14 December 2009
Special Envoy for Climate Change and Head of the United States Delegation UN Climate Change Negotiations, December 14, 2009
Press Briefing by Todd Stern
MR. STERN: Hi everybody. Sorry we’re doing this late. Intended to do it earlier, but events didn’t allow that to occur. So let me just make a few quick remarks and then we can get to questions.
This weekend, Danish Minister for Climate [and Energy] Connie Hedegaard convened I think it was forty-eight ministers to continue working on the effort to get an agreement done. I think the discussions Saturday night, and particularly Sunday, were constructive and useful in identifying where there are still differences remaining. And I think there has been some progress made in the week that we have been here. But there is still a long way to go, if we are going to reach the kind of agreement that we need to reach. We are glad that Parties are back at the table, and again there is a lot of substantive work to focus on.
I want to make one brief reference to something that was outside of the realm of the actual negotiations, which was that today at the U.S. Center Secretary Chu served as a keynote speaker and joined ministers from Australia, India and Italy to announce a new program called Climate REDI – which is a quick-start technology initiative through the Major Economies Forum, intended to reduce emissions, save households money and fight energy poverty. And this is a concrete effort that by focusing on a few key technologies and beginning work immediately can demonstrate the kind of practical cooperation that we believe a successful international climate agreement can deliver at a much broader scale.
Through Climate REDI, the U.S. will work with some of our MEF partners and others to improve energy services for millions of households by accelerating deployment of affordable, high-quality solar home systems and LED lanterns in low-income countries, such as India and others. And reduce millions of tons of emissions by coordinating standards, labeling and incentive programs for high-efficiency appliances, and the like. As part of Climate REDI Secretary Chu announced that the U.S. intends to contribute to another, related program that is part of – now part of REDI, called Scaling-up Renewable Energy, through the World Bank. And these combined programs that were discussed today will have a budget of $350 million over five years, with a U.S. share of $85 million.
So that’s – I mean, the thing that’s relevant about this, and I think important, from our point of view, is that it is a concrete illustration of the kind of technology cooperation that we intended to be part of the mission of the Major Economies Forum. So when we started that Forum, in the spring, it was intended to both facilitate agreement here in Copenhagen, but also to serve as a platform for technology cooperation. And this Climate REDI program - that initiative that we announced today is a kind of first concrete example of what we hope will be much bigger and more important things over the years, as the Major Economies Forum goes on. I think with that, I’m happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Stern, you said that you made progress – some progress. Can you delineate what that progress is, and where are the trouble spots that are still there?
MR. STERN: Actually, that question – that’s a two-part question, but it’s really a sort of a one-part answer. We made progress on issues that are still some of the most difficult ones. I think that there was a lot of focus over the weekend in this kind of “friends of the chair” group of nearly fifty countries, mostly developing, but mixed, on the issue of the need in our view for the major developing countries to set forth their intended actions in this agreement and to indicate their resolve to implement them. That’s – that is a key part of this overall agreement, as far as we’re concerned. So that’s just the top – that’s the major developing countries, not everybody. All right, so that’s one thing.
The second thing is that the implementation of actions by developing countries that do set forth their plans needs to have adequate transparency. And that again is an issue that – where progress in the sense of clarifying and defining more clearly where there are differences… So that’s why I said a sort of a one-part answer to a two-part question, because – it was useful, but there are still differences there.
And I think the third thing that we talked about a fair amount was the financial side of the equation, both money – and the architecture of financial contributions. There are other tough issues in the negotiation, but those are three that we spent a good deal of time on over the weekend.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Stern, when will Mr. Obama be arriving and speaking here, and what kind of issues will be booted upstairs to him and the other heads of state?
MR. STERN: I don’t have the exact time. It’s going to be Friday morning, reasonably early, but I don’t actually know the exact time. And as to the issues that will be booted upstairs, you know, I think that the desire will be that nothing’s booted upstairs, because everything’s resolved by then. And there are, you know, there are some countries that are kind of naturally more – it’s probably not a country issue as much as who the leaders tend to be – but there are some who are more comfortable with the notion of actually trying to negotiate remaining issues and some who are less. But I think there’s certainly a – there will be a desire, broadly felt, to get issues resolved in a way that is essentially done by the ministers, and not kicked upstairs. But I think my own view is it’s entirely possible that, there will be an issue or two that does require the engagement of leaders. And from our point of view we’re completely comfortable with that, if that’s what happens.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, how engaged has the President been so far in the last week? Has he been calling other leaders to talk about these issues? And how has the timeline of heads of state coming in changed the dynamics of the negotiations here? Has it put more pressure on details to be resolved?
MR. STERN: The President has been very engaged on this issue, not just this week but for the last several weeks. I mean, he’s been engaged in it throughout the year, but I mean he’s been particularly engaged. And he has been calling some – I think he called some folks today, actually. And the – I’m sure the White House will put out whatever there is on that today. But I’m quite sure he made some calls today.
The – yeah, look, the pending arrival of well over a hundred leaders absolutely affects the negotiation. It’s putting pressure – it’s putting time pressure – on the negotiation. And not just time pressure. I mean – typically these negotiations have really always been conducted at the minister level. There’s been occasionally a higher-level guest – I mean, all the way back when I was in Kyoto, Vice President Gore came for a day. But that was certainly a rare kind of situation. So this is a completely unprecedented situation, where you have a hundred and twenty, or whatever it is, leaders who are coming. And it puts pressure to finish earlier – not lots earlier, cause you know – it’s pressure to finish by, say Thursday, rather than if the thing spills into Saturday, or something like that. And, you know, ministers who have their bosses coming – I mean everybody who’s got their boss coming is particularly keen to have things in as good shape as possible. So I think it’s putting pressure, but I think probably pressure of a salutary kind. I don’t think it’s bad pressure. I just think it’s pressure.
QUESTION: Do you think the action by the G77 countries today created any sort of damaging delay to this process, and do you think that there will be any trouble as we get towards a conclusion from this group?
MR. STERN: Look, I think that we don’t have very much time. All right? The clock is definitely ticking, sort of like a big hourglass that’s running down right now, so any time that’s lost, it is unhelpful. I mean, there’s a cost to that. It is also true that there are legitimate concerns, that people have anxiety about how the process runs, about transparency and inclusiveness and all of those things. At the same time there is a very real need to not just have an inclusive process, but to have an effective process that can get things done. I think that the Danish presidency has been doing a very good job in a very difficult balancing act, trying to balance both of those things. Having progress happen, having it be an effective process, and at the same time, an adequately inclusive and transparent process.
You know, it is also true that in most any big complicated negotiation like this – and this is probably one of the biggest and most complicated of any kind, ever, probably – there are always – it never goes smoothly, it never goes as planned, there are always bumps, there are always zigs and zags and, you know, people getting up and down, and that’s to be expected. But having said that, it is really important that countries focus on the essential and focus on the pragmatic and focus on getting this done. And, process can become your enemy if there’s an insistence on discussing and going around the bend on process too much. There’s a real cost. So today I think that the hope had been to get through the process part and into a point where the kind of informal consultation groups that the Danish presidency is setting up – I think there would have been a hope that those got actually going and in motion early in the afternoon, instead of just kind of barely starting now. So I think there was some time lost there. But again, to some extent, this kind of thing always happens and you just have to try and get your way through it.
QUESTION: What is your reaction to the developing countries’ insistence on having a two- track process? Is it counter productive or is it something you can work with?
MR. STERN: Well, I – look, this is actually the one highly contentious issue that doesn’t really involve the United States very much. I mean, the two-track question is: do you continue the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the second period would start in 2013 – or does that get merged into a new agreement, and so that what has been two negotiating tracks merge into one? That’s what the question is. And I think this is the area of one of the most contentious issues right now, with I think essentially the developed country Kyoto parties not very interested in continuing a process that – where not only is the United States not part of it but neither are any of the major developing countries - none of the developing countries, but I keep referring to the major ones, because that’s where the emissions are. So, you know, if the Kyoto Protocol went on, probably only covering 30% of the emissions or something like that. So there’s not a great desire on the part of the developed country Kyoto Parties to continue. But there is a great desire on the part of the developing country Kyoto Parties, and they are butting heads right now. And so we have got to find a way through that, so – I think a way that is without prejudice to either side. I don’t think it’s going to resolve right now, but again I don’t really know. And it’s probably the only issue that the United States doesn’t have a big stake in, but it’s a difficult one.
QUESTION: In terms of the final thing; what’s the U.S. position on a new funding model reported by Mexico and Norway?
MR. STERN: You are saying what’s our position on a new model for funding?
QUESTION: New funding model, proposed by Mexico and Norway.
MR. STERN: Ok, well the United States is strongly in favor of significant financing for adaptation, mitigation, forestry, etc. We have been in favor of establishing a new global climate fund. We called for that now for some time. We think that it ought to be – take the advantage of the expertise in an existing institution. It ought to have funding from – use for all of the major needs, and have a balanced governance that’s sort of 50-50 between the developed and developing countries. And, I think that there is actually a fair amount of support for that kind of thing. There are a number of kind of fine points in the overall architecture of funding. I mean, our view is that there should be such a fund, but at the same time other sources of funding should also continue. I think that others, like the Europeans, have similar views, so that bilateral funding would still continue and hopefully ramp up and there would be different sources of funding. But we definitely favor a global climate fund that would have – might have different windows for different purposes. And so that is something that we strongly support.