Friday, December 09, 2011

Amidst Backlash, U.S. Forced To Defend Climate Position In Durban

Dec 8: As the various country representatives attempt to hammer out a "Durban Agreement" during the waning hours of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17/CMP7 meeting being held in Durban, South Africa which concludes today, Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change was dispelling rumors that the United States was proposing to delay action on climate change until 2020.
    Stern, who indicated he was heckled at the meeting, emphatically said, "It is completely off base to suggest that the U.S. is proposing that we delay action until 2020. Let's stop and think what's on the table over the next number of years. For one thing, countries -- whether it is the U.S., China, the EU, India, Brazil, whoever it is, and many, many other countries not in the category of majors -- are going to be working hard to implement targets or actions that they committed to in Cancun.

    "We are in the international context going to be, hopefully, and I believe that this will be the case, rapidly setting up the Green Fund, rapidly setting up the Climate Technology Center and Network, setting up the Adaptation Committee, among other things. We will also be working hard to ramp up the funding that is supposed to reach a 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. There's a ton of work to be done in the years. We have been doing a lot of work on this, this year, and we will be continuing to do that as are many other countries. And all at the same time, if we get the kind of roadmap that countries have called for -- the EU has called for, that the U.S. supports -- for preparing for and negotiating a future regime, whether it ends up being legally binding or not, we don't know yet, but we are strongly committed to a promptly starting process to move forward on that.

    "Take all of those things together; it's nonsense to suggest that what we are doing is proposing a kind of hiatus in dealing with climate change until after 2020. So, I just wanted to make that clear because, after I heard it about the fourth or fifth time in the last few days, and again I've heard this from everywhere from ministers to press reports to the very sincere and passionate young woman who was in the hall when I was giving my remarks. I just wanted to be on the record as saying that, that's just a mistake. It is not true."

    Following Stern's initial statement, a further hostile question was asked stating, "The young woman, the Middlebury student, Abigail Borah, [Note: the 21 year old student was ejected from the climate conference after she interrupted Stern accusing the United States of stonewalling an agreement] said we need an urgent path towards a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty. Mr. Stern, as you pointed out increasingly at this conference, the perception is that the U.S. is blocking any substantive progress towards legally binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sixteen CEOs of environmental organizations in the United States said the same thing, that the U.S. is becoming the major obstacle here. Can you talk about the perception, as you've described it, of time out until 2020 when many of, for example, the African nations and the Island nations are talking about, they could be seeing very serious devastation. You yourself just pointed out there is a growing consensus here that the U.S. is blocking progress in any kind of serious commitment to a legally binding mandate here."
    Stern answered the question saying, ". . .so I will try to repeat what I said a minute ago on part of your question, then I'll take the other part. But it's not a time out. I mean, it's not remotely a timeout. We reached an important agreement last year. We reached an agreement, which although it is not legally binding, it is a COP decision under a legally binding treaty, which is very serious and which covers more than 80 percent of global emissions as compared to a Kyoto agreement, which people are hoping will cover something in the order of 15 percent this year. It's got nothing to do with the time out. What is embedded in the Cancun agreement is so much more meaningful in terms of potential emission reductions than anything that is in Kyoto that there is no contest.

    "So, I think again that that's a misconception plus, and I won't repeat everything that I just said a second ago about all of the various actions that are going to be taken promptly including the negotiation -- first the preparatory work and then the negotiation of a new regime which, you know, the EU has called for roadmap. We support that and we've -- I talked with the EU at length. I have also talked with my friends in -- from the BASIC countries and others. I mean, if there is a misconception, then it would be a good idea for the word to get out that it is just not accurate.

    "Now, it is also not accurate to say, to describe the U.S. as blocking a legally binding agreement. What we are saying -- we, in the first months after I came into this job, we made a proposal. You can look it up if you'd like in -- to the secretariat, to the COP -- for a full, legally binding agreement. We've got the whole thing in the record, which calls for a legally binding agreement that would actually apply to all the major countries and cover the emissions that need to be covered if we are going to have a chance to solve this problem. That is what we proposed. That is exactly where these negotiations ought to be going. That is exactly where the international climate effort ought to be going. I mean, you can run around and pretend that behind this firewall, you are going to take 30 or 35 percent of global emissions and fix the problem. But you know what? You're not. So what the U.S. has been doing over the last two years, with all due respect, has been showing the leadership necessary to try to drag this process into the 21st century."   

    Back home in the U.S., the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works delivered completely opposite video messages to participants at the Durban meeting. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member and outspoken critic of climate science, delivered a YouTube address from Washington for a press conference organized by Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) held at the Durban meeting.  The press conference featured an analysis from Senator Inhofe on the prospects of a new climate treaty in the U.S. Senate and the release of Marc Morano's (editor in chief of ) new report "From A-Z" which Senator Inhofe indicated "details troubles and failings in what has been falsely proclaimed by global warming advocates to be a 'settled scientific consensus.'"
    Senator Inhofe said, "I am confident that the only person left talking about global warming is me. The message from Washington to the UN delegates in South Africa this week could not be any clearer: you are being ignored. And you are being ignored by your biggest allies in the United States: President Obama and the Democratic leadership in the Senate." He said the U.S. regulations being implemented and proposed are based "on the science of the now discredited UN IPCC." He indicated that the A-Z report, . . ."shows that on virtually every claim - from A-Z - the promoters of man-made climate fears are failing and the global warming movement is suffering a scientific death of a thousand cuts." In his release, he declared that the "Kyoto Process Is Dead."
    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in her video message said, "Although I am not there with you in person, it in no way lessens my commitment to the work that you are doing in Durban and the importance of your mission to address climate change. This massive threat to the environment and human health that is posed by climate change requires us to put aside partisan differences, to find common ground, and to demand immediate international action. . . Climate scientists predict increased precipitation, stronger storms, and increased drought. In the U.S. this year we have seen a record number of weather-related disasters. . . greenhouse gas emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010 - the largest jump in emissions in any year since the Industrial Revolution began. . . While time has grown short, it is not too late.
    "The message I have for climate deniers is this: you are endangering human kind. It is time for climate deniers to face reality, because the body of evidence is overwhelming and the world's leading scientists agree. . . Wishing that climate change will go away by clinging to a tiny minority view is not a policy - it is a fantasy. . . Climate change marches forward while special interests and their denier friends try to distract us from the work at hand. It is time for that to stop. . . I reaffirm my commitment to work as hard as I can to reduce the dangerous air pollution that causes climate change and harms the health and safety of people around the world. . . The nations of the world must work together to solve this problem, and I call on those gathered in Durban to work toward an international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with transparency and accountability. . ."
    Access the complete transcript of the Todd Stern December 8 briefing (click here). Access a report from Think Progress with a video and picture of the Middlebury student disruption at the meeting (click here). Access a complete index of day-by-day briefing session webcasts on-demand including Todd Stern's December 8 briefing and others (click here). Access a release and video from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access a release and video from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access the U.S. State Department COP17 website for details on the U.S. activities (click here). Access links to complete information from the UNFCCC website (click here). Access the CO.NX digital diplomacy team website with the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) at the U.S. Department of State for a back-stage pass to COP17 (click here). [#Climate]