Climate change has been a top priority of the United States government for many years. Since President Bush’s first year in office, he has consistently acknowledged that climate change is occurring and that humans are contributing to the problem.
“First, we know the surface temperature of the earth is warming. . . . There is a natural greenhouse effect that contributes to warming. . . . And the National Academy of Sciences indicates that the increase is due in large part to human activity.”
– President Bush, June 11, 2001
In the six years since the President made that statement – just one of many he has made about the seriousness with which the U.S. treats this issue – countries have continued to debate how the international community can address climate change. Now in 2007, just this May, President Bush announced the new U.S. strategy for bringing the world together to tackle the issue. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain our strategy and talk about the success we have seen in our own efforts in the U.S., as well as how that success has helped us form our strategy. I would like to explain the opportunities our plan offers for Japan and the U.S. to continue our excellent collaboration on climate change.
The U.S. Strategy
President Bush’s strategy addresses climate change in what we believe is its proper context: the context of developing countries’ economic growth. Energy is important for development, and in order to help nations grow and prosper, they need access to more energy. This is clearly true in large, developing countries like China and India. China is said to have recently passed the U.S. in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and these major developing countries are going to be the source of the growth of much of the world’s emissions in the coming decades. Clearly these nations have a great need for energy, but energy carries environmental consequences. So the question we in the U.S. want to answer is: how do we move forward with an increased use of energy, but do so in an environmentally responsible way?
Since we have started thinking about this question, our understanding of the science of climate change has strengthened, and our understanding of the opportunities technology offers for solving the problem has also carried us forward with meaningful solutions.
So when the President went to the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, this June, he presented a new strategy during the discussions on climate change. The President explained that the U.S. is going to commit to help lead the way on the development of a new framework on climate change for the time after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. He also explained how we intend to do that. Our strategy is based on the successes we have already achieved at home, and has three parts. These three parts are as follows.
- Bring the World’s Top Emitters Together in the United States
Later this year, we are going to bring together officials from countries that represent the largest energy use and the largest emissions of greenhouse gases to the United States. There are 189 countries participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), but in numbers, about 10 to 15 countries are responsible for more than 80% of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. When we meet, we hope to find consensus on the statement of a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases, something that has not been done collectively before.
In addition to trying to find consensus, including with countries like India and China, on a long-term vision for how to deal with greenhouse gases, each country will develop its own national strategy on a midterm basis in the next 10 to 20 years on where they want to take their efforts to improve energy security, reduce air pollution, and also reduce greenhouse gases.We will then bring together such industrial sectors as transportation, power generation, fuels, and construction. There are industrial leaders and NGOs that are very active in each of these sectors, so we want to get representatives from those sectors in each country to see if they can come up with a common work program to share best practices and set targets. This is an approach we used more recently in something called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, or APP. The APP involves the U.S., China, and India, as well as South Korea, Japan, and Australia – six countries that account for more than half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is a proactive approach to engage developing countries like India and China, which do not have targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Sector by sector, we have compiled an enormous amount of best practices in this program, and I am pleased to say that Japan has been a very active, productive participant.Finally, we will develop a stronger, transparent program of measuring performance so that when we look at how countries are progressing with their efforts, we can compare them accurately.
- A Broader, Development-based Agenda in the UNFCCC
The second part of our strategy is a broad agenda that involves all of the participants in the U.N. Framework on Climate Change to see if we can develop a common agenda around several main areas of emphasis. One is sustainable land use – better forestry practices, better agricultural practices, and better thinking through our cities. We want to stop illegal logging, which is a serious problem, and we want to see what we can do about halting deforestation.Another area of emphasis is efficiency, and using energy more wisely is something that benefits everyone. Yet another area is technology sharing: How can we do more to bring technologies from the developed world into the developing world? The very productive discussions on technology transfer in the APP have played a major role in our decision to emphasize it at the UNFCCC.
- Accelerating the Spread of Cleaner Energy Technology throughout the World
The third component of our strategy will then be an accelerated program on technology. The United States has already committed to significantly increase its investment in advanced clean-energy technologies. In particular, the President in his State of the Union address this year indicated how much more we are going to put into advanced biofuels, as well as clean coal technologies and other technologies. We are going to call on other leaders to see if they can make similar commitments and get our research programs working together.We want to place a higher priority on investments in clean energy by the multilateral development banks, which have billions of dollars to lend out on a low-cost basis.
We are proposing two more things, one of which is within reach already. We have had several years of discussion on the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to the trade in clean-energy technology. This discussion has been taking place in the context of the Doha round of trade negotiations. We want to reach agreement on a schedule for eliminating these tariffs as soon as possible in the Doha round, and certainly by the end of 2008. The sooner we can remove these tariffs, the sooner we can get a lot of technologies commonly used in America moving into the global marketplace. Finally, the U.S. government uses taxpayers’ money to fund a great deal of research and development, often making the resulting technology available to U.S. manufacturers at very low cost. We are proposing to extend that policy globally, so that our taxpayers, who are producing new clean-energy systems, will make them available globally, as long as other countries make the same commitment.
These are the elements of the plan. We hope to conclude this by the end of 2008 and to establish a new climate framework within 18 months. These ideas will build on the solid foundation that we now have in America: an entire system of new regulations to help us deal with energy security and climate change, more than $10 billion in tax incentives, and innumerable technology-advancement partnerships, as well as what the world heard earlier this year in the President’s State of the Union Address: our desire to reduce gasoline use by 20% over the next 10 years, which should also help us halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars.
These are the kinds of things the United States is bringing to the table. This is very consistent and closely in line with the thinking of British Prime Minister Blair and German Chancellor Merkel, who laid the foundation for some of this work in Europe. The President’s strategy got a respectful hearing at the G-8 Summit and played a part in the consensus reached by G-8 leaders in Heiligendamm to work together on climate. We are also aware that there is interest in many of these countries in light of the work of the Asia-Pacific Partnership, where we have already begun the conversation. We are not starting from square one on this issue in the United States; we are off to a moving start.
Bringing the World Onboard
We think our approach will be valuable in that it will be more attractive to the large emerging economies, like China, India, and Brazil. That is our real challenge – the G-8 is already moving in a common direction, so how can we bring these other countries onboard? The President wants to create neutral ground where China and India can take part in this discussion at the same level as the United States and Europe.
In the Asia-Pacific Partnership, we have found that if you ask India and China what matters to them, the answers are energy security, lifting people out of poverty, and finding ways to clean up their power sources. If you keep your discussions practical, they want to know how to get more power out of less fuel. How can power generation be made more efficient? That is something they want to talk about, and if we do that, they will set goals with real timelines.
Countries become hesitant when presented with a general discussion about a broad agenda that does not have a clear plan for achievement. They have real, legitimate concerns that it will constrain their growth, meaning that fewer people will be lifted out of poverty. These are sovereign nations, and their sovereignty must be respected. We want to take the time to work through the plausibility of a future framework – is it ambitious enough, and does it fit within their own vision of their future? While respecting the fact that their circumstances are different from our own, we need to see whether they are open to moving forward with us together.
We also have to respect the fact that each country will ultimately have its own strategy for reducing emissions, based on its own circumstances. Once countries set their midterm strategies, we can go back to international processes to ensure that we are as a planet making the progress needed. This, of course, includes the UNFCCC process, but we want to speed up the clock. Instead of meeting in the annual UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties, we want to start an ongoing conversation that in 18 months can lead to agreement on the basic elements of the next framework for dealing with climate change. If we can do that, then the UN process actually has something to use in hammering out an agreement. Under the current approach, countries restate the same positions each year, then go home to maintain the status quo for another year. Those who are in the Kyoto Protocol like where they are, those who are not are happy where they are, and no progress is made.
We are trying to create a new conversation, and the product of that conversation will be brought into the UN process with several years to go before Kyoto expires. It will run in parallel with and reinforce the UNFCCC.
What Else Does the U.S. Do on Climate?
This is, of course, far from the only track we are pursuing on climate change, and we have in actuality been doing much more than this for the past several years. President Bush has committed the United States to a leadership role on the issue of climate change and since 2001 has dedicated nearly $29 billion to advance climate-related science, technology, international assistance, and incentive programs. This is far more than any other nation. Since 2002, the administration has spent more than $9 billion of this amount on climate-change research and, under the President’s direction, agencies developed a 10-year strategic research plan for climate science that was endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences. Further, federally funded scientists have conducted a great deal of research, published their findings in peer reviewed papers and journals, and talked with colleagues, policymakers, and media around the world about their findings.
Between 2003 and 2006, the U.S. committed nearly $3 billion annually – more than any other country in the world – to climate-change technology research-and-deployment programs. The Bush administration is carrying out dozens of federal programs, including partnerships, consumer information campaigns, incentives, and mandatory regulations. These programs are directed at developing and deploying cleaner, more efficient energy technologies, conservation, biological sequestration, geological sequestration, and adaptation. The U.S. is also the global leader in promoting the production and use of biofuels – consuming more than any other nation last year – and commercial deployment of highly efficient advanced coal technology – moving forward with a multibillion-dollar private-sector commitment to build nine projects in nine states, qualifying for a billion dollars in new tax incentives, with more on the way this year.
Most importantly, our unparalleled financial commitment and responsible policies are working. Our emissions performance since 2000 is among the best in the world. According to the International Energy Agency, from 2000 to 2004, as our population increased and our economy grew by nearly 10%, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions increased by only 1.7%. During the same period, European Union carbon dioxide emissions grew by 5%, even while the EU was experiencing lower economic growth.
In addition to working closely with our G-8 counterparts and other key world leaders to address the serious, long-term challenge of global climate change, the U.S. since 2001 has established 15 bilateral climate partnerships with countries and regional organizations, as well as multiple multilateral climate-change initiatives.
The results we have achieved in moderating the growth of emissions in the United States speak volumes to the value of our approach. We believe that discussions among those countries that are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – especially on how to transfer clean energy technology – can lead to achievable goals, genuine reductions in emissions, and real progress in combating climate change. I talk with my counterparts in Japan’s Ministry of Environment; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry regularly about these very topics. There will be higher-level consultations between the U.S. and Japan on climate change early in August, and all of us in the U.S. government are hoping for continued close coordination between Japan and the United States as we proceed with our strategy this fall. Climate change is a global challenge, and our countries have to work together to solve it.