotiators today.
-U.S. Remains Committed to Copenhagen Deal by December-
According to Mr. Pershing, the United States is committed to achieving an international agreement by the end of the year, and will work overtime to make it happen. “We just need to find a common language with the other countries,” he said. “We each have a different history and should commit to something different, appropriate to our own circumstances.” He added, “I don’t believe that an agreement in Copenhagen will be the end-all-be-all [for the United States to address climate change]. We must marry our
commitment to other efforts in trade and technology, forestry, and more.”
Countries participating in the Major Economies Forum included: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Green Canary Headed to Copenhagen–Subscribe Now for Direct Reports.
Green Canary Principals Kevn Tuerff and Valerie Davis at the MEF reception, Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. April 27, 2009
A team from Green Canary and EnviroMedia have booked their December tickets for COP15 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the UNFCCC in
Bali in 2007, and Poznan, Poland in 2008, Tuerff and Davis wrote daily reports from the conference for several organizations and media outlets,including the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development,
EnvironmentalLeader.com and the Austin American Statesman.
Email Green Canary CEO Kevin Tuerff if you’d like to subscribe to our special reports from Copenhagen, or if you’d like a special report for your organization.