Monday, November 29, 2010

U.S. Wants Progress At Cancun COP16 Climate Change Meeting

Nov 29: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) being held in Cancun, Mexico, begins today, November 29 and runs until December 10, 2010. The meeting encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6), as well as the thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA.
    At a press conference on November 22, Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change discussed in some detail what the U.S. expects from the meeting. Stern also responded to a number of media questions which are available at the links below. Stern indicated, "I think, before us in Cancun and the one that we have been, frankly, focused on all year is to find a way to build on the progress made last year in the Copenhagen Accord through the direct intervention of many of the world's leaders, including President Obama. Even though it fell short of what many had hoped for, the Accord took an important step forward in addressing climate change. Progress was made on all the key elements of the negotiations, and much of it in direct, face-to-face discussions among our leaders.

    "In essence, the accord included, on the one hand, landmark provisions for financing in order to support mitigation, adaptation, technology, and forest preservation -- the so-called [REDD] issue -- all of these things redounding to the benefit of developing countries -- that on the one hand, and on the other hand, a crucial agreement among both developed and developing countries to implement a set of mitigation either targets or actions, and to do so in an internationally transparent manner.

    "What we are seeking now in Cancun is a balanced package of decisions on these points, decisions being a term of art in the framework convention. It is now widely understood that a legal treaty this year is not in the cards. There is broad convergence on the notion that a package of decisions is desirable and the devil will most certainly be in the details. To preserve the balance of the package in Cancun, we need to make comparable progress on all the core issues included in the accord that I've just noted.

    "We have heard a lot of talk this year about capturing the so-called low-hanging fruit by which countries who use that phrase often mean all the provisions dealing with financial and technology assistance, leaving the so-called hard issues of mitigation and transparency for sometime later. We are not doing that. Our leaders did not agree to that last year and we are not going to walk away from what our leaders agreed to. It is not the place of negotiators to try to trump their leaders' mutual pledges.

    "But if we do this right, we can have a successful meeting. There is a vision of progress within our reach that would start with first a set of solid decisions this year that includes an adequate level of detail on each of the core issues -- mitigation commitments, a green fund, transparency, technology, and so forth. Second, followed by a concentrated follow-on process for 2011, such as special working committees in which the remaining detail on all of these issues would be elaborated. And then this process would conclude with the third step, which would be fully operational decisions.

    "None of this would preclude or prejudge an eventual legal treaty when the time is right, but our view is that we should be making concrete progress now. In the often repeated view of the United States, a treaty requiring legally binding mitigation commitments from the U.S., the EU, Australia, Japan, other developed countries; would have to also require them of China, India, and other emerging economies, and we just don't see this happening soon. So rather than insisting on a legal treaty before anything happens, we should move down the pragmatic path of concrete operational decisions. And again, if we do this right, we can, in relatively short order, start standing up a green fund, create a new technology mechanism, start implementing significant mitigation commitments, put in place a system of transparency and accountability, and make real progress on adaptation and forest protection.

    "Now, let me take one moment to talk about the fast start finance commitment that developed countries agreed to last year in the Copenhagen Accord, namely to provide funding for developing countries, particularly vulnerable ones approaching $30 billion over a three-year period from 2010 to '12. This is, by the way, the one element of the Copenhagen Accord that we have treated as unconditional. In the U.S., we have been working hard to pull together as large a financial package as possible and to make what we are doing visible to recipient countries. The U.S. contribution to fast start funding in FY 2010, Fiscal Year 2010, is a total of approximately $1.7 billion, consisting of 1.3 billion of congressionally appropriated assistance and about $400 million worth of development finance and export credits. This financing is being used in a range of projects all around the world from adaptation activities in Africa and the small island states to assisting Indonesia with efforts to reduce deforestation to helping Andean countries address the impacts of tropical glacier retreat. In our view, these investments are not only good for developing countries; they are important for our own economic, environmental, and national security well-being.

    "With regard to transparency, I do want to announce today that a detailed executive summary of our fast start efforts is going up on the State Department website later today, as well as a special website for fast start financing that the Dutch Government is running. In addition, you will be able to find factsheets for the dozens and dozens of countries to whom the United States is providing fast start money. We will start by putting up countries from Africa -- again, I believe that will be later today – but we will also have country factsheets for all countries by the end of this week. . .

    "Let me then just sum up about Cancun. I would describe myself right now as neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I think the issues and the differences among countries are very real and the issues are challenging. As I indicated a few minutes ago, we do see a way forward, but only based on what our leaders agreed to last year in the Copenhagen Accord. We are not going backward and we expect other countries to join us in the same approach. The United States is eager to make progress in Cancun and is determined to do everything we can to ensure that that happens."

    Access the Todd Stern press briefing transcript (click here). Access the U.S. Fast Start Climate Financing in Fiscal Year 2010 website (click here). Access the Dutch government Fast-Start website for extensive details (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for complete details, documents and live, on-demand webcasts (click here). Access the Mexico host country COP16 website (click here). Access detailed, day-by-day coverage from IISD (click here).