Special Briefing
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change
Cancun, Mexico
December 6, 2010



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MR. STERN: Hello everybody. Thank you all for coming. We’re here in the first of the second week of this meeting. We are certainly appreciating the surroundings that the Mexican government has provided us; makes for a very good working environment and we appreciate that. I think there has been a lot of quite intensive and active work going on all throughout this conference in the last few days and I expect that’s just going to pick up. I’m not going to say much at the top. I mostly want to take your questions. I would just reiterate what some of you have heard me say before which is: that the key to an agreement here is that we get balance across the issues. I think there is an agreement to be had. I’m quite sure of that, actually. I’m not sure whether we will actually get it. I think that question hangs in the balance. But it’s quite clear; it’s easy enough to see what an agreement would look like.

On the subject of balance I think what’s critical is that there be genuine balance. And that doesn’t mean a great deal of detail on some of the issues and a fifty thousand foot level of principles and little else on other issues. I think what we’re looking for is not just very high-level principles, but adequate guidance with respect to the key elements on all the issues that we’re looking at. And if you look at what’s on the table with respect to finance and technology, adaptation and REDD you see that. And so we’re also going to have to see that with respect to the issue of transparency, the so-called MRV/ICA issue -- not just the fifty thousand foot level principles.

And of course, the other critical issue from our point of view is the need to anchor the pledges from last year in a manner that reflects the parallel structure and the manner in which they were reflected last year. We are very much committed to making progress and really strong progress on the issues of finance, technology, adaptation and REDD as well. We see those as being in the interest, obviously in the interest of developing countries, but also in the interest of the United States because we want to support the development and the low-carbon development, the sustainable development of countries all over the world. So we think this is in our interest. But again, all of this has to move forward on a genuinely balanced basis. And if we can do that, if we can get that balance across on all of the key issues, we will unlock the door to an agreement. So, let me just take questions now.

QUESTION: I think I would be interested in hearing your analysis of the LCA chair’s text as presented over the weekend. What pleases you and what troubles you about the text?

MR. STERN: I think there are some positive elements to it. I think it reflects progress in some areas. I think it is not yet adequate in our view on the mitigation issues the way in which pledges are captured. I think it’s fixable but it doesn’t reflect what we see as a minimal level that is needed. And it is very spare so far on the issue of transparency. I don’t say that in any way critically. I think it was to some degree deliberately so. As you all know there is a lot of work going on in the negotiating groups as we speak. There are also ministerial-level facilitators who are moving around and trying to talk to various parties. I’m not deeply distressed about the transparency section, but having said that it’s completely inadequate. So I think it needs work, but I think everybody understood it was going to need work. And I think in other areas, as every area, it’s going to need some more work, but it’s a start.

QUESTION: For those of us who just arrived in town, can you give us more specifically your sense of where things are right now? A year after Copenhagen, a week into the Cancun talks, do feel like you are closer or further away from making compromises that everyone seems to be seeking here? Can you speak a little about the Kyoto issue and how you think it’s going to be resolved?

MR. STERN: It’s hard to say where we are in terms of the overall. I think there’s a lot of good and constructive work going on, a lot of constructive conversations and discussions and bilateral meetings and plurilateral meetings, very much wrestling with the key open issues. Are we closer or not closer? I can’t quantify that. If you had asked me that same question a year ago at this time in Copenhagen, I wouldn’t have at all been able to predict the Copenhagen Accord outcome, which obviously was not perfect but in many respects was important. So I don’t know whether we’re going to get the outcome. What I can say is I can see a workable result that gets decisions across all the major areas. I can’t predict whether we’re going to get there but it’s not as though you look and you say, “I just don’t have any idea how we’re going to get where we need on transparency or finance or whatever.” You can kind of see it. You just have to see if enough countries can converge on the way to do that, that you can arrive.

On the KP issue, as you all know this is the place where the United States plays the least because we are not part of the Kyoto Protocol. We knew that would be a very difficult issue coming in here. It is proving to be a very difficult issue. I expect that there will be a way through it at least within the context of these meetings so that the difficult job of continuing to work on a way through that thicket will go on after Cancun and the Cancun Conference won’t collapse on the count of it. That’s what I think, but again it’s the place that the United States, that’s the issue that we’re the least close to.

QUESTION: A question about the Wikileaks documents that the U.S. State Department cables, for example, the one in February of this year, the meeting between you Jonathan Pershing and the European Commissioner on Climate Change Hedegaard, talking about specially the alliance of Small Island States that they could be the best allies on the Copenhagen Accord given their need for financing and then Maldives getting millions of dollars. There’s a great deal of discussion here inside and outside the Summit about the kind of coercion that goes on either to get nations to sign on to the Accord or to punish those that won’t, like Bolivia and Ecuador. The question has been going back and forth is it bribery or democracy, what can we expect from this? And what is your comment on the Wikileaks release?

MR. STERN: Thanks very much. Well, on the Wikileaks release per se I have no comment and that’s the U.S. government position and we don’t comment on leaks of classified or private information. So I’m not going to comment on Wikileaks directly. I will tell one little anecdote in connection with your broader question let’s say. Which is to be reminded of one of the most forceful, eloquent and powerful interventions that was made in that long middle of the night, final night in Copenhagen last year, where the forceful and eloquent Minister from Norway Erik Solheim stood up after being accused directly and I don’t remember what country did it, of Norway engaging in bribery by being so outstandingly generous in its provision of climate assistance, and he just stood up and blasted the person who suggested that by saying “you can’t on the one hand ask for and make a strong case, a legitimately strong case, for the need for climate assistance and then on the other hand turn around and accuse us of bribery. I mean, if you want to accuse us of bribery then you know, you don’t need to, we can eliminate any cause for accusations of bribery by eliminating any money.” Erik was powerful in that statement. I agreed with it 110% then and I do now.

QUESTION: My question is what are the essential elements in transparency that the U.S. wants to see in the outcome and if not this year, maybe next year.

MR. STERN: Thank you very much. This year, not next year. I will give you a few examples: I think they are well laid out in the paper, the set of points that the Minister from India prepared. He spoke to this, at the pre-COP. And I think drew a lot of support for what he said. But in general I think what we are talking about is a system in which a developing country will prepare some kind of report. Minister Ramesh refers to it as an ICA report. Others refer to it as an updated National Communication. It can be referred to in any of a number of ways that would include a variety of important pieces of information. It would include a report on inventories. It would include a report on information about the mitigation actions that were been undertaken -- the progress towards the pledge, whatever the country’s pledge was, that was inscribed in the first place. It would include information on critical assumptions, for example: the need to understand if there are some countries that have made pledges that are based on a reduction of emissions as compared to business-as-usual. You have to know what business-as-usual is, in that country’s calculation, in order to be able to understand what is going on there.

The ‘business-as-usual’ is a concept that is very variable. There can be high and low calculations on ‘business-as-usual,’ and you have to understand what countries are doing. Other countries, China is one, India is another, have made pledges that are based on an improvement in the carbon intensity of their economy, the emissions intensity in the economy. And you can only understand that number if you know what the GDP calculation is -- so something that gives you some sense of the essential assumptions that you need in order to be able to understand what is being reported -- probably information on anticipated actions, that kind of things. So there are three or four elements of content.

Then, another element is, is there is going to be an expert panel that is going to review the report. Is there going to be some kind of discussion in a multilateral forum? The one that is suggested in the Indian proposal is the SBI. Is there going to be some kind of opportunity to have a discussion of the report in the SBI? Are other countries able to submit questions that that the country in question can answer? So, there might be three or four broad elements that need to be indicated. The precise way that they would work: how is the expert panel going to be picked? Is it a group of experts who work within the Secretariat? Is there a roster of experts that countries approve? How is it all going to work? That is a level of detail we are not going to get into, but the fact that there would be an expert panel, the fact that there is going to be these four or five elements of content, the fact that there would be some kind of discussion, those are the kind of things that need to be signaled. And then a working group next year can go and do the business of filling in the details -- the necessary on technology, finance, etc. And it is a very good question. Thank you.

QUESTION: You have spoken about inscribing the Copenhagen Accord pledges into some sort of more formal document. Now your pledge as it stands is expressly contingent on legislation. The seventeen percent or there about in light of legislation, clearly that legislation is not going to happen. Are you going to change your Copenhagen commitment to make it 17% and not mention legislation at all?

MR. STERN: The short answer is no. And I will tell you the reason why. I think that in order to get to 17% we will certainly need to do that with some legislative component. That does not mean the legislative component gets done in 2011. We are talking about a 10 year period. It might get done in 2011, I do not know. President Obama has made it very clear, he gave an interview about this subject some time ago, but it was after the election, where in a word he said “in essence, there is more than one way to skin a cat.” The comprehensive legislation that we were trying to get last year, would have been a great way to do it, but the combination of regulatory and legislative tools that would be at our disposal will get us there. I do not think that it leads to this juncture we would anticipate changing the particular submission, but we fully, and as I have said now and in many, many, occasions, we fully stand behind, we remain committed to it and intend to get it done.

QUESTION: The proposal you referred to from Chairman Ramesh, came as an invite from you in April 2009, when he first talked to you during the MEF, describing in detail what is going to happen with the ICA working proposal. Then in the next MEF in November 2010 he again detailed it out further. Are we seeing that there is a clear alliance between the U.S. and India on detailing out the ICA proposal? And two, is the U.S. agreeable to putting in funds into a UNFCCC-driven Green Finance process, or is it divorced to it?

MR STERN: Are you asking whether the U.S.is willing to put funds into a Green Fund?

QUESTION: Anchored into the UNFCCC.

MR STERN: Let me try to answer that in the most accurate way. We are fully supportive of a Green Fund established precisely according to the provisions of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, in an orthodox way according to that Convention, which calls for funds to be established as operating into the use of the financial mechanism, and those funds need to be under the policy guidance and accountable to the COP, with a very close relationship to the COP -- it should get all of its policy directions from the COP, it has to be fully accountable to the COP, it is essentially the COP’s financing arm, but there is still some independence. So, yes, we absolutely want to contribute money to a Green Fund, we do not see a Green Fund literally being a COP entity. This might sound subtle, but there is a distinction. This comes out directly out of the Framework Convention itself, and in unmistakable and clear terms, but there is a reason for that, there is a reason that the Framework Convention set it up that way, and there is a reason why it so makes sense. We are talking about a multibillion dollar, we hope, fund that will need to be managed in a way that is regarded as professional, and having credibility to people who would be its funders. We want to be one of those funders, and we think that it can be set up in a way that is very closely linked to the COP but it is a little different from saying it is a COP entity under their direct control. It is a small difference, but it is a significant difference.

Thank you.