Press Conference
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change
Jiutepec, Mexico
June 24, 2009


SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Hi. Thanks for coming. I appreciate your coming around for a few words.
We just finished what I think was quite a good meeting today. It began on Sunday night. Let me just mention one piece of information, a piece of news actually, before I get into the meeting, which is: there was quite good news on the climate change front coming out of Washington today. The House of Representatives has agreed to move forward on the so-called Waxman-Markey bill. This is a big bill that is under consideration in the House for comprehensive energy legislation, for comprehensive energy program that includes us the so-called cap-and-trade provisions that had previously been approved in the relevant House committee, the Energy and Commerce committee, and it looks like it’s going to the Floor this week. I understand that President Obama in a press conference today talked about that, and urged that the bill be passed. So that's a very important piece of the overall picture for the United States; I just wanted to make sure that people here were aware of that.

In terms of what we’ve just have been doing here in Mexico, we had a good meeting of the… this is the 3rd preparatory session of the major economies forum, forum of 16 of the major countries of the world plus EU plus so 17 parties, and this year actually includes Denmark because of its role as host of the Copenhagen meeting. The purpose of this forum has been both to facilitate the kind of dialogue that can help us get an agreement in Copenhagen as well as to provide a platform for driving transformational technology. I think that we have focused all along on both of those objectives. Probably more focused on the Copenhagen because Copenhagen looms ahead of us, but we focus again on this third session on both of those main constructive meetings starting on Sunday.

We discussed all of the major Copenhagen elements which include mitigation, the issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions; financing, which refers to the provision of resources from developed countries to developing; adaptation which refers to dealing with the effects of climate change that is already upon us and will continue to be upon us in the years ahead, as well as issues of technology development. We discussed all those issues, I think it had a very, as has been the case, I think, in all of these sessions, a very candid discussion; the point of this exercise, the point of this forum, really, is to be able to meet in a setting with a small group of countries, major countries, at a quite senior level of leader representatives in a way that you can't really replicate in the framework convention discussions that go on.

The ultimate point of these three preparatory sessions has been to lay the groundwork for the leaders’ meeting which will occur next month in Italy, and all of both the preparatory sessions and the leaders meeting, again, are designed in important part to help move the ball forward with respect to Copenhagen. So, with that in that I'm happy to take some questions.

REPORTER: I would like to know which commitments the U.S. is willing to undertake in these negotiations, and on the way to Copenhagen. And, has a goal in reduction of greenhouse gases been started? And, how would the U.S. support developing nations for adaptation and mitigation?

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: The United States is absolutely committed to making a… to reducing green house gases and making a commitment to that effect in the context of these negotiations. What we have said all along is that our reduction commitment will fundamentally be not just a commitment in words, but it will be framed by the actual mandatory legislation and programs that we do in the United States. So, the president’s original proposal involves about a 14% or 15% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020, rising out to over an 80% reduction by 2050, the legislation that I referred to a few minutes ago, the so called Waxman-Markey legislation would envision about a 17% reduction from 2005 levels, again ramping up year by year all the way up to over 80% by 2050. So, we will continue working with Congress trying to get legislation passed and that legislation that ultimately gets passed and that frames the United States domestic program will help us determine ultimately the target, and that target is very much in the range of what I just described.

REPORTER: I wonder if you could describe us the positions between the G8 (inaudible) closer how much closer, how close are we to an agreement in terms of caps and initiative limitations, secondly, in the (inaudible) sincere also, how close can you say Mexico’s green fund or the Norwegian proposal are being adopted by the countries, and do you agree with the assessment that Quezada gave this morning that the existing green funds just don’t work efficiently and they should be replaced by some sort of international financing mechanism.

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Thanks, your first question is on where the G8 countries and G5 countries are with respect to each of their own plans for reducing emissions. You know, I think that on the issue of mitigation, on the big issues generally, there are still significant differences between the parties, but the discussions in this group on the Major Economies Forum I think continue to be very good, I think with each further session we make some additional progress, there were discussions in the last two days, that included issues of potential long term goals, mid-term actions and commitments that would be taken and other concepts that had to do with mitigation, that were new at discussions and I don’t think there is….there’s not a final agreement on anything yet, but I think we have made some progress in respect to the issues that go all the way to Copenhagen. Again, these are hard issues and I think we are just, you know, we are working through it and making progress. I do think we will have a successful agreement in Copenhagen. But it would be, let me just say that in the context of any kind of negotiation like this, it would be incredibly unusual and almost strange to have an actual deal done six months or wherever we are now, about six months in advance. That is just not the way it works. But I think we are understanding each other better and moving toward, moving in the direction of greater convergence positions but that will continue to work out over time and take some time. On the Mexican Green Fund we have been very positive and very supportive of that idea from the beginning. We think it’s quite an interesting idea and there are a number of countries that sat around this table that also think it’s an interesting idea. And I do have a general agreement with, um, I’m sorry did you reference Minister Elvira?

REPORTER: Inaudible

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: No, I knew you referenced the Norwegian proposal. Sorry, I thought you referenced one of the, either the president or the environment minister in Mexico.

REPORTER: Inaudible

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Right, right. Well, I think what I would say about that is not so much leveling the criticism with respect to anything that exists, but that clearly in the arena of financing there needs to be new mechanisms and new efforts developed and there is a lot of discussion. I think there will be some principles that will end up being reflected in the, following the discussions of the leaders in July, at least I hope so, that articulate some of the kinds of issues that need to get worked out in terms of financing, but I think the Mexican proposal is quite a good one. And the Norwegian proposal is also an interesting proposal. The way it’s set up causes, is kind of more amenable to some countries than others. I think the general idea that there needs to be a mechanism where there is some more regular provision and dependable provision of funding to poor countries is the right idea. The particular way that the Norwegians proposed to do it works for some countries better than for others. So I am not signing onto the Norwegian proposal per se. But I think the general spirit behind it is a good one.

REPORTER: Independently of these reunions, will the U.S. go to Copenhagen with its own proposal?

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Well, the U.S. will certainly, the U.S. has already made a proposal in the context of the Copenhagen, the Framework Convention process. Submissions were made to the Secretariat of the Framework Convention back in, I don’t remember if it was April or May, I think it was April, but April or early May, and the U.S. put in a full proposal as did many, many other countries and we will continue to be, we continue to work through that process. We had a team in Bonn earlier this month. We will continue working actively through that process. And my hope, and my belief is that the kinds of understandings that end up being reached in this process here will then also feed back into the framework convention process in a constructive way, so that is part of the idea.

REPORTER: You spoke about the G8 and the G5 seeing things closer together, but as we all know the G8 does not necessarily see everything the same right now. Would you say then that within the G8 there has been an approximation of positions and if you could maybe elaborate on what sort of issues the sides have resolved?

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: I think that there's actually...there are inevitably some points of difference to be sure but I actually think that there's an increasing amount of agreement and understanding among the developed countries and I think that has to do with, I think that covers issues...really all the issues that I talked about: mitigation, financing, adaptation...those are really the main issues I’m talking about in the Copenhagen context. The technology piece of what we do here I think is also really important. I think it actually has a lot of support among both developed and undeveloped countries. it’s not what I would describe a Copenhagen focus per se, It’s more focused on what kinds of actions leaders of these countries could take to help drive the development and dissemination of important technologies.

REPORTER: Good evening...There's a fundamental topic that has to do with global warming. Many countries and scientists state that an increase of more than 2 degrees in the average global temperature would mean a real catastrophe. I would like to know what's the stance of the U.S. government on this matter?

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: President Obama has articulated a long term objective and from the beginning as I said that's part of the Waxman Markey bill which would involve reducing emission by over 80% between now and 2050. By the way that's not just an aspirational goal in the context of the U.S. that would be actual legislation that would progressively tighten the cap or the limit on emissions year by year starting in a couple of years and going all the way out to 2050. So that's inspired by the notion, the scientific notion that there needs to be a limit on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in order to keep temperature down at an acceptable level, now there are many scientists who have identified 2 degree centigrade increase as compared to preindustrial levels as an important benchmark an important yardstick and I think it is an important yardstick, I think is a matter of reality, I don't think we know, I don't think scientists know what particular point , it might be 1.9, it might be 2.2, it's hard to know where is the threshold point but certainly is a useful benchmark around which to orient efforts. I think in that sense it’s a useful number.

REPORTER: On the 40% reduction demand from 1990 by 2020 that you hear a lot about, does the bill in how it represents at the moment, does that mean the U.S. rules that out as a possible commitment going into Copenhagen?

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: It’s never been ruled in for us. I don’t know that the bill rules it out. Couple of things. The proposal that the President has made and the proposal that is reflected in the Waxman-Markey bill, are enormously ambitious proposals for the United States, you are talking about a reduction in green house gases, by the time the bill takes affect by 2012, it will probably be in that 2012-2020 period, there’s probably going to be a requirement to reduce green house gases by something like 20%, going from 2012 forward. That’s a huge change, again it’s a change that ramps all the way up to over 80% by 2050 which is very much in line with what the EU or anybody else has suggested. The 40% below 1990 is something which is in our judgment both not necessary and not feasible given where we are starting, so it’s not in the cards, it’s not reflected at all in the Waxman-Markey legislation, but again it’s not necessary to be on a track that is scientifically consistent with the kinds of numbers we were talking about before.

REPORTER: I just wanted to ask you a little bit if you could talk about what you like about the Green Fund Proposal. Why this is an interesting proposal and how, as I’m understanding, would be a proposal for one other financing mechanisms or would it be more applicable to perhaps take some of the principles from the Green Fund Proposal and apply them to additional financing mechanism.
SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Thanks. I think there are number of things which strike us as interesting about the Mexican proposal. One of them is that it would take advantage of the existing experienced institutions, that the Mexican idea would involve using an institution like the World Bank, I am not sure it has to be the World Bank , but an institution that’s got some experience. I think they have good notions about governance which in our view ought to be fair and balanced between developed and developing countries, and they have good ideas about accountability of funding and they have a very interesting idea actually, it’s a big focus I know for President Calderon, is that all countries should contribute, including developing countries, except the poorest developing countries. I think the reality is that most developing countries, maybe all developing countries, would end up, would be net recipients, they would get more money than they would contribute. But I think that there is a sense among or at least on the part of the President and his advisors that it would be quite a constructive thing for everybody to have some stake in making an investment to trying to fix the climate change problem. I think all of those things and there are doubtless other elements, those are few that come to mind right now. so I think they are all constructive. With respect to whether it would be one of several, or would kind of become the central institution or the central mechanism, I think we don’t know yet. I think it‘s an idea, it’s not the only idea, there are other kind of funding sources, whether a lot sort of concentrates into a fund like this or is more disperse is still a question that is being discussed and that’s not resolved yet. Thanks a lot everybody.