Preview of the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
David L. Goldwyn
Coordinator for International Energy Affairs
Coordinator for International Energy Affairs
April 14, 2010
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MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. Today we’re here briefing on the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas. The ECPA will be held on April 15th and 16th in Washington, D.C., and it will be hosted by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Secretary Clinton will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, April 15th at 12:15 p.m. And you can find the full schedule of events at www.ecpamericas.org.
Joining us today is Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela to discuss the regional context for the ECPA. And he’s also joined by Department of State Coordinator for International Energy Affairs David Goldwyn to discuss Secretary Clinton’s speech and energy security as a Department priority.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Well, thanks very much. President Obama, as you may know, invited all of his counterparts to join in an Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas when he attended the April 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. Now, his vision was that ECPA, or E-C-P-A, be a flexible hemispheric partnership comprised of various initiatives on energy and climate that would strengthen inter-American collaboration. ECPA is emblematic of a 21st century partnership. It’s multidimensionality – it’s inclusive, it’s flexible, and it’s pragmatic.
Since then, nearly a dozen initiatives have been launched, some led by the United States and others led by other partners in the Americas. To highlight progress and push for expanded cooperation, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will host the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas Thursday and Friday of this week. That’s April 15th and 16th.
The meeting on Thursday occurs at the Inter-American Development Bank and is open to the press. The audience will include government delegations led by energy ministers, inter-American institutions, private companies, and civil society. Secretary Clinton will deliver remarks at 12:15 Thursday. She views ECPA not only as a tool for putting the Americas on a sustainable energy path but also as a tangible example of the benefits of collaboration across the hemisphere. Our partners in the region with increasing frequency request our collaboration on energy and climate issues, and ECPA is a mechanism where we can share best practice, learn from each other in addressing energy and climate challenges.
She will also announce new initiatives at the ministerial, which brings in technical expertise from across our government, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Peace Corps, and others to address energy poverty challenges throughout the Americas.
The events on Friday, April 16th will occur at the Organization of American States and will be – and will include a closed-door ministerial that concludes with a press conference. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern will deliver luncheon remarks on that day. That is on Friday. And will discuss expanding cooperation under ECPA and opportunities to help Haiti’s energy sector as well.
And now it’s my privilege to turn over to David Goldwyn, Secretary Clinton’s Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, the podium so that he can say a few words before taking your questions.
MR. GOLDWYN: Thanks, Arturo.
Let me just mention a few things. One is why this Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas matters to the United States for our energy security, why it matters to the hemisphere, why diplomatically it’s a very unique organism that’s been created by President Obama, and how it’s working.
First, in terms of the United States, this hemisphere is extremely important to U.S. energy security. Three of our top four suppliers of oil are in this hemisphere. Two of the largest producers of biofuels – ourselves and the Brazilians – are in this hemisphere. Two of our largest sources of imported natural gas – Canada and Trinidad and Tobago – are from this hemisphere. And so for energy security, it matters a great deal.
Also in terms of trade, jobs, relationships that people who live in our country with relatives nearby, this hemisphere is extremely important for our national security and for our economic security. And for this hemisphere, access to electricity – whether they will have affordable, climate-friendly, plentiful electricity to power their economies – will make all the difference in the world as to whether the hemisphere’s economies grow and they grow in a way that increases prosperity for everyone.
So our national security is very much wrapped up in the economic security of the hemisphere. So that’s why energy and climate partnership matters to us. It matters to the hemisphere because, as the economies grow, they will need access to electricity. Now, you have countries in the Caribbean, the most fuel-dependent region in the world. Now, their ability to have a choice in terms of how they get their electricity is extremely important. Central America, relatively small markets, not very well integrated. The ability of these economies to grow will depend on whether they are integrated. The larger economies in the Southern Cone, where will their next power plants come from? Is it going to be coal? Is it going to be gas? Is it going to be biofuels? Is it going to be something else? Are they going to be able to introduce renewables? Are they going to figure out as they build housing that they’re going to be able to use energy efficiency measures?
All the infrastructure of the next 30 years is going to be built in the next few years. So their choices will depend and determine whether their businesses have affordable electricity. So this partnership, the ability to have electricity and have it develop in a climate-friendly way, extremely important to the hemisphere.
What’s really unique about the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas is that it is not one of these bring everybody to Washington, sign a ministerial statement, we’re all going to agree to one policy kind of a show. This is the Facebook of international diplomacy because the Economic and Climate Partnership of the Americas is a platform where countries come and deliver their initiatives, and other countries that want to join them can join them and others that don’t want to join them don’t join them.
And so we’ve got five pillars of this: renewable energy, energy efficiency, cleaner fossil fuels, infrastructure, and energy poverty. And we lead some of these; we follow others. But in the year – and it’s exactly a year since this thing was announced – we are already seeing these communities develop. So Brazil was the first to respond to President Obama’s invitation. They’re leading with something called Building with Energy Efficiency and Sustainability. This is focusing on urban development in low-income areas. The Brazilian Government’s going to build a million units of new housing. They’re going to build those in a low carbon way. And Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, the U.S. are going to learn from Brazil on how you do that.
Colombia is leading on an initiative on long distance transmission of electricity and connections between countries, in this case focusing on the Andean neighbors, Panama and Chile. But the ability to connect Colombia and Panama and to have those interconnections, to have the regulations harmonized, is going to be a model for many other regions in the Southern Cone and a powerful way to cooperate.
Mexico is sharing best practices on energy efficiency. Their Central American neighbors are key partners, as is the Caribbean. Canada has invited Brazil and Colombia, the U.S. and Venezuela to learn about how you develop heavy oil in an environmentally sound way. And they’re spending a lot of time learning how to do that and improve those practices, and they’ll share those.
And so at this ministerial, we’re going to highlight these initiatives and what has taken place so far, and other countries will launch new ones. But it’s pretty remarkable, in a year, that an idea that came at the last Summit of the Americas has turned into this robust bunch of initiatives led by different countries. So it’s – we’re the hosts this time, but it’s not all about us. And that’s really the power, I think, of this initiative and its success, and that’s why we’re excited about it.
MR. TONER: Go ahead and open it up to questions. Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. You mentioned that there are some issues regarding electricity and so on. I would like to know – Venezuela has experienced some electricity shortage. I would like to know, there is any possibility that you can cooperate in Venezuela in that regard?
And the second one is considering Venezuela has leads on initiatives in the region – I mean, energy initiatives in the region, that will be part of the topics in this meeting? How will be like the agenda with Venezuela, specifically?
MR. GOLDWYN: Well, the beauty of the structure of the energy and climate partnership is that on the – on Thursday, there will be different groups. There will be an energy poverty group, a heavy oil group, and countries will choose which one they want to go to, and they will bring delegations and they will learn from them. So if Venezuela decides to go to the electricity group or the interconnection group, then it can join that. It’s Venezuela’s choice and I couldn’t say – I can say with certainty that they’re coming, but I can’t say with certainty where they’re going, other than they’ll be on the cleaner fossil fuels panel that I’ll be chairing.
And then with respect to those other initiatives, ECPA is really about the things that we do together, the communities that we build together, and so they may be part of the energy poverty group. We’ll see when they come to town.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, on another topic, yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Could we stay on the energy questions first and then we’ll come back to this?
MR. TONER: Exactly, yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MR. TONER: (inaudible) Thank you.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). Regarding this meeting, (inaudible) – I was in public event with Secretary Chu about 10 days ago at the Ronald Reagan Center. He said that actually U.S. is looking for energy independence, actually, and they – and he announced a bunch of – a lot of investments in the country itself over coming years, I think even $80 billion for clean energy investments. I wonder how can you match both things? I mean, the fact that you want – you are asking for a partnership with the region, and at the same time, U.S. is promoting a lot of initiatives just to be self-sustained on the energy sector. And that the official – even President Obama speeches, he mentioned that he doesn’t want to be so reliable on non-friendly countries like, for instance, Venezuela.
MR. GOLDWYN: What – I think what President Obama has said is, first, we are trying to put ourselves on a path to de-carbonize our economy, as are countries around the world. In the interim, we will be relying on oil and gas for the next couple of decades. So we will continue to need, as everyone else in the world will continue to need, stable and secure supplies of oil and gas.
But at the same time, we are investing $80 billion in ways to make our system smarter and more efficient. That’s building better mass transit systems. That’s building a smarter electricity grid. We are probably one of the highest per capita consumers of electricity in the world. We have a huge amount that we can do in terms of efficiency, so we don’t have to build the next power plant. We can just get more out of what we have.
And so those are not inconsistent investments, but as we do things like also increase fuel efficiency standards to use less fuel and to permit offshore drilling so we can provide more of our own, we’re moving in what is a holistic path – try and use less, try and be more efficient, try and diversify our sources of supply, but at the same time, maintain secure, stable supplies at the same time. So we don’t see them inconsistent. You just can’t leap that chasm in one step. And so it’s going to be a long-term process and we’re just trying to be smart about using all of the tools that are available to us to get from here to there.
QUESTION: Two quick questions: One, what – do you have stated goals for this meeting or it’s more like brainstorming? And two, how does this (inaudible) coordinate with the UNFCCC meetings or the Major Economies Forum?
MR. GOLDWYN: Well, in terms of the goals, our goal of day one is really to create – expand this community, because the – in addition to the countries, there will be companies and nongovernmental organizations. And the OAS is playing a leading role, the Inter-American Development Bank is playing a leading role. So we’re hoping to have a lot of ferment in these groups and come out of it with more countries joining the initiatives that will be announced and new initiatives being launched or developed by countries and organizations that participate. So we’re looking for more of what we’re going to announce on Thursday. That’s sort of deliverable number one.
In terms of the ministerial day, number two, I think there, we’re looking for country commitments about how they’re going to take this to the next step. Colombia, I think, will be the next host of the energy and climate partnership. And we’re going to talk about climate. Todd Stern, our Special Envoy on Climate Change, will address the group on – at lunch, the ministers at lunch on Friday. But this is not a climate negotiation. This is really about how do you propagate the technologies or the practices in terms of efficiencies that countries need to provide clean, affordable electricity.
And so there’s a harmony between the climate and the energy piece. That’s why it’s the energy and climate partnership, because if you can build a million new homes and you can build them more efficient and you can build solar into the water heating and you can build wind to get that peaking power, then you have helped the climate, you are saving money, you are making it more affordable, you’re enabling people with low income to live, and you’re doing that all well. So that’s how they’re going to fit together.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Any more on energy or --
QUESTION: Yeah, one more. You mentioned clean, affordable energy. So that requires a lot of investment. Are you sure that the region is willing to cooperate in that regard too?
MR. GOLDWYN: The region is cooperating. I think if you look at Central America --
QUESTION: I mean to invest a lot of money in that – in new technologies?
MR. GOLDWYN: Well, I think we’re seeing it happen. I mean, you’re seeing – I mean, if you look at these initiatives, I mean, you’re seeing energy efficiency deployment in Mexico. You’re seeing wind and solar aggregation as well. You’re seeing in Brazil the whole biofuels movement is transforming the way energy is used. So it’s taking place in a lot of places.
The question is how do you get more? And some of that is having the right policy framework. People have to – who afford – people who buy electricity and can afford to pay for electricity need to pay something that covers the cost of the input. So if you have the tariff structure right and if you have the feed stock right, then somebody’s going to want to invest. If you don’t have those things, then you’ve just got the government investing. And so some of this conversation is how to get prices right.
But in many places, you have enormous markets and you have wealth and you have major industries and you can lower the cost of doing business, in our country and in these other countries, by building renewables into the system if you can do it at the scale that’s appropriate for a community or for a business or for a country. So it’s good business and there’s not a big assistance program. Brazil is a big economy, Colombia is a big economy, Argentina is a big economy. People doing business there want to build in cost savings into their business plans.
This is about showing them what’s available, showing them what other countries have done, showing them what other companies have done, and letting the companies talk to the other businesses there and let them make the deal.
QUESTION: Are there any plans to discuss possibly linking carbon markets or offset policies or – is that going to be on the table for this ministerial meeting?
MR. GOLDWYN: I don’t know that that is an initiative that’s been proposed so far. But it’s certainly a right one for someone to suggest.
QUESTION: Can you (inaudible) –
MR. TONER: I think we’re – any more questions on energy? Great. How about you first since you had your hand up.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia announced that the U.S. (inaudible) is finally closing all of its cooperation with the DAS after the wiretapping scandal. I wonder, Assistant Secretary, if you have any more comments about that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: No, it’s well-known that the Government of Colombia is going to shut down the DAS. It still needs to have congressional approval. And what the United States has done in terms of its cooperation with the DAS is to pass on some of the support for that to other agencies and organizations, such as (inaudible).
QUESTION: And so what’s the current status of the cooperation with other branches of (inaudible)? And at least --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: It’s good. It’s ongoing, as you know. There’s been a significant amount of cooperation, particularly with the (inaudible), but also with the justice system, more generally, at different levels. So, yeah, it’s a good cooperation.
QUESTION: Yeah, the director of the DAS said yesterday that actually the whole scandal had attacked the ability of their – of the agency to cooperate with the U.S. What are your comments on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: No comment. I think that we – it’s well-known what’s happened with the DAS, and we continue to cooperate and collaborate with the Government of Colombia. And as I said before, some of these efforts are – have been transferred over to other institutions and we’ll continue to do that.
MR. TONER: Last couple of questions.
QUESTION: Yeah. Has the U.S. started again – launched again mission with private contractors to Cuba? I remember that Secretary Clinton said that they were – you were reviewing the whole policy. But I understand that those missions are already started again, even the case of that man arrested in Cuba.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: All of those particular programs are under review right now. And so I have no further comment than just simply that.
QUESTION: You’re not sending people or you don’t have (inaudible) contract right now – running right now (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: Some of the programs that we have are ongoing programs. I don’t have specifics on what particular programs are doing right now, but those programs are under review.
MR. TONER: Last question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Assistant Secretary, you have been very outspoken regarding Venezuela and the armed purchase to Russia. So I would like to know do you expect, after these comments that Venezuela could be more cooperate regarding energy or other issues with the U.S.?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY VALENZUELA: What I have made clear in all of my recent comments about the issue of arms is that the – every country has the sovereign right to purchase arms for its national defense. That’s a given. Also, countries have a right to also modernize their equipment and there’s a constant change to the technology of these.
On the other hand, I’ve also said, recently in these comments that you’re referring to, that there’s been a trend in the Latin American region for – to a significant decline in arms expenditures as conflicts between countries have waned as a possibility, with the signing of agreements that have resolved longstanding, in many cases, like between Argentina and Chile or between Ecuador and Peru, longstanding border disagreements and that kind of thing. So the overall need for additional expenditures on weaponry is definitely going down.
And what we certainly encourage – and all of the countries encourage – is that governments pay much more attention to social expenditures and to trying to improve the standards of living of their peoples. And I think there’s a consensus in the region that in a continent that is essentially at peace that there really is no need for these kinds of large expenditures.
And I would just simply finally conclude those remarks by saying that this also means that we support very strongly efforts to resolve boundary disputes and to kind of lower the decibels that can lead to heightened disputes between countries. And we’ve seen that in the region. I mean, it’s remarkable, if you look back over the last 30-some-odd years at how much improvement there has been in resolving intrastate disputes in Latin America.
MR. TONER: Thank you very much.
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