Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Parties Conclude Major Economies Meeting "A Bit More Optimistic"

Apr 29: U.S. negotiators; Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change and Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs; were cautious at a press briefing in discussing the progress made during the first of three preparatory session of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate held in Washington on April 27-28 [See WIMS 4/28/09]. The "leaders’ representatives" preparatory meetings are being held in advance of a "leaders' meeting" of the Major Economies in La Maddalena, Italy, in July 2009.

The forum of the 17 "Major Economies" 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. Denmark, in its capacity as host of the of the December 2009 Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, and the United Nations also participated in the meetings.

Todd Stern, responding to a question summarized the meeting saying, "The question that was asked of me was whether I came out of the meeting somewhat more optimistic than I went in. And I believe what I said is I came out a bit more optimistic, because it was a discussion in which people were not -- were neither refusing to, you know, engage past their kind of canned remarks; where the atmosphere, unlike some other past meetings run by other people, were not head-butting exercises; where people were engaged in trying to work through issues. I’m not -- believe, me, I’m not trying to oversell. I described myself a bit more optimistic, because, and as Mike said, to a person, everybody -- the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, everybody -- came out of that room feeling -- I think, feeling more optimistic than they went into the room, frankly. So -- but I also said. . . I would not downplay or underestimate the difficulty of getting an agreement in Copenhagen in the first instance, and the enormous difficulty of wrestling this problem to the ground, because it is. . ."

According to the brief Chairman's Summary of the meeting, "Participants agreed that the Forum is not an alternative to the UN Framework Convention process, but could inform and complement and make a major contribution to success in the UN negotiations in Copenhagen, as well as implementation of the Bali Roadmap. Participants shared the view that climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention from all countries, and that the Major Economies Leaders Meeting in July should send a strong political signal to add momentum to the Copenhagen process and to collective efforts to achieve a low-carbon future. It was noted that all major economies are already taking actions in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities." There was wide support for considering how best the Major Economies Forum can contribute to a successful outcome at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The summary indicated, participants agreed to continue discussions on mitigation, finance, adaptation and related issues at their next meeting (scheduled for Paris in May), including exploring shared assumptions. "The discussions underscored the need for near term ambitious actions for all, as well as pathways, and the development of mid-term goals for developed countries. . .

"Many in the group noted that the forum could provide valuable support and impetus at a political level for the development of critical technologies and supported exploring cooperation on innovation and policies to enable deployment of technologies, including carbon capture and storage, clean coal, buildings, energy efficiency, solar energy and biofuels, among others. The role of legal and regulatory systems in facilitating enabling environments was also raised."

On the subject of "midterm targets" (i.e. greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions by 2020) a question was asked at the press briefing -- What reaction did you get, if any, from countries regarding the comments you’ve made several times that for the United States midterm targets going 25 to 40 below 1990 levels is not going to be feasible? Stern gave an indirect response saying, We had quite an extensive conversation about the whole subject of mitigation, and to include the question of midterm targets, to include the question of what the United States is talking about. So yes, those discussions came up. People expressed their views. We expressed our views. Some people agreed with us, some people pushed back with – on us, we pushed back on them. It was a good conversation. There were plenty of people there who – I mean, there were all different views represented, and it was, I think, again, a very constructive conversation. It’s very much what we wanted. We wanted to not be dodging things."

The issue of midterm targets was also a point of contention at the recent meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany [See WIMS 4/9/09], which concluded with wide disparities and no agreement on interim targets for industrialized countries for the year 2020. Experts say the interim targets are critical to reversing the growth in emissions. The European Union has called for interim targets of 20-30% less than 1990 levels; Australia (minus 4-14%); Canada (+2%); Japan (+4% to – 25%); Russia (not available); and the Obama Administration has said it would reduce GHG levels to 1990 levels by 2020 or a 0% reduction from 1990 levels.

Access the Chairman's Summary from the First Preparatory Meeting of the Major Economies Forum (
click here). Access the transcript of the Special Briefing at the conclusion of the Major Economies Forum (click here). Access the State Department Climate Change website for additional information (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]