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From: "janson2997" <janson1997@...
Date: Thu, 01 Jul 2004 10:28:57 -0000
Interview: US climate expert seeks solutions beyond the Kyoto Protocol
Interview: US climate expert seeks solutions beyond the Kyoto Protocol
Speaking to EurActiv, former White House spokesman and climate change
expert Eliot Diringer says future climate policies need to look
beyond Kyoto if the US and major emerging countries are to be brought
Elliot Diringer is Director of International Strategies at the Pew
Centre on Global Climate Change. He was Deputy Assistant to President
Bill Clinton and Deputy Press Secretary at the White House. In this
capacity, he served as a principal spokesman for President Clinton.
Click here to read the interview news
What is your view on the EU's alleged world leadership on climate
change? The US is seen as lagging behind because they haven't
ratified the Kyoto protocol, but is this perception actually true?
I think that quite clearly the EU is at the forefront of the climate
effort. It has worked very hard to bring the Kyoto protocol into
force, including the recent agreement with Russia, and at EU level it
has now put in place the mechanisms for reducing emissions and
meeting the EU Kyoto targets.
Do you think that these mechanisms are efficient enough?
I can't speak of the details of the EU trading system. I certainly
think that in broad terms, it's the right approach. I think it
remains to be seen whether the national allocation plans are adequate
and how fully this will be implemented.
There has been quite a lot of criticism about those national
Well I think that any time you establish a trading system that seeks
genuine reductions, there will be considerable debate over target
levels and specifically over allocation issues. That's to be
In terms of US climate change policy, are things being done at state
One has to look at several dimensions. Clearly at the national level,
the US is not as far advanced as the EU and this is not simply a
question of rejecting the Kyoto protocol. We have not begun to
implement at the national level the kinds of measures that will put
the US on track to reducing its emissions.
But to understand the complete picture in the US, you have to look
beyond Washington and beyond the policies of the present
administration. Many states are putting into place serious climate
efforts and there is the prospect of these efforts growing quite
substantially over the next several years.
Also, there is activity at the company level, many companies have
adopted voluntary emissions reduction targets. So we are seeing
serious efforts beginning both in the states and among companies.
Coming back to Washington, we are also seeing the emergence of a
genuine debate over what must be done at the national level. There is
now before Congress a proposal, the Mc Cain/Lieberman Bill to
establish emissions caps and a trading system similar to what is now
in place in the EU.
I think it will still be some time before legislation of this type
can be enacted in the US but the debate has begun and this is very
If you put all those initiatives together, how do they compare with
what is being done in the EU?
I don't think that the efforts now underway in the US, taken
together, represent as ambitious an effort as what has been launched
in the EU. I think the debate is much further advanced in the EU and
the actions underway are stronger. I think what's critical for us in
the US at this point is to carry forward the debate and achieve a
national consensus on just what we are prepared to do domestically to
address this issue.
At a recent press conference, Ms. Wallstr�m said she felt confident
that there is a change in the US administration and that at some
point she even could imagine the country signing up to Kyoto. Is this
something that you are actually seeing in the US or is it wishful
I would not anticipate the US ever becoming a party to the Kyoto
Not even if the democrat candidate got elected as President this
No. I think that if there ever was a time that the US could ratify
the Kyoto Protocol, that time has passed. It is too late at this
point to achieve the level of reduction that is necessary in order to
meet the US target that was negotiated in Kyoto. Beyond those
practical considerations, there are political considerations. At this
stage, Kyoto has been so demonised in the US that anything bearing
that name would probably be impossible to ratify.
Taking it one step further, you know that Kyoto is only jsut a drop
in the ocean. If Kyoto is not enough (as is probably the case), what
are we supposed to do? I've seen proposals your centre has made for
the post-Kyoto phase...
The basic challenge we face at this point is to figure out a path
beyond Kyoto. Figuring out a way to broaden and strengthen the
international climate effort so that those countries that have
ratified Kyoto can get to the next stage and so that we can engage
the US and the major developing countries.
I think bringing Kyoto into force is important and helpful but I
think that, at the same time, we need to recognise Kyoto as the
proper instrument for some parties at this stage and it would be
necessary to reach beyond Kyoto if we are to get to the next stage.
What does that mean: A Kyoto II? Something similar? Or a completely
I don't think we know the answer to that yet. I think that the basic
test for the next stage is to devise a strategy or a series of
strategies to engage all the major emitting counties in a long term
effort that thoroughly and effectively mobilises the technology and
resources we need to steadily and substantially reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions. I think that only through considerable
thinking and research and dialogue will we know what those strategies
are. It may be that the future strategy draws very heavily on the
mechanisms in Kyoto but I think in order to bring in the US and the
major developing countries, it will require something other than
Kyoto as it now stands.
Some people actually think that instead of trying to prevent climate
change, we should think of adaptation strategies. What is your
opinion on that?
I think that whatever actions we undertake now on the mitigation
side, we are bound to experience a certain level of warming and a
certain level of impacts and for that reason, it is necessary that we
think about adaptation as well. I think we need to proceed on both
tracks: on adaptation and on mitigation.
You also talk about technological solutions. In your opinion, would
it be necessary to break the environmentalist taboo on nuclear power
as it is one of the least GHG emitting technologies?
There are certainly many people who would counsel that it would be
difficult, if not impossible, to achieve substantial reductions in
GHG emissions without greater reliance on nuclear power. Here in the
US, I would expect us to continue to rely on nuclear power to the
degree that we have. I don't anticipate any significant increase in
nuclear power in the foreseeable future here in the US.
But what about growing economies like China and India? If we want to
take measures against climate change, we need to take those countries
into account. Now, to develop their economies, these countries can
either burn fossil fuels like we did or go for renewables or nuclear
energy. What is your opinion on that?
I think that we need to explore all the viable options. I don't think
that we can absolutely rule out any reliance on nuclear power in the
future but I think it should only be part of the mix. To engage
developing countries, we will need strategies that work for them from
a development perspective.
We need to pursue strategies that simultaneously produce climate
benefits and help advance the developing priorities of economic
growth and poverty reduction. We can see in recent experiences of
countries like China that steps that are undertaken for economic and
development reasons - for instance improving energy efficiency - do
in fact produce significant climate benefits.
We need to identify all such possibilities and provide the necessary
incentives to developing countries to pursue them.
Do you think blockbusters such as "The Day After Tomorrow" can change
public opinion in the US on the climate change issue?
It certainly helped draw attention to the issue and I was very
encouraged by the media coverage. It became an opportunity to teach
people about the reality of global warming and the media was very
careful to distinguish between the science-fiction of the movie and
what we really do know. I think that it certainly helped raise
awareness and educate the public but I don't expect that it will have
any profound long-term effect on public attitudes.
Will climate change be an issue of debate in the US Presidential
I don't expect that it will be a major issue. I think that climate
change, like many other issues, will be overshadowed in the campaign
by the continuing focus on Iraq, terrorism and the economy.
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