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Diplomacy in Action

Daily Briefing at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Special Briefing
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change 
Cancun, Mexico
December 7, 2010


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MR. STERN: Hello everybody. Thanks for coming. Just a few brief comments at the top and then I’ll be happy to take questions. Since we talked yesterday we are continuing to work on a very intensive basis as are so many other countries here, in our case trying to build on the progress that we made last year toward getting a balanced package. You’ve heard me talking about that during the last few times I have been here, covering all the core issues: mitigation, transparency, the so-called MRV/ICA issue -- ICA for International Consultation and Analysis -- financing, technology, adaptation and REDD. As I also have said I do think there is an agreement to be had and we are trying to make, we are very prepared to make progress on all of those issues.

At the same time, if there’s an agreement to be had, there are a lot of difficulties, so we’ll have to see. We have made, as again I think I’ve said before, we made a good start on Fast Start funding which is an issue that has been raised by some delegations, something in the order of $1.7 billion or so for 2010, and obviously we hope more than that going forward -- as well as good pledges made by other donor countries. So I think that we made a very good start forward, after all just in the very first year.

I would also note, by the way, there was a very encouraging announcement made by OPIC, the U.S. export credit agency, to the effect of OPIC looking to mobilize a billion dollars in the near term. OPIC will provide at least three hundred million dollars in financing for new private equity investments that could ultimately invest more than a billion dollars in renewable sources.

So we have been, I have been, working closely with OPIC in recent months. We are very pleased about that, and that’s over and above anything that’s already in Fast Start, that’s additional.

I do not know exactly when all of that funding will kick in, so I’m not saying that’s a 2010, or 11 or 12 funding per se, but it is funding that is going to start. OPIC is going to start raising that money and contributing that money to the private equity funds quite soon and that can be another important source of funding.

Look, just in general, I think we are in a situation right now, it’s Tuesday, we’ve got until Friday. In these types of negotiations, that’s a long time, but I will say in a general sense the negotiations are still difficult, a result is still possible. The Kyoto Protocol issue continues to be very tough, it is not clear whether it’s resolvable, we certainly hope so. It’s the one issue that actually doesn’t involve the United States directly, it’s important that the mitigation pledges be anchored, and that they be anchored in a neutral way that’s consistent with what happened in the Copenhagen Accord last year. We need, as we have said, adequate amount of detail, with respect to transparency in a way that is roughly comparable with what’s going on in the other areas and we are--we are working in all of these other areas, to try to make progress on establishing a Green Fund in the right way, and technology mechanism and so forth.

So let me stop there and take questions.

QUESTION: Acknowledging that each of these issues in the Copenhagen Accord are linked to one another and you want to see comparable progress across the range of issues, where would you say you have seen significant progress and what areas do you think are lacking?

MR STERN: The areas that I think where there’s the most that is still in play from our vantage point are mitigation. Again you can say the word anchoring but it means different things to different people. And the words that go along with the anchoring matter. I’ve talked about the kind of neutral and parallel way that undertakings were made, submissions were made last year in the Copenhagen Accord. That’s very important to us. Not everybody agrees. Mitigation is interesting, it’s not so much that there are reams and reams of text that need to be negotiated, but there’s a small amount of text that’s quite important. And it can be affected by what does or doesn’t go on on the Kyoto track. So that’s one issue.

The issue where there is clearly insufficient amount of development and by development I mean what’s in the text. It’s not policy development in the sense that we don't have the ideas. The ideas are perfectly clear, is on transparency. The Indian Minister Ramesh put forth a proposal in the pre-COP that’s quite constructive. It’s not the only one out there. But it’s quite constructive. And the issue there is really whether you're going to do an honest-to-goodness decision that says that we’re going to have an International Consultation and Analysis process and it’s going to operate on the following frequency, and countries are going to submit reports that include the following four or five items of content and there’s going to be an expert panel that’s going to analyze what the country is submitting, and there’s going to be a consultative discussion in the SBI, whatever. That kind of thing. It doesn't have to be long, it could be a page. But what you have if you look at technology, financing, at adaptation, at REDD, you have a lot more ample detail. There’s still a few issues in those areas to be worked out. And there’s an important, there’s actually quite a big, important issue on the Green Fund still to be worked out. But you can look at those decisions and there’s a lot there, and a lot substantive there. And so far the transparency issue is lagging way behind. And I think there is a lot of support, a lot of support in the Conference, and among developing countries for the kind of proposal that the Indians have put down; a lot of support among the Latins, among AOSIS, among the LDCs, among the Africans and among the developed countries. There’s really a lot of support for this, but not from everybody who matters yet.

QUESTION: On the Indian proposal, could you discuss the U.S.’s stance on the 1% versus the 0.5% language in the most recent negotiating text. And separately, if I may, there’s been a lot of talk today about China softening its stance in regards to a legally binding accord. What are your thoughts on it? Do you agree?

MR STERN: What are you referring to? Are you talking about the announcement on the press articles on China yesterday?

QUESTION: Yes, and talk today from NGOs.

MR STERN: I don’t think we have a strong view on 1% or 0.5% or for that matter some other way to distinguish. The underlying issue, so it’s clear, is that we actually independent of anything that the Indians have said -- I’ve been making this clear at least since a meeting on MRV in Mexico City six weeks ago, maybe; maybe a little more than that -- that we are very flexible with respect to who is included, what the frequency would be with respect to middle sized and smaller developing countries. In other words, it doesn’t have to be as often for you as it is for larger countries. The content in our view can be different. And we have cited the precedent of what happens with respect to inventories. There is Tier One reporting, Tier Two reporting, and Tier Three reporting for inventories. And Tier One is quite general, Tier Two is more detailed and Tier Three is very detailed. And we’ve said we’d be perfectly comfortable in a transparency system having tiers like that, so that countries who are smaller, less developed, even mid-sized don’t have to have as much to do as larger, developing economies. So that’s the principle for us. The Ramesh proposal picks up on that idea with respect to frequency and actually puts some specific numbers down. And I think point five is a reasonable number, one is a reasonable number. It could be done in a different way. It doesn’t have to be in a numerical division, but that’s the principle. So we are interested in the principle because we are frankly trying to make clear to most developing countries that this can be a user-friendly kind of system.

On the Chinese announcement, look I’ll be perfectly honest. I don’t see anything new in it. It’s perfectly fine that they made the announcement, but an announcement that China is prepared to make, based on an autonomous or voluntary decision of its own -- it will make commitments to reduce their emissions, is exactly what happened last year. That was in the Copenhagen Accord as far as we’re concerned. What I see is that they’ve said that they would do that and they’ve added a condition to it, that the U.S. do a legally binding-agreement, which actually wasn’t part of the agreement last year. So, on some level I think it steps backward. As far as I can read, I’m reading the press, as far as I can tell, and the quotes, it doesn’t seem to me to be anything new. I’ve seen quotes from some people saying “this is a game changer.” I would love it to be a game changer. I don’t see it. It looks to me more like business-as-usual.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about obviously REDD seems to be the one issue which is the closest to being resolved as it was last year, and in the case of where there would be an impasse on many of these other issues, whether it’s transparency, whether it’s the creation of the Green Fund. Could you envision that as the one part of what’s being discussed here that could go ahead on its own if there’s an impasse? Or when you talk about a balanced package and the need for multiple elements, would that also be contingent on agreement on some of these much thornier issues?

MR STERN: I mean to include all of the issues when I talk about balance. All of these things always depend upon precisely what the nature of the discussions are at a particular time and what the level of agreement is. On REDD I wouldn’t take anything off the table, but I have always included it in the set of essentially six core issues that I think need to move together. And we have made it quite clear, not only have we made it clear, we actually have developed language that could move everything at a smaller, slower, more moderate pace if that’s what’s needed. That’s not our preference. We want to have robust decisions with respect to everything. But if that’s not doable, then we can make more modest progress if that’s what’s necessary.

QUESTION: Since the Kyoto Protocol is almost the only legally binding agreement that we can, based in a World Climate Change Conference, and U.S. obviously is still not a member of it, so I want to ask what does the U.S. Delegation really want or is seeking from this Conference, Cancun Conference? The second question I want to ask is: truly U.S. and China still really counts a big part of the international community, in reaching agreements, is there any progresses or developments between, or understandings between these two countries? Right now, thanks.

MR. STERN: Thank you very much; look I don’t have anything new to say about what the U.S. is seeking other than what I said at the beginning. We are seeking decisions, there is not going to be a legally binding agreement here so we are seeking decisions which are not legally binding but they are very important, they are decisions under the treaty-- under the Framework Convention is the Treaty, and these would be decisions that will flow from that, so they would be important, and we are looking for decisions in all six of the major areas of: mitigation transparency, financing, technology, adaptation and REDD, in a balanced way, where there is roughly comparable progress made on all of them, so that is what the U.S. is seeking.

With respect to the U.S. and China, I think that we have an enormously important relationship with China, a very cordial relationship with China on this issue. I speak very regularly with my counterpart Xie Zhenua, for whom I have enormous respect and fondness, I might say. I think we have a good relationship, I think that we do not always see eye to eye on issues, and we always try to make progress on that as much as possible. Whether there will be any kind of new steps forward in this conference, I certainly hope so but I just don’t know yet.

QUESTION: On the transparency question as you know, we all have this new document that came out this morning, one of two, this one is from the Drafting Group on Enhanced Action on Mitigation from Developing Countries. And there is a lot, to me, to my eyes at least, a lot of detail with respect to MRV. My first question is, does this document represent progress with respect to the concerns you raised about the level of detail? And secondly, in a related question, we are hearing from delegates, and from some NGOS, that the rigor with which the United States is pursuing detail on transparency has not been accompanied, so far, by similar energy in accepting details on MRV with respect to financial flows from developed countries to developing countries, in other words, we are hearing that the United States is pressing very hard for details on mitigation, transparency, but resisting calls for similar level of detail on recording, monitoring, verifying financial details.

MR. STERN: Thank you very much for your question. First of I think the document that you referred to in your first question, I actually think it does represent progress as compared to earlier iterations from that same working group, or contact group, or whatever we are calling these groups. So, yes, I think that that's forward movement and it is definitively not adequate yet, but it's a step in the right direction if we can keep moving a few more steps we might actually get there.

On your other question, let me address this in two ways. With respect to the question of the MRV of finance, I think there is absolutely more energy by Parties generally on the issue of the ICA for developing country Parties, for the simple reason that it doesn't exist now and we’re trying to create a new system. There is a lot of detail that is already-- there is a lot of MRV that is already done as part of the national communication system by developed countries, including the United States. Unfortunately I don't have the list; it is in one of my other books -- I have the whole list. But there is a lot of stuff that gets reported on all manner of financial contributions, and sources, and where it are goes to, and it is multilateral, and it is bilateral, and it goes here, and it goes there, and there is really a lot. I have been in a number of meetings where I will say is “we are prepared to do more, we are not against doing more, let’s talk about it. You must concede that we’re already doing a lot,” and they always say “o yes, yes” and we ask, “What do you want? And, they say we are not sure yet.” Because there is a lot that is already done. So, I am not opposed, really we have never been opposed to enhancing that to the extent that makes sense, and it might well make sense under -- given the various new provisions and so forth that would be part of this agreement-- but the greater focus is attributed to the fact that you are trying to start a whole new system, and you have already got it. You are trying to dig the foundation and help put up the scaffolding, and on the other one you’ve got the buildings already built, maybe you can fix it up a little bit.

It was not your question, but there was maybe a little bit of a suggestion of this and even if you did not mean it, let me address this anyway. It is not true that the United States is putting all its vigor into the ICA piece and not on finance, and technology, and adaptation. We are going hard on those issues, we have got people on the finance side, they are kind of the most open, hard issues, but we are working all of these things pretty full out so you might be hearing more about one of them. It is going on all over.

QUESTION: You mentioned that the Kyoto process was tough, maybe not solvable or resolvable. Just wondered the hesitancy of Japan and Russia and Canada to renew the Kyoto Protocol, how is that affecting what you're trying to get done here? I mean, is it leaking into that? Is there animosity that's slowing down your process?

MR. STERN: I do not know about animosity, and I don't want to be misunderstood here, you know. I'm not in the middle of these discussions. I know they're very difficult, hopefully there will be, and I expect that they'll probably be some resolutions, but I don't know. I don't think that it spills over in the sense of there being animosity, I certainly think that there is an impact because it's taking up just a lot of negotiator time, energy, focus, focus of people at very senior levels, and there is an uncertainty about it which I think affects the general kind of tenor and mood of the conference. There is a sort of a most glaring uncertainty with respect to that issue but, I am very hopeful that it will get resolved. Certainly from the point of the United States it would be a terrible shame to lose the progress that we hopefully can make. Again, progress is not locked down by any stretch on the LCA side, but as I said I can see that coming together. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but there’s a road you can see whereby you get pretty good progress and you’d hate to lose that because the thing crashed over the Kyoto Protocol, but I'm hopeful that does not happen.

Thank you.

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