12 February 2010
The Energy and Environmental Challenges of 2020
- The Copenhagen Accord does not go as far as many of us, including the United States, would have wished. But it still was a very significant step forward.
- For the first time, all major economies — including India and China as well as the United States and the European Union — have made commitments to curb greenhouse gas pollution and report on their actions and emissions in a transparent fashion. We believe this is incredibly important.
- As of February 4, more than 60 countries had inscribed their commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Copenhagen Accord, and more than 90 had associated themselves with it. The inscribers represent about 80% of global emissions. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat has posted a website listing inscribers ( http://unfccc.int/home/items/5264.php and http://unfccc.int/home/items/5265.php ) and associators ( http://unfccc.int/home/items/5265.php ) as well as their commitments and letters of support.
- The U.S. has committed to cut our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, from a 2005 baseline, in line with our final legislation, and we aim to cut them by more than 80 percent by 2050.
- The pathway set forth in the legislation which is now before the U.S. Congress would entail a 30% reduction in 2025 and a 42% reduction in 2030, in line with the goal to reduce emissions 83% by 2050.
- In his State of the Union address two weeks ago, President Obama called on Congress to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill. He thanked the House of Representatives for passing its bill last year, and stressed that he is eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.
- President Obama also announced that the U.S. Federal Government will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020, from the estimated 2008 baseline.
- Agencies are already taking actions that will contribute towards achieving their targets, such as installing solar arrays at military installations, tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in Federal buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel-efficient hybrid models.
- This is of course in addition to the dramatic steps the United States has taken in the past year to combat climate change, which include investing over $80 billion in clean energy through the economic recovery act.
- So, as we move forward on the domestic front in the U.S., how do we move forward internationally?
- We believe that we need to concentrate on making the Copenhagen Accord operational and on achieving a legally-binding agreement that reflects balanced commitments by all major economies.
- Some of the areas on which we reached agreement under the Copenhagen Accord, and in which we believe we can make progress right away, include reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), measurement, reporting and verification (MRV), adaptation, financing and technology.
- These are the kinds of measures which can achieve progress on the ground, and can build the mutual trust and confidence which the world will need in order to reach a legally-binding agreement.
- As we seek to move forward on these issues, we of course also will continue to participate in the UNFCCC process which will include meetings in Bonn in June and in the Conference of Parties in Mexico in December, and perhaps others during the course of the year.
- The Global Partnership was established by the Major Economies leaders when they met in L’Aquila last July. It aims to help meet the urgent need for deployment of clean energy technologies worldwide at the lowest possible cost, and thus to drive transformational progress.
- Across the ten technology action plans, 417 opportunities for action are identified. While the actions to be taken under these plans are voluntary - and are intended to be undertaken individually or in partnerships between and among countries - the action plans serve as a very useful tool for policymakers, as many of the actions represent best practices already in use in some countries, and reflect the best expertise and intentions of countries responsible for roughly 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Italy served as co-lead for two of the technology action plans, those for bio-energy and for smart grids.
- As the Parties to the UNFCCC work together over the next year to elaborate the financing and other arrangements discussed in the Copenhagen Accord, including the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, the efforts of the Global Partnership can move forward in the short term through mechanisms like Climate REDI, which is intended to be "fast start" and able to be implemented quickly. Ultimately we will need to make use of opportunities like these, as well as many others in the global effort to combat climate change.
- I would like to note here that the U.S. very much appreciates Italy's leadership on climate issues as G8 President last year. Some of the paragraphs of the Copenhagen Accord draw directly on language that was hammered out here in Rome and finalized by the leaders of the Major Economies Forum in L'Aquila, at a meeting co-chaired by President Obama and Prime Minister Berlusconi.
- Also, I think it is important that we recognize that the European Union as a whole has played, and continues to play, a crucial role in international climate negotiations. It is thanks to the European Union that we agreed in Copenhagen on a goal of limiting worldwide temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.
- For a long time, the U.S. was not very active in international climate negotiations. We also did not hear that much from China on climate issues in past years. If the U.S., China and others are all now at the climate negotiating table, it is in good part due to Europe's leadership on the climate issue.
- As we move ahead this year in our climate negotiations, I am sure that the U.S. will do so in close coordination with Europe, and that European leadership will remain crucial to the world’s efforts to address the challenge of climate change.