Interview
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change
Deputy National Security Advisor for International and Economic Affairs Michael Froman
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
April 19, 2010


MR. TONER: Good afternoon. I know our time is short, so we’ll get started right away. We are very fortunate to have Deputy National Security Advisor for International and Economic Affairs Michael Froman as well as the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern with us. I think you have a readout of the Major Economies Forum on energy and climate that took place, I believe, last night and today. Without further ado, I will hand it over to Michael.

MR. FROMAN: Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Mike Froman from the White House. I chaired today’s meeting of the Major Economies Forum. It was held here at the State Department. This was the sixth meeting at the leaders’ representative level since we launched the Major Economies Forum last year. It was attended by officials of the 17 major economies as well as the United Nations. Plus we had representatives of Columbia, Denmark, Grenada, and Yemen also participating in the session. Because of the volcano, some of the leaders’ representatives from Europe and elsewhere were unable to join in person, but we were able to video conference many of them in and we were able to have a dialogue with them via video conference throughout the day. The purpose of the Major Economies Forum, as you all know, is to facilitate a candid dialogue among the major developed and developing countries about the key issues around climate change and clean energy, including by promoting technology, cooperation, and the clean energy space. There was broad agreement that this smaller, informal discussion such as the MEF contributed to the success of Copenhagen and we’re considering holding another MEF later this summer.

Let me tell you a little bit about the agenda and then I’ll turn it over to Todd. The meeting started last night with a dinner for the heads of delegations and today’s discussion opened up with a dialogue around where countries stand on the main issues that need to be addressed to have a successful outcome in Cancun. Participants also exchanged views on the role of the Kyoto protocol in the form of a legal outcome, and this morning concluded with a discussion of fast-start funding which was part of the Copenhagen Accord. Several countries, including the U.S., presented information on the actions they were taking to meet this commitment. In the afternoon, we continued the dialogue around the outstanding issues as well as had a briefing on the clean energy ministerial which Secretary Chu will host here on July 19th to 20th in Washington, DC.

The goal of that ministerial is to advance key activities in the technology action plans of the global partnership that were launched by the leaders in L’Aquila last year in July, 2009. I think the overall – the conversation today was candid and constructive. There were a number of areas of convergence and a number of areas where further work remains to be done. But the progress was cited – the progress that was made in Copenhagen was noted and this venue continues to be a positive resource to continue that momentum. I’m going to turn it over to Todd now, who will give you some further insights into today’s discussion.

MR. STERN: Thanks, Mike. I’m going to be very brief. I concur with the description Mike just gave. We pulled this meeting together, really, because we have found throughout the course of last year that the MEF was a very useful group to discuss issues. There’s a certain familiarity and a greater intimacy in terms of the kind of conversation that you can have in a group like this. We – in addition to the full, regular set of MEF countries, as Mike noted, we had a few others as well. The – our focus, really, was just to have a broad-ranging discussion on what needed to be done this year in order to get a successful outcome, what people’s expectations were with respect to the particular issues, with respect to the legal form.

There was discussion on the range of topics that Mike talked about. So I think just one other point I would make is that there was some – a brief discussion on the issue of fast-start financing. We distributed a fact sheet of a couple of pages long on what the U.S. is doing on that score, and the fact sheet will be distributed to you all, released after the call. I think, without further ado, why don’t we just open up to questions, because there’s not much time and we’d be happy to take questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we will be conducting a question and answer session. If you have a question, please press the star followed by the one on your touchtone phone. You’ll hear a tone indicating you are in the queue. You may withdraw your question from the queue at any time by pressing star two. If on speaker phone, you need to pick up the handset before pressing star one. One moment, please. And our first question comes from the line of Sean Hendon with ASP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Sean Hendon with ASP. Thank you for doing this call. I just wanted to ask you about the Road to Cancun. Did -- you mentioned that there are some areas of convergence and some areas that aren’t. Do you get a sense at all if the major economies, both developed and developing countries, have the same view of where we’re going and what we want in Copenhagen – sorry, in Cancun?

MR. STERN: I think it’s interesting. I think that there is more convergence than you might think at the broad level. I think the first thing that people recognize is that it’s important to make progress and to set expectations in the right place. I think that there was a view that, at the least, we are going to want to try to build on the progress that was made last year in Copenhagen. And there was progress on all of what I would describe as the six core issues of this negotiation: mitigation, transparency, financing, technology, adaptation, and forestry. And the progress is made in different places, sometimes in contact groups, sometimes in the Copenhagen Accord. But I think people recognize that there was that progress and recognize that – an outcome where we – where decisions – that’s a term of art in the Framework Convention parlance – but if decisions were made on all those points, carrying them forward, finishing what was started last year, that would be a good outcome. I think there’s still considerable – there is considerable support for the notion of a legal agreement. In the fullness of time I think people would be delighted if that happened this year, but I think that people are also quite cognizant of the notion that that might or might not happen and that pushing forward on strong decisions with respect to those points would be, at least, a good minimum place to start.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Tim Gardner (phonetic) with Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. It’s Tim Gardner at Reuters. You, Michael, talked a little bit about short-term fast track financing. Was there any discussions on the longer term financing, and how would you characterize where that stands now?

MR. FROMAN: I’d say only to the extent that, as you may know, the Secretary General of the UN has convened a high level advisory group on climate finance. It had its first meeting in London perhaps two weeks ago, co-chaired by Prime Minister Brown and Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia. And that is focused on the longer-term financing issues and possible sources for long-term finance. But today’s discussion was, to the degree that there was a discussion of financing, was more around the fast-start financing and the actions that countries, including the U.S., were taking to implement that.

QUESTION: Just to kind of follow-up on the fast track?

MR. FROMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: What is the thought there? Are most of the MEF countries on board, do you think?

MR. STERN: I think the short answer is yes. I think there is an appreciation, I think really, by everybody in the room that it is important to make good on that commitment. And I think there wasn’t a lot of individual kind of country-by-country explanation of what everybody’s doing. But I think a broader agreement that that funding needs to be made available and, so I think that there is a lot of agreement on both sides on that issue.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of from the (inaudible) News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, good evening, gentlemen. Todd, question for you. Are you still feeling the pressure from these other countries regarding potential legislation or regulation here in the U.S. before there is broader agreement on an international climate pact?

MR. STERN: I wouldn’t use the word “pressure.” I am – have been asked about the state of our legislation probably in every meeting I’ve had for the last 14 months. So people are always interested in it. People follow it very closely. I’ve said from the beginning that -- and I still say that it’s very important for the U.S. to get a full program in place for the national interests of the U.S. first and foremost, but also in the international context. So it’s important that we move forward on that and, yes, indeed, people continue to be interested.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Kim Chipman (phonetic) with Bloomberg News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ted, I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit. You mentioned the discussion – there was a discussion around what needs to happen this year. Can you give a little more detail on that and also on expectations and the notion of a legal agreement this year? Do you think it’s important to go into Cancun without the kind of expectations we had around Copenhagen as far as whether or not there’s a legally binding agreement? Is that distracting? Do you think it’s important to kind of control that –

MR. STERN: I think – well, I do think that expectations got ahead of what was achievable in reality in Copenhagen. I think that what was achievable – I mean we are very much in the glass half-full camp and think that the Copenhagen Accord did quite a bit and was an important agreement, but I think that there’s no question that globally expectations got out ahead of what was really achievable and I don’t think that that’s useful. I think that there was probably a pretty broad agreement in the room that that’s not useful. I think people want to move forward as expeditiously and successfully as possible and I think that people want to build on the progress on the concrete issues that I already mentioned. And I think fundamentally, issues of what the actual form of agreement would be in – at the end of the year are left open.

But I think that people want to focus on, kind of, as I put it in one point in the meeting today, let’s kind of put one foot in front of the other. Let’s make progress on each of these issues. That really is doable. I mean there was a lot of – I think there was actually a lot of support for a lot of recognition of the consensus – the political consensus that was reached on the toughest issues -- mitigation, financing, and transparency -- in the Copenhagen Accord, and a lot of support for the notion that those – that that consensus ought to be brought into and reflected in the negotiations under the Framework Convention this year. So I think the focus is let’s make progress. Let’s get things done. Exactly what the final form will be at the end of the year, I think, is left open, but also I think a good appreciation and I think a sound appreciation for the fact that we don’t let – want to let expectations far outstrip what can be done.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MODERATOR: Thank you and our next question comes from the line of Kurt Holling (phonetic) with the Energy Daily. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Todd, I’m a little confused about what needs to be done precisely before the short-term financing can begin to flow. You mentioned that all the parties, if I understood you correctly, agree that it’s a good thing to have short-term financing in various countries including the U.S. able commitments to that effect. What has to be done? Is it simply a matter of national legislatures approving legislation and implementing the commitments or what has to happen and by when?

MR. STERN: Well, I don’t think – let me just speak for the United States because I can’t speak about whether there are legislative or regulatory things that need to be done in other countries. But nothing needs to be done in order – there’s no preliminary steps that need to be done in order to have funding start to flow and I think, in the United States, our FY ‘10 financing is a very significant step up from what we’ve had before. I think that we have about 40 percent of our funding will flow through bilateral channels that USAID – most specifically, about 60 percent will go through a variety of multilateral channels, most important of which is the climate investment funds that the treasury department manages for us. And I think this is – there’s nothing special that needs to be done. There’s the ordinary process of money coming online, money starting to flow to the various countries and the various initiatives. And that’s starting to happen now and will be continuing to happen as the year goes on. So there isn’t some preliminary step that’s got to be taken before our funding can flow or before our funding will flow.

QUESTION: And who’s going to be keeping score of this? Is it simply a matter of each country saying, “We have done this,” and the recipients saying, “Yes, we got this and here’s what we did with it?” I mean, who keeps score to make sure that this financing actually is done for the purposes for which it is intended?

MR. STERN: Right, well, I – look, I think that – it’s a good question. I think that each of the donor countries is going to be keeping a good record of what they’re doing and there will – we have had actually some preliminary discussions with other donor countries to start to get a sense of what – of what their plans are, and I think we’ll stay coordinated with them going forward. But in the first instance, who makes sure, I think, is going to be up to the individual country.

MR. FROMAN: And you’ll see from the fact sheet that we’ll release that we’re fully transparent about it.

MR. STERN: Yeah, yeah.

MR. FROMAN: -- what our financing plans are.

MR. STERN: Right.

QUESTION: That was Froman?

MR. FROMAN: It was.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of (inaudible) with Press Trust of India. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: My thanks for calling – making this call. I have one question. In the interview (inaudible) representative talked about a huge trust deficit. Can you explain to us a little bit what the trust deficit is all about from the U.S. perspective?

MR. STERN: I’m sorry. Who talked about that – where?

QUESTION: The Indian representative – the Indian minister send the prepared remarks in the absence of –

MR. STERN: Oh, oh, oh, oh.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) without (inaudible). And in his remarks it says that (inaudible) huge trust deficit that (inaudible) climate change.

MR. STERN: Well, look, what – I think if you – I can’t interpret what Minister Ramesh is referring to. In particular, I think it’s fundamentally up to him and you can ask him. I think that we had a – I think one of the strengths of this group that has now met six or seven times since last year is that it actually builds trust. And I think that Minister Ramesh – he had to participate by video conference because of the effects of the Icelandic volcano, but he was – as he usually is – I thought a very constructive participant today. And so, you know, I’m not going to comment on what he means and so --

QUESTION: No, I wanted to know about the differences that the developing and developed world has on this issue. Were you able to bridge that in – during gap this two-day’s meeting here?

MR. STERN: Well, the – I think we had good discussions. I think that having good discussions and having people have the capacity to speak candidly with each other at a senior level and among people with whom we have built relationships and gotten familiar is the kind of thing that’s always helpful. But, you know, Rome’s not built in a day.

QUESTION: Oh, yeah, I know. I understand that. Thank you.

MR. TONER: Operator, we have time for one last question.

OPERATOR: No problem. And our last question comes from the line of Alden Meyer (phonetic) with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, Todd and Michael, thanks for doing this. Obviously, one of the big breakthroughs for the U.S. in Copenhagen was getting the agreement on analysis and consultation of developing country actions. I’m wondering if you had progress in discussions about the question about the international guidelines for that and whether we need or should get a discussion in Cancun to keep that moving forward.

MR. STERN: I’m sorry – international guidelines on which point?

QUESTION: On the consultations and analysis on developing country actions?

MR. STERN: We discussed that today. I think it was – I think we had a good discussion and it was really Minister Ramesh who had the – sort of had the leading role in talking about that today. And I think that this will take time to work out. But I think he spoke, to some extent, a kind of basic structure about how to approach this, and I think that there was – I don’t think that there was a lot of dissension in the room in – with respect to what he said. So I think that it’s a highly important issue for us and, I think, for others. And I’m reasonably optimistic that we can make progress on it.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that. Do you think there’s any linkage between that and momentum in the Secretary General’s high-level process or movement on the long-term finance issue? Are those linked in the developing countries’ minds, do you think or are they separate?

MR. STERN: I don’t know. No idea on that.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. STERN: Thanks.

MR. TONER: Great. Well, thank you very much to everyone involved and have a good evening.