US Special Briefing at Climate Change Conference
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US Special Briefing at Climate Change Conference
Thursday, 9 December 2004, 2:16 pm
Press Release: US State Department
Special Briefing at the Tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change
Dr. Harlan L. Watson, Senior Climate Negotiator and Special
Representative and Alternate Head of the United States Delegation
Tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on
Buenos Aires, Argentina
December 7, 2004
Dr. Watson: We welcome and congratulate the government of
Argentina on hosting the meeting here and for the excellent
arrangements they have made. We are certainly committed to working
constructively and to having positive outcomes of this Conference of
The United States does remain committed to the Framework
Convention and to achieving its ultimate objective. However, we are
taking a different path than Kyoto, which many of the parties here are
taking. With regard to the actions the United States is taking, they
are many, and I would challenge many of the Kyoto Protocol Parties to
match us in the activities we are taking both domestically and
First of all, we have three prongs in our climate policy which
President Bush announced in February 2002. The first is to reduce our
greenhouse gas intensity at home, thereby slowing the growth of our
greenhouse gas emissions. Second, we are making substantial
investments in science and technology and institutions designed to
address both climate change in the near term and in the long term.
And, third, we are engaging actively in international cooperation --
both on a bilateral basis and on a multilateral basis.
With regard to our domestic program, we are committed to reducing
our greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over the ten-year period
2002-2012. This is a domestic commitment the President made. We are
doing this through a number of programs through both incentives and
voluntary programs, and through some mandatory programs such as
improving the fuel economy of our automobiles, improving the
efficiency of our appliances and so on.
With regard to science, the United States is spending some $2
billion annually on the science of climate change, to address the
uncertainties and help reduce these uncertainties. We spent some $23
billion dollars since 1990 when the U.S. Global Change Research
Program was first initiated.
On the technology side, we spend approximately $3 billion dollars
annually on a variety of technologies, the implementation of which
would allow us to reduce our greenhouse gases over the long term. This
includes both near-term options such as solar, and other renewable
energy technologies, energy efficiency technologies, advanced fossil
technologies -- and some longer-term technologies, such as advanced
nuclear, both in fission and fusion, as well as strong investments in
hydrogen and in carbon capture and storage.
Internationally -- we are engaged both, as I mentioned before, on
a bilateral basis as well as multilaterally. Bilaterally, we have
established partnerships with 14 countries and regional organizations
-- many of which are Kyoto parties and some of which are not. We have
well over 200 projects with our partners addressing climate change
science, clean energy technologies, earth observations and so forth.
We have also initiated, as I mentioned yesterday, some five
multilateral initiatives -- science and technology initiatives:
The Group on Earth Observations -- which is involving over 50
nations and 30 international organizations, as well as the European
Commission, I might add, on helping to design and implement, over the
next ten years, a comprehensive earth observation system which will
provide data not only on climate change but also on other
We have a very strong partnership among 10 countries and the
EURATOM on the Generation IV International Forum which is working to
develop a new generation of nuclear reactors, which will be safer and
more economic and secure, from a proliferation standpoint.
The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, with some 16 countries
and the European Commission, is working on technologies that will
allow the capture and storage, in a safe and environmental manner, of
emissions from fossil fuel burning plants.
The International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy -- where
again we have 16 countries and the European Commission -- is working
to advance the global transition to a hydrogen economy.
And most recently, the Methane-to-Markets Partnership where 13
countries joined the United States this summer to launch an innovative
program that will be targeted on reducing methane emissions, which is
the second most important greenhouse gas. With regard to this latter
partnership, the U.S. committed some $53 million to the Partnership
over the next five years.
I want to close my opening remarks by referring to President
Bush�s commitment he made in June 2001 to develop with friends and
allies and nations throughout the world an effective and science-based
response to address climate change. The United States supports the
development of an integrated approach to partnerships among
governments, the private sector and NGOs that promotes economic
growth, improves economic efficiency and productivity, enhances energy
security, increases the availability of cleaner, more efficient energy
resources and, of course, reduces pollution all in ways that have the
effect of reducing nations' greenhouse gas intensity.
We believe that economic development is absolutely key to
addressing this issue, because without economic development and
economic growth around the world we are not going to be able to afford
the new technologies that we need to address the problem in the long
And with that, I will be happy to stop and take any questions that
you might have. Thank you.
Reuters: Dr. Watson, you told us about the goal of reducing the
GHG intensity by 18% over the next 10 years. I wanted to know where
U.S. emissions will stand in 2012 relative to 1990, because I
understand that your emissions rose since 1990 right now, are up 13%
and well, I'd rather you do the math for me.
Dr. Watson: Well, I quite frankly don't have off the top of my
head maybe my colleagues of the DOE can address what our latest
projection is. I believe we are forecasted, under a business-as-usual
scenario, to be up approximately 20% by 2010. But, Dave, do you have
that figure at the top of your head?
David Conover [Director, Climate Change Technology Program, U.S.
Department of Energy]: No, I don't.
Dr. Watson: O.K. I think the projections, again under the latest
business-as-usual [scenario], we would expect a 4% reduction from
that, which would get us about 15% or 16% above 1990 levels.
German Radio: Can you please tell us how would an international
climate change protection regime from the time after 2012 have to look
so it could be ratified by the U.S.?
Dr. Watson: Quite frankly, we don't believe it's time to address
the post-2012 time frame. We are very focused on implementing the
President's program domestically. We think there are many lessons that
will be learned from that process, which can inform the international
process. We believe the same is true for those who will be working to
implement the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, what is still to be decided
among the Kyoto Parties is the type of compliance regime that will be
agreed to; whether, of course, the Kyoto mechanisms - exactly how all
those will work out. Of course, European trading systems and other
trading systems under development still have to be implemented. Again,
we will learn many, many lessons from that. And, quite frankly,
whether or not the Kyoto Parties will be willing to take on what we
believe would be non-growth economic policies; [they will be] required
to meet the targets. So, for all of these reasons, we do not believe
that it is the appropriate time to talk about post-2012 negotiations.
Agence France-Presse: I just want to understand your figures on
what you're spending this fiscal year. Can one add $3 billion this
year and $2 billion annually to say that you're spending $5 billion on
climate change science and on new technologies? I mean, to simplify
matters, can I do that or how would you do the arithmetic? Thank you.
Dr. Watson: Yes. Actually, Congress, by the way, is still working
on our 2005 budget. The President's overall request for climate change
programs was $5.8 billion, $5 billion of which were spent on science
and technology - $2 billion on the science and $3 billion on the
technology. We also have some significant amounts requested before
Congress with regard to tax incentives to encourage the use of clean
energy technologies as well as, of course, our assistance to
developing countries through our contributions to GEF and other
Energy Daily: You mentioned the President's statement in June 2001
committing to a science-based response to the problem of global
warming. Can we infer that the U.S. does not consider the Kyoto
Protocol to be based on sound science?
Dr. Watson: The Kyoto Protocol was a political agreement. It was
not based on science.
German Press Agency: You've been telling us all the efforts the
U.S. is making concerning climate change. Can you tell us when the
world can expect that GHG emissions will really decrease? In which
year will this be - in 2020 or when would that be? And a second
question, if you allow me, what went wrong in American way of life
that you have almost doubled GHG emissions in comparison to countries
in Europe with the same living standard, more or less? What went wrong
in the States?
Dr. Watson: Let me address the last part first, and I'll turn to
my colleague in the Department of Energy to perhaps provide some more
detail on some of our technology programs. Nothing went wrong in the
U.S. We are blessed with economic growth. In most developed countries
and developing countries economic growth implies more energy use,
which typically implies more emissions. I might say, by the way, that
your sweeping statement about European reductions does not hold
across-the-board, because you should know there have been substantial
increases in a number of countries in Europe. I'm not going to name
any countries, but I think you all know who they are.
David, would you like to address the first question?
David Conover: Thank you. We are making substantial investments in
both near-term deployment of energy-efficiency and renewable energy.
The total budget for our program is over $3 billion, as Harlan
indicated, and fully a quarter of that is deployment of technologies
today that will have an impact on reductions of greenhouse gas
The larger efforts that we have going will phase in over the near,
the mid-term and long-term. The Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy
[and the President�s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative are aiming for] the 2015
time-frame [for commercialization of] hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The FutureGen program is clean coal with sequestration producing
hydrogen and electricity, and is also on schedule for that time frame.
The GEN IV nuclear programs that Harlan mentioned are aiming at
the 2035 time-frame. And, ITER and the fusion effort is aiming to the
middle of the century, in the 2050 time-frame.
So we are phasing these technologies as we move forward. We have
strong investments in the near term, and we believe that the intensity
metric that we are using is the appropriate metric to recognize both
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and continued economic growth.
Question: My question is, beyond climate itself, which
consequences does the U.S. perceive that is suffering from the
dependence on fossil carbon? Now, the reason for my question is that
in today's local "Buenos Aires Herald", which is in English, there's a
reproduction of an article by Thomas Friedman. He points out that, in
effect, the National Science Foundation will be funded less by 105
million dollars next year. That means that there's a reduction of 2%,
and he also points out that by paying these high amounts of money for
imports of oil we are actually funding terrorism that's going to the
U.S and the question was simply that beyond climate itself, what other
consequences does the U.S. have now from the dependence on fossil
Dr. Watson: You're getting way beyond my area of expertise. But,
clearly, it is having an impact in the increased oil prices and
obviously has had an impact in what we have seen at the fuel pumps and
so on. And I believe that all of the forecasts are that we are going
to have lower economic growth than we otherwise would have - as will
the rest of the world. Beyond that you are getting way beyond my realm
of expertise. I really don't want to comment.
O Globo, Brazil: My question is if the U.S. is doing so many
things to reduce emissions as they say here, why do you think there
are so many negative opinions about the Bush administration that seems
to be like the bad boy. Why is that if you're doing so much and
Dr. Watson: Thank you for your question. I'm not sure why we are
considered the "bad boys." Let me just say that perhaps there's a
perception that it is more important to agree to things rather than
taking actions. We believe the focus ought to be on the actions. But,
agreeing to Kyoto does not necessarily mean that you're going to meet
those commitments. And again, much more focus ought to be put on the
actions Again, our focus there is highlighting our actions. We believe
we match or exceed what any other country in the world is doing to
address the issue.
BBC News: There's been quite a lot of criticism of your attempts
yesterday to keep discussion off the agenda of the various conferences
coming up next year - on Disaster Relief and on the problems of Small
Island States. The interpretation that some of the NGO's are putting
on this is that you are very concerned not to admit the causal link
between climate change and some of the problems being discussed there
because of the possible liability issues that might arise if that link
was admitted. Can you comment on that?
Dr. Watson: Yes, let me say that our intervention there was to
make sure that there is appropriate input from the Framework
Convention on Climate Change into those other two meetings that are
coming up in Mauritius on the Barbados Plan of Action - as well as the
Kobe World Conference on Disaster Reduction. And then, of course, the
input in the Commission on Sustainable Development process, which will
be from 2006 to 2007.
Each of the upcoming meetings that will occur in January of next
year has their own negotiating sessions. Certainly, climate is
featured in the current negotiating text. We believe that those are
the appropriate fora to negotiate those texts. Quite frankly, one of
our concerns here is that this meeting will be used as an opportunity
to try to negotiate things here in a forum which is really not
appropriate. Again, those negotiations will take place, and the
results of those will take place both in Mauritius and in Kobe at the
end of January.
We also have a problem with the Framework Convention, trying to
provide inputs into meetings in general. Our time here is very
limited, and there are many, many issues on the plate. Procedurally,
if the Conference of the Parties starts to provide input to every
meeting that is occurring, nothing else will get done. In fact, we
won't even work through the list of meetings.
Lastly, we want to make sure that, again, the attention is focused
on what it is that the Convention is actually doing to contribute to
those processes. There are many, many activities which are being
carried out under the Framework Convention which are relevant to both
the meetings in Mauritius and Kobe -- particularly our work on
adaptation is certainly very relevant, and we expect a very positive
outcome on adaptation as well as other major steps that have been
undertaken under the Convention processes.
There is an agreement that was reached that the focus [of the COP
plenary discussion] will be on an exchange of views on what UNFCCC
activities are underway or have been accomplished that are appropriate
for the Executive Secretary to report on to those meetings. Those
bodies can then take those into account and complete their
negotiations ultimately successfully on their text there.
New York Times: I wanted to go back to the issue of post-2012
goals. Dr. Watson, you made reference to the February 2002 speech by
President Bush in which he said that within 10 years the U.S. would
reassess its position. So, I have two questions that flow from that.
Why not, even in an informal fashion, discuss now some of those
issues, post-2012 issues and plan ahead? That's the first question.
Secondly, if not now, when?
Dr. Watson: 'Why not?' Because we are still implementing the
President's program and we want to be informed by the results. The
President said the current U.S. plan is to review the results of that
in 2012. And, 'if not [now], when?' Well, again, 2012 is when the U.S.
has to reassess its current program. Obviously, we will be informed
along the way by science and make adjustments as needed. But we do not
intend to change our overall approach.
BBC: In the session yesterday, the opening session, this is Joke
Waller Hunter when she was speaking about the future and after 2012
about the possibility of different rules and different speeds. Did you
interpret that as an opening towards the United States' willingness to
discuss different ways of doing things?
Dr. Watson: Listening carefully and reading her comments, I think
she put that more as a hypothetical and certainly something that needs
to be on the table - different approaches and so on. And, particularly
if you have the desire to bring in developing countries more into the
process than they currently are, there will have to be different
approaches because expecting developing countries, whose focus is on
poverty reduction, to agree to targets and timetables that might
impede that desire to reduce poverty in their countries is just not
going to be something that is agreeable to them.
Thank you. [End]
Released on December 8, 2004
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