Does the Copenhagen Accord put negotiating countries on the right track toward reaching an international agreement on climate? During today's E&ETV Event Coverage of a Center for Strategic and International Studies event, Jonathan Pershing, the United States' deputy envoy for climate change, discusses the progress made and problems encountered at the Copenhagen meeting. He also shares his views on a path forward to reaching a final agreement.
Jonathan Pershing: The last time I was here, and Frank and I were just comparing notes as I came back in, was, in fact, I think during the release of the report. It was about a year ago and you kind of think about how much has changed over the course of a year.
Last year, when we put that report to gather, we were clearly looking at lots of ways to frame a critical set of issues and bring them under one umbrella, frame a question about how you manage energy security, still very much before us.
Frame a question about how you manage climate change and think about the consequences of it and ways to be practical and find some solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to it, while, at the same time not distorting the fabric of American economic life or of our energy security.
Those kinds of things still absolutely ripe today. But some things have fundamentally changed and I actually find it useful to think about Copenhagen not so much as a place where we met for two weeks, but as the culmination of a year's worth of conversation, but a year's worth of events that have, I think, altered the fabric of how we think about a number of different critical questions.
So, it clearly begins, in my own personal story and I think in the story of many people observing the process, this year, although it has antecedents in the history and the baggage that date well before that.
So, the Copenhagen meeting, in a formal sense, starts with the Bali action plan which calls for the conclusion of a set of recommendations and policies by Copenhagen. So, in that sense that's a two-year process.
In some sense it goes back substantially further than that. It goes back to the climate change convention itself, which dates back to 1992 and the Rio Earth Summit in which countries committed themselves to try to take actions to try to inventory greenhouse gases emissions, didn't succeed all that well in terms of reducing those greenhouse gases, was then succeeded by a new agreement, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that set out an additional set of actions and obligations.
All of that, also part of the history. But it goes back substantially further than that in the science. It goes back clearly, in terms of our understanding of the importance of the problem which has successively become more obvious, more evidently critical, more evidently severe enough to warrant the kind of attention that the world is paying to it today.
And if we look at that history, that history goes back a hundred years and over the course of the last 25, I think, has had a continued rise in the level of engagement of the scientific community and, by extension, the policy community based on that science.
Back when we negotiated the first framework convention we had the first IPCC report to look at. That IPCC report was relatively ambiguous in terms of being able to ascribe a cause and effect.
When we did the Kyoto Protocol we had the next report of the IPCC and that report was slightly clearer, indicated that if you were to balance the framing of obligations from developed and developing countries, they were clearly preponderantly from the developed world and solving the problem seemed like a good idea, but a degree of uncertainty inherent in the process.
Fast forward to this process, the most recent IPCC report dates from 2007. I was one of the lead authors of that particular report. We worked quite extensively on the development of the language in it, the ideas that were in it, and the science that was in it.
And, at this point, what we can say is that there is virtually no doubt about the human signature in climate change. There are other uncertainties, other variabilities about how much and where it will happen in the future and how you can project forward.
Those are things we're still working on as a community, but the signature of the science and its impact and the humanities impact on climate is no longer much in question.
And the consequences appear to be increasingly severe and if you look both at that report, as well as the information that's come out since the report, and recall how these reports are done, these reports reflect essentially a consensus among the community of technical and academic experts that has to have been peer-reviewed, that has to reflect the diversity of opinion, that has to reflect dissent as well as assent.
Within that framework we have a number of fairly uncontroversial findings. The change in composition of the atmosphere is uncontroversial. It is rising more rapidly today than it's ever been rising in the past.
When the IPCC first began its work greenhouse gas emissions were rising about 1 part per million per year. They are today rising more than 2 parts per million per year, not controversial.
Not controversial is some of the historical record. There are clearly questions in any individual place, but the collective record, atmospheric measurements look like things have changed substantially.
Nearly a degree's worth of warming in the pre-industrial period, rising more rapidly than we had thought they would rise, not particularly controversial.
Not particularly controversial are some of the physics of how the atmosphere works. One of the things that we know is that when temperatures rise water expands slightly, not very much, but if you're looking at a scale the size of the ocean, enough to matter.
One of the things that we know is when temperatures rise snow melts. No one who's walking outside denies that we're happier today than we were a little earlier in the week when it was quite chilly, but at the end of the day, not much controversy about that.
Sea levels are rising and sea levels are projected to continue to rise and glaciers are melting and, if we take a look at the spatial surveys of Antarctica, the spatial surveys of Greenland, the spatial surveys of the ice cover in the north up in the Arctic, every single one of those has declined.
This last year, which people thought was not particularly anomalous, still rates as one of the five highest in our record. So, it's not as if there's a discontinuity, it's there's a continuous drumbeat of increasingly severe indications of the consequences.
And let's now fast forward to why might we care because those sound like they could be fairly modest indications of change. Well, we care because it looks like if you're in Bangladesh with several hundred million people very close to sea level, you have a problem when the sea levels rise.
It looks like a concern because when you think about the hot spots, the areas of security around the world, those that are exposed currently to conflict turn out often to be those same areas that are exposed to drought, exposed to food insecurity, exposed to consequences of environmental degradation from poor performance.
And all of those are exacerbated by climate change. That's a security concern. It's not about climate in the narrow sense that I worry about a degree, it's climate in the wider sense that it affects the distribution of economic wealth.
It affects migrations of populations, not at the scale of 10 or 20 or 100, but at a scale of Katrina multiplied by a thousand. That's a very difficult thing to understand even how to begin to manage ways that you could forestall the worst of those impacts, the worst of those damages resonate among the community.
And let's talk about the community. Over the last 10 years, since we did the Kyoto Protocol, virtually every other country in the world has signed on.
So the United States, for a while, was in the company of Australia, which made us quite happy, but then we had a new election in Australia. Kevin Rudd was elected. And Kevin Rudd, the very first thing that he did days after his election was, in fact, to go to Bali and to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
We are now in the company of San Marino. I don't know how many of you have been to San Marino. It's not a very large place. It's lovely, not very big, that's it. There are no other countries in the world who are outside of the Kyoto Protocol except for the U.S. and San Marino.
So you look at that framework and you think about where the world is and what the world view about the problem is, set aside for a moment whether you do or don't agree that Kyoto was the right approach, the world made a decision that it did believe that and the U.S. was outside of that agreement.
And the consequences diplomatically to being outside of that agreement have also been real. They've also been notable in many of our own interactions in processes.
I've talked to a number of companies who have been in the green energy space working on how they can develop new efficiency programs, solar programs, technology programs or consulting on these opportunities.
And many of them are reporting back or were reporting back that the U.S. was always burdened by the fact that the country had not moved forward. And if they could have a consultant from Holland or a consultant from Norway or a consultant from Brazil, they'd rather do that and have a consultant from the U.S. because of this policy.
That's a staggering statement and that was still at the surface. If you look a little bit deeper, you see the kind of reporting that was being done, any international issue of almost any sort, it didn't matter what it was, that had a relationship to the United States and the first line was the United States, which is a problem in Iraq and a problem on climate change, is doing X.
That was the first paragraph of all the reporting and I was living in France for much of that period and working at the IEA, that was the reporting in France, that was the reporting in the U.K., that was the reporting in Brazil, that was the reporting in Mexico.
This kind of breadth and the sense of dismay and concern was pervasive and permeated the lot of the relationships that were undertaken.
So fast forward now and where do things stand? We came to Copenhagen working out a deal and I'll come back in just a minute and try to articulate some of the pieces. Who came?
Unprecedented levels of state national representation came to this meeting. Over 100 heads of states participated themselves or heads of government participated themselves in these negotiations.
If you take a look at the list of participants and it's an extraordinary thing just to kind of look through, historically the participants list has been drawn from the ranks of environment agencies of countries around the world.
You have a smattering of foreign ministries, you've had a few, very, very few people who do energy policy, virtually no one who does finance policy. Look at the list today.
The list today is made up of 100 heads of state at the top of the delegation page. It is followed often by multiple, very seldom less than two, but multiple cabinet level official equivalents, ministers of environment, ministers of energy, ministers of resources, ministers of forestry, ministers of agriculture, ministers of science.
Countries sent senior, senior people because the problem is no longer narrowly one around the environment. It's a problem that's now much more encompassing. It speaks to trade. It speaks to energy policy.
It speaks to diplomatic interests and diplomatic initiatives that countries are undertaking. It speaks to development and development agendas of the poorest and the wealthiest.
That's a new framework that's reflected in Copenhagen. So, with that broad background, what actually happened there? So we went to Copenhagen and we had the framework.
I think, fairly early on it became relatively clear that we were not likely to end up with a legally binding treaty. It was fairly obvious already months before the Copenhagen meeting began.
And while that, I think, was a disappointment, certainly to us a disappointment, certainly to many a disappointment, it was quite clear that, disappointed or not, we weren't going to have that outcome.
So, what could be done? What things could be done to advance the solutions to the problem recognizing that the legally binding structure that I think many had hoped to see wasn't foreseeable in this timeframe.
What could we do? We could end up with a political deal, a political agreement which would carry forward the key aspects and the key actions that could really begin to work on this problem.
And that means that it's not any longer an agreement that would be limited to the OECD nations, not any longer limited to an agreement that would encompass the United States and Europe and Japan and leave out China and India and Brazil.
And for those of you who've followed U.S. domestic politics in these discussions, that's been one of the most difficult things historically for us to understand and to cope with.
Why would the U.S. take on clear obligations for action if some of our competitors were not and competitors are not limited in their geographic distribution to the OECD?
Competitors are broader. Competitors come in different places with different concerns, but they have to act or the balance isn't manageable.
And it also had to encompass the major emitters, because it doesn't really make very much difference in our current structure if you have relatively low per capita emissions, but a very large country and, therefore, very large emissions.
Our system is to be set up on the basis of sovereign nations and sovereign nations have authorities and control where actions go and, therefore, you need those major emitters.
If you have an agreement which covers 30 percent of emissions, you're not going to solve the problem. You need an agreement that focuses more widely. You need an agreement that's more comprehensive.
We also had to have an agreement that gave us some confidence that people were doing what they said they would do. It's fine to say here is a piece of paper and I'll trust you.
And it's the trust but verify language that we've had a lot of history on in other arenas is a history that's going to be repeated here. This is now getting at the heart of economic growth for countries.
And countries are going to be very, very careful as to how they proceed in the absence of good information about what each other is doing, so it had to have that. It had to cover elements that deal with the next step. Where are you going in the future?
And where you're going is predicated on what kind of choices you make in no small measure on technologies that either exist, but are not widely penetrating or that don't yet exist, but that we need to have in order to solve this problem at a cost we are prepared to incur.
What kinds of technologies? Those are the efficiency technologies. Those are the technologies on alternative fuels. Those are likely to be the technologies on nuclear power.
Those are technologies that deal not just with the energy sector or with the agriculture sector. If you take a look at greenhouse gas emissions 60 odd percent come from CO2. The remainder comes from other gases.
How do you deal with forestry, by itself come anywhere from 10, maybe as high as 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions? Both a technology and a policy and practice approach to what you might do.
And it had to provide enough flexibility that countries did not feel straitjacketed into a narrow, individual country's vision or approach.
It had to give flexibility so the program that might be run by India would be acceptable, while a fundamentally different program that might be run by Korea would also be acceptable.
That kind of flexibility is a prerequisite for success. If everyone has to do the same thing, the question of who's same thing you do and how that fits to others who don't meet that mold become quite critical.
I think we succeeded in all of these pieces. I think we got a political agreement that began to frame all of these issues. And so let me spend just a few minutes walking through some of the elements of the text and where it takes us.
It's very short. It's all of 12 paragraphs long with two appendices, and that's both its strength and, to a certain extent, its weakness. It doesn't tell us with enough specificity how we're going to do all those things.
And that remains something that we're going to have to be working on over the next year or years. But it does do a number of the things that I just mentioned. It works on the science.
It starts off with a basis that says that the IPCC is a good guide for where we might try to go and the IPCC uses a two degree number, two degrees increase Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, as a reasonably good metric for what we should try to set ourselves.
Is it enough? Many people think it's not. The island states in particular think it should have gone further. They believe that 1.5 degrees would have been more appropriate, but the IPCC in the next report might give us that guidance.
This one is not so explicit and the view was let's take the approach that has more buy in, that's got more public acceptability, that's predicated on a fairly conservative estimate and use that as a place to start.
So, it puts two degrees in and it urges countries to get to two degrees collectively, not to exceed that number. In order to get there you have to have peaking.
We certainly have sought some years for peaking. If you think about when that should happen it's got to happen pretty soon or you can't actually hit a two degree number at all.
Couldn't get a number for peaking, but have the concept of peaking. Strongly, strongly resisted by many developing countries, particularly India and China, because their view was that peaking demanded of them more than they felt they could immediately put on the table.
And we see that throughout this, of countries balancing national interests against a collective global interest and that balance comes for everyone at some point.
Peaking, however, and the idea of it is enshrined in this agreement. We speak to something for developing countries that absolutely central. We speak to the issue of poverty alleviation as a central and core part of any next step.
But, for the first time, and I think Frank pointed this out in his opening just comments, you know longer have the luxury of thinking about poverty alleviation in splendid isolation.
It is now tied to other things about the global economy and the global environment. You can't solve the poverty problem if climate continues to change at this rate.
You will not have enough food. You will not have habitable cities. You will not have systems that can be managed because of the consequences of climate change.
And, for the first time, it talks about this being indispensable to sustainable development, an explicit formulation. It speaks then next to adaptation.
When we began this negotiation, and I say began in 1990 or '89 when we first set up the U.N. decision to have an intergovernmental negotiating committee, we thought we could solve it.
We thought we could fix the problem so that there would be no need for adaptation. Mitigation, avoiding the climate change entirely was possible. It is clearly no longer the case.
We clearly already see climate impacts and all the science indicates that the inertia of the system and the rate of change in the system will make those impacts worse. We have to figure out how to cope and how to manage those impacts.
That's right up in front. For the first time in this agreement, adaptation is the first action that's listed. We then speak in two paragraphs to what developed countries might do and what developing countries might do.
There is annex one and non-annex one and those are fungible categories because it's not a limiting factor. You don't say I'm developed today and I won't be in the future.
And we are beginning now to let's call it tear down the wall or at least put a bunch of doors and windows in the wall between developed and developing countries.
That very hard and fast line, a significant reason for the U.S. inability, political inability, unwillingness to join, now really moved through.
So, for the first time, we actually have statements of commitment by the major developing economies, a fundamental shift in this agreement from what we've had at any point in the past.
So what are developed countries supposed to do? What are we supposed to do? We're supposed to enshrine and inscribe a target for greenhouse gas emissions. What do we intend to do?
Well, the president has been quite clear about that. We intend to follow Congress. And this, I think, is, again, a departure from where we had been in the process leading up to and following Kyoto, where the administration went out with a statement of what we thought we could do, brought it home and it was not acceptable.
We did not have the work, the background, the legwork, the spade work done to bring home an agreement that would be accepted by Congress. This is being done at the other end.
This is being taken from the perspective that it's a joint exercise. It is built on work that was done in the House of Representatives. It is built on recommendations given to us by members of the Senate currently working on their own legislation.
I think, in an ideal world, the session wouldn't have happened until we had legislation domestically, but the timing internationally doesn't really wait for any individual country.
The process is underway, it's moving, but we have an enormous level of outreach to try to connect our recommendations to those coming from Congress.
And the recommendations that we've got are here, that there is a caveat in the way we are making them and we explicitly say it will be contingent on that discussion.
So, we're working to make that legitimate in the government, as our government is constituted fundamentally different than others, go forward.
What are we also asking for? Measurements and reporting and verification we asked of us and we will ask it of others. On the developing countries side we end up, again, with very explicit activities and obligations.
There was an agreement that there is a bit of a difference between a developed and a developing country. I think there's no one who doubts this.
The consequence even of a country growing as rapidly as China is that they still have only one quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions per capita of the United States. If you take a look at the inland interiors of India, you still have three to 500 million people with no access to electricity.
It is not something that you can credibly say that all countries are equal, equal in capacity, equal in ability to move forward on their policies or equal in their ability to know what those policies might yield in the future.
So, there's a bit of a difference. Those countries are required to inscribe actions. We expect, and during the course of the months leading up to Copenhagen, that there will be significant actions reported by the major economies.
We're not really worried about what Chad does. We don't really fundamentally concern ourselves with whether Haiti is going to put a big greenhouse gas emission program in. What we really hope is they can recover from the earthquake.
We are okay with the fact that some of the least developed countries in Central Asia are going to be on a development pathway that may not start with this, but we need to see, from the major players, clarity in the actions they take and in the adequacy of their efforts. And that's in.
We also need to be able to know what they're doing and to be able to review it and to have it be publicly something that these countries will stand behind and that's in as well.
There's a bit of a difference because we're continuing to propose to provide financial assistance and support to countries and, clearly, when you're providing financial support you can ask for things in a slightly different way and you might do things differently as a donor in what you're seeking back from that country by way of information about projects and activities.
But we've wanted information not just on things that were financed, but also things that were undertaken independently by the countries, because let's be clear, we're not going to finance China. That's not what's going to happen.
We're not really going to finance much in India, perhaps aside from some work to help them do some policy design. We're not going to finance anything in Korea.
We're going to finance something that's only at the margins maybe in Mexico on some of their forestry programs, but we want to know what they're doing, because what they're doing will affect our reaction.
What they're doing will implicate our next steps and our ability to move forward and our willingness to move forward and we want to know that and that's in the agreement.
We also note the need for deforestation. There's a paragraph on that. We note the need to move forward with markets. One of the things that's quite central in the way the world has evolved in the design of its greenhouse gas reduction strategies is to send market signals.
That's reflected in this agreement. We wanted to have information on technology. That's reflected in the agreement. Some new institutions to try to further develop the design and the implementation and the widespread penetration of greenhouse gas appropriate technologies. That's in.
And we had a set on finance and there are a number of paragraphs on finance. Let me spend two minutes on finance. It is quite clear that there are opportunity costs from action and from in action.
The alternative that people often cite is that if I didn't do this I would have all that money that I could spend on something else, on development, on growth, on something else.
But I think that misses the point that climate change is real and that it has consequences that have immediate and direct costs. So, the reality is not if I do nothing I save money.
The reality is if I do nothing I have phenomenal problems. The question really is how do I invest wisely to spend the least money in the most effective way to meet multiple goals, one of which is climate change.
There's a lot of analysis out there. There are no really rigorous and strong numbers and that's a problem that we all face in deciding, well, how much is enough? How much is right? How much do you spend?
What's fairly clear is that in the near term there are several billions of dollars of clear activities that countries could be taking that could be steered in the right direction.
So, the first thing that was done here is to set up a recommendation for a prompt start to financing and that prompt start would be approaching $30 billion of the next three years collectively, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
That's funding that's largely already in place. That's funding that might be steered in a slightly different way. It might be turned a bit more to some of these long-term programs to help design adaptation.
It might be turned to a bit more on low-carbon development strategies that help countries do their planning, but it's mostly in place. It comes through a variety of sources.
It comes through bilateral assistance and it comes through the multilateral banks. It comes from programs that USAID runs, but also programs the Department of Treasury runs.
Much, much smaller shares to come from the Department of Energy or EPA or USDA, but the collective sum is in government coffers. We are putting out that kind of resource now.
The question is how will we move it in a way that's appropriate? But that's not going to do it. There's no one out in the community that I've ever spoken to who thinks you solve that problem with $10 billion.
What you need to really be thinking about is how you change the direction of energy investment. How you change the direction of the new building stock that's going in. How you think about the transport sector, what happens in forests, what happens in agriculture.
How do you steer that? It's not paying for agriculture or paying for new capital stock, new power plants. It's paying for some of the incremental costs or setting up the policies that will help steer that incremental cost in the right direction.
And, therefore, it is not about government finance. It's about government finance as a catalyst for private finance. And how do you steer that and where does that come from?
And this makes explicit that it comes from multiple sources. It is public and private, not just public finance. It comes from all countries, not just the current set of donors.
And it's fairly clear that we will end up with financing not from only those that you'd expect like the rich Scandinavians who have a willingness to pay that's extraordinary. It comes also from others in Europe.
It comes also from Brazil, indicated that would put some financing in. Mexico indicated it would put some financing in. A much more global reach as is appropriate to this kind of a problem.
And it's scaled at a very large level. It scales, for the first time, at a level that begins to be commensurate with the scale of this question.
It has to be ramped up over 10 years and by the year 2020 we have collectively committed, not individually, but collectively as a world, to trying to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020.
It probably still isn't going to be enough, but it begins to get to the point where it can really make the kinds of differences that are commensurate with the scale of this problem.
Finally, we end up with a set of institutions to try to manage that. None of us are particularly confident that the U.N. in its current context would be a good place to manage its finances. The convention did not succeed in managing the meeting all that well.
I'm not sure that any of us are particularly confident that managing the near-term financing is the place to go. So, we've got a high level panel that's to be thinking about the long term and we are likely to put in the near term the financing resources through the existing institutions that we have.
But managing that and being clear that it is well managed will be the only way that countries around the world and citizens in those countries are going to be willing to provide the kinds of market signals and the kinds of public resources to this end.
And it's contingent. It doesn't happen automatically. It says it will be provided if countries move forward. It says it will be provided if we had these agreements going forward.
It's not an open ended promise that there is money on the table and you do nothing and it comes rolling in. There are actions that have to be taken, actions commensurate with the kind of financing that's being proposed.
Finally, what this ends up doing is talking about what comes next. What if we're not enough? What if we did too much? What if we don't have enough money? What if we don't have enough technology?
How do you proceed? There's a paragraph at the end that talks about a process for review, reviewing both the adequacy and the effort and that would be done by the year 2015.
So we're looking at a five-year process, how are we moving forward? How well are things doing? Let me close with a couple of comments both about the meeting itself and about what comes next.
The meeting itself was at best chaotic. The meeting itself began with thousands of people in and thousands more people who could not get in.
The Danes had organized a meeting in a venue which was big enough for 15,000 and got nearly 45,000 people. I think what's remarkable in some ways about the meeting is that there were not bigger security problems.
I don't think I've ever been to a meeting with 100 heads of state. I've been to a number of the U.N. General Assembly sessions when they open up and 50 or 60 is a big number.
Had 113 or something like that heads of state at this meeting and there were no problems, so in that sense it was very good. But in the sense of people participating, it was difficult.
Many things happened at the same time. There were six simultaneous meetings going on in Copenhagen. There was a meeting of the conference of the parties. There was a meeting of the Kyoto Protocol parties.
There was a meeting of the subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice. There was a meeting of the subsidiary body for implementation, both under the convention.
There was a meeting for next steps under the Kyoto Protocol and there was a meeting for next steps of long-term cooperative arrangements under the parties of the convention.
Really, a chaotic thing and every single one of them had sub groups and sub bodies and they used all the halls and people spilled out into the corridors and we met mostly overnight.
It seems like we didn't sleep for two weeks. It was kind of a funny way to do anything serious and it showed. By the end of the two weeks we had virtually no agreement.
Thursday of the second week Secretary Clinton arrived and brought with her a commitment to raise the level of financing in this collective way and that really began to turn things around.
And that commitment from the U.S. brought along with it the equivalent levels of efforts primarily from Europe, but also with a buy in from other major donors, fundamentally began to shift the debate.
But even then, by Friday morning we had no agreement. So, I was working with my delegation to draft what we could tell the president he might say when things fell apart and to give that to him when he arrived on Friday morning. That's where we were.
And, I must say, it is a remarkable pleasure to be part of an administration where the guy at the top is as talented and as capable as our president is.
And whatever one might think, he was unbelievable. It was just extraordinary. I have remarked to some people that there's something about being a community organizer which gives you the confidence to walk into a room and sit down at the table and engage people in a conversation.
Except that his table consisted of four players. His table was President Lulu from Brazil and President Singh from India and President Zuma from South Africa and Wen Jiabao who's the premiere of China.
That was the table that he walked into and he created an outcome with that community having first gone through consultations with Gordon Brown from the U.K. and with Sarkozy from France and a set of our allies with Hatoyam from Japan, a set of our allies.
And he then came into that room and created an outcome that did not exist until he came there. And is that something that we need? Absolutely. What's the consequence of not having had any outcome here? I think it's disastrous.
I think the consequence would be not that it's another process waiting in the wings to step forward, but probably years of delay while nothing would have happened.
It is a critical thing and, in fact, the thing that was created is really quite good. It ends up with much of what we want substantively in a next step and I've articulated that. So what are the next steps?
The next steps consist of a couple of pieces. The first one is that by the 31st of January countries are to inscribe their actions in an appendix to the agreement.
We are actively working now to get countries to do that. We are being joined by others who are also pressing diplomatically for countries to do that. We are fairly optimistic that we'll have quite a large number of countries.
Don't know exactly what they'll say. Everyone is working on it. People are looking to see what we'll say. We're working on that as well, the language of what we'll inscribe.
But countries are working that. A couple of three more weeks we'll have a good sense of where this is going. That's the very first step.
The next step is to begin to iron out some of the complexities in the process, because this was not in agreement that was adopted as a decision of the parties.
It was, in fact, it adopted by a decision, but the decision was not to agree it, the decision was to take note of it. It's a formal recognition that exists of this agreement, but not an acceptance universally by consensus.
And why not? Because five countries said no. Not 100 countries saying no. Not 50 big countries saying no. Five countries said no and one of the failings of the process is that it currently requires that you have a consensus and a consensus is the absence of stated objection.
And when you have a country wildly waving its flag and where it's entire delegation is shouting uproariously into the room, you cannot argue that there was no stated objection.
Who were they? Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba. These are countries that are a part of the ALBA group, a group that sees this process not so much as a solution to climate change, but, in fact, as a mechanism to redistribute global wealth.
And they don't like the fact that this did not do that. It didn't do that and they object to that fact. Well, surprise, surprise, surprise, the rest of the world doesn't want to do it that way.
But they couldn't get an agreement because this group, this narrow group was blocking it. And be clear, because it's not as many have said that China blocked the outcome. They did not. They were in the room. They agreed to this.
Or that India blocked the outcome. They did not. It is shaped around their concerns as it is shaped around our concerns, but the block came from others.
And with 185 countries saying yes and five saying no, we were unable, because of the process of demanding consensus, to get to an outcome, so we now have multiple processes.
We have the accord and we have the convention. We have the accord and the convention and we also still have the Kyoto Protocol. And managing those series of next steps is part of what we have to manage over the next year.
And then we have to work on the implementation of the elements in the accord. We have to do information on the finances, both the institutions are, on the technology, on the guidelines for reporting, on the elements of how we deal with forestry.
Those are all urgent tasks that will be taken up and there were decisions that were not adopted because the accord came essentially overnight Friday night and had we had another day we could have resolved those other decisions that give much more flesh to the bones in this accord.
They're not all that far away, but they need some political attention, that will probably happen over this year. That's also part of the next step.
And then, finally, the next step really is what countries do at home. It is impossible to imagine we can succeed on this deal at this particular point in time without domestic action.
And that means for us and that means for others and that means legislatively and through regulations in countries around the world including the United States.
The dynamic now is in many ways it has been returned and the ball is in the court of the domestic programs and so part of what happens this year is a consideration for the U.S. of how it will move forward.
And for the moment that's a consideration where the focus is in Congress. So let me stop with that. Thank you again very much for the time and I look forward to taking any questions.
Sarah Ladislaw: Great, thank you so much Jonathan. I thought your description of what was going on at the Copenhagen meeting was very interesting and amusing.
I can imagine several cloned Jonathan Pershings attending each of the separate working groups. We only have 10 minutes left so I'm going to forgo my prerogative to ask a question and take some from the audience.
We have a couple ground rules. Please say where you're from, your name and your affiliation, ask a question in the form of a question, and, because there are so many of you and so little time, I'd ask you to please keep them as brief as possible out of consideration for some of your colleagues. Kathleen?
Kathleen Kelly: First, thanks to CSIS for organizing this great meeting and Jonathan for your time to share your insights on what happened in Copenhagen.
You mentioned early on in your remarks that many countries were not expecting a legally binding outcome in Copenhagen, but I think what many expected was at least some agreement on a new deadline for putting in place a legally binding treaty.
And we didn't see that come out of Copenhagen. To what extent will the international climate policy process focus on achieving a legally binding treaty and to what extent will this be a priority for the United States?
Sarah Ladislaw: Okay, I'm actually going to take maybe say three questions and group them together.
Kathleen Kelly: I'm sorry, I didn't say my name, Kathleen Kelly from the German Marshall ____.
Sarah Ladislaw: That's right, I know you, so I…Right there, on that side of you, right there.
Lisa Friedman: Thank you so much, Lisa Friedman from ClimateWire and thanks for doing this. Given the chaos of the meeting, especially the end, I'm hoping you could talk to the process.
Is the UN the best place to develop climate policy at this point, international climate policy? Is the UN broken and what role do you see for the MEF going forward, specifically are there meetings set up for the future and what will the MEF take on perhaps over the coming year that maybe we won't see through the UN? Thanks.
Sarah Ladislaw: OK, one more, right behind you right there.
Brian Beary: Brian Beary from Europolitics European Affairs News Daily. I know that European leaders, a lot of them were very upset with the whole way that things went.
I just wanted to ask you about the issue of leadership. Do you think there was sort of a seismic shift that the Europeans for so long were in charge of steering the ship and that they've lost control and that the U.S. perhaps has taken a leadership role?
Have you observed any shift on the leadership question?
Sarah Ladislaw: OK, why don't we start with those and we'll do another round?
Jonathan Pershing: Thanks very much for those questions. Kathleen, your first one about the legally binding nature, I think that the notion of a legally binding agreement is going to be something that a lot of countries are going to work toward.
I think that we would like to see one. I think that the European community would like to see one. I think Japan would like to see one. Australia a very, very much wants to see one.
Many developing countries would like to see one. I think the question ultimately is what form that could take that would be acceptable to the major players, because I think that for almost anyone you could imagine a legally binding agreement that doesn't have any consequence.
Well, that doesn't get you very far. That doesn't satisfy. Conversely, you could imagine a legal agreement that had substantial consequence that countries couldn't ratify.
That also doesn't get you very far and I think the question of what you can take from this moving forward will occupy all of us, something that we are beginning to really work aggressively on.
Mexico is, as a country and as the host of the next meeting, also seriously considering in terms of both process and substance what it might do.
There may be interim steps that we can take. It may be that when we implement the decisions that are in this accord that will raise the levels of confidence about what can be done and how cost effective it is to do those things.
It may be that when the United States comes forward with something that we could commit to, not contingent commitments, but commitments based on legislation that others would feel more confident about what they could do.
So, those are the kinds of things that I think we don't yet know that would dictate how it would come out. But I think that there will be a significant effort to try to move that forward.
The second question, Lisa, you asked the question about is the U.N. the right place and is there a role for the MEF for others. It is impossible to imagine a global agreement in a place that doesn't essentially have global buy in.
There aren't other institutions besides the U.N. that have that. It is also impossible to imagine a negotiation of things of enormous complexity where you have a large table with 192 countries involved in all the detail.
You need to have processes that do both. You need to have processes that you can take smaller, technical groups to work on technical issues.
You need to bring together coalitions that have common interests and see if those coalitions can expand the level of engagement and support from a larger community to carry it forward.
That is, in fact, the way the U.N. works. It did work this time as well, although not very well and at the very, very last minute, instead of in a more…I would have liked to have had more sleep during the process.
So, I think that the exercise suggests to me it's going to continue to be very difficult. It is a problem though which clearly raises enormous concerns on a lot of grounds for many countries and those are the things which these organizational structures allow to be aired.
We're going to continue to hear them. I do not think in this year that Cuba is going to come around and say this is a brilliant exercise. It's done just right.
Or that the island states who feel that two degrees is not enough are going to say, you know what, it's fine if my coastlines kind of float away. I don't think that's going to happen.
We're going to have a very, very difficult negotiation moving forward and it will be a combination of small and large processes. Will the MEF be one of them? We're working on that.
There are questions as to whether the MEF by itself does all things. It had a couple of, I think, extraordinary outcomes. If you look at the language in the accord, some paragraphs draw directly from the language in the L'Aquila decision that was adopted by the MEF countries.
If you look at the basic structure, it's very similar to the ideas raised by the MEF countries. And if you look at those who were in the small room who agreed, they were the MEF countries as well as others.
The second thing which the MEF did, which didn't get much press and which I think is an extraordinarily significant contribution has been that on technology.
Because the MEF decided that this was one thing we really had to do, the legal structure, the international framing, but a second thing that we had to do was on the technology side and so individual countries have stepped forward to lead on technologies.
We'll be working ourselves with Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy leading on some of the efficiency programs. We will also participate with other countries.
For example, the U.K. and Australia will be leading on capture and storage for coal and coal-fired plants. But the Koreans are working on smart grid. There's work that's underway in Canada on electric vehicles.
There's work that's underway on renewables, which will build off the new work on Irina that's happening in Germany with input from the U.S. and from others.
India is in, Korea is in, Mexico is in, all of the MEF countries are in. That was another MEF outcome that also has to carry it forward.
So, we're looking at how to bring all those things to the next level. The final question, Brian Beary you asked this question about EU politics and the dynamics of the EU.
My own sense is that this would not have happened but for the EU, that the EU has been the stalwart that's been out there pressing for change, willing to take some of the first steps, designing markets.
They were not the first of any market, but they sure were the first with a carbon market and the demonstration effect of that is incalculable.
My sense was that at this particular meeting the interaction was for the first time among a group of countries that were all playing, not just where some were playing.
So the relative weight may be lower, but the collective input is still very high and the value I think is enormous. So, the fact that China joins doesn't reduce the EU level of ability to be a leader. It really puts others also in that status of leading.
And I think that's mostly what happened. My own sense is that for the U.S. to reengage in this process and to have someone at the level of the president doing it who is a charismatic man and who's really effective at these kinds of conversations changes the room dynamic, but doesn't lessen the level of effort of commitment made by Europe.
We still don't know what Europe is going to do. Europe's having meetings this weekend to make a determination as to whether or not this agreement satisfies the ability to move forward to the next level.
They've committed to doing a 20 percent reduction with or without an agreement of this sort and said that if the agreement had adequate and comparable actions by others, it would go to 30 percent.
I hope we'll hear more about that. Our view is that it's quite a robust agreement. We think it will be great if Europe could continue to move forward.
Sarah Ladislaw: Right there. Climate change is all about distributional issues, so I'm trying to be equal in the room.
Marissa Salino: Marissa Salino from Northrop Grumman. You've talked about how important measurement reporting and verification is and was at the Copenhagen meeting.
Was there any discussion of the fact that many of the satellites that do measurement and presumably could be used for verification will be going dark in the 2020s and there's not much in the way of replacements in the pipeline?
Alden Meyer: Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists, thanks Jonathan. I think the progress on the two degree target was notable from L'Aquila where it was sort of noting the science to the Copenhagen accord where it's a political commitment by the countries.
But I think it's also clear that the pledges and actions that countries are likely to put on the table at the end of this month are going to be nowhere near achieving the two degrees or putting us on a pathway for two degrees.
And the concern is if you wait until 2015 to do the review you may have foreclosed options to increase the level of action to get you on a two degree pathway without economic cost in the 2020s and 2030s.
So, I'm wondering what you see can happen that can raise the level of ambition in emission reductions, both from the north and the south between now and 2020 in advance of 2015 that gives us any hope that countries will actually meet the two degree commitment they made.
Sarah Ladislaw: OK and we've got a question right there in the front row.
Hilary Ajune: Hilary Ajune from the State Department. Coming out of Copenhagen are you now it all optimistic about Kerry Boxer?
Sarah Ladislaw: That's a good question. Can we take a couple more or are you good? Let's do David right there.
Dave Garmen: Jonathan, thanks for your service and my question really follows up on that one. What do we do if we cannot convince Congress to act?
Sarah Ladislaw: And Darren. That was yours? Well, there you go. Want to do one more from the back there?
Jonathan Pershing: Sure.
Valerie Volcovici: Hi, I'm Valerie Volcovici with Point Carbon News. I just wondered how you would characterize China's negotiating tactics kind of towards the end of the summit, because the perception was that China steamrolled it.
And I was wondering if you could characterize your perception of that.
Sarah Ladislaw: OK, follows pretty good.
Jonathan Pershing: Great, thank you very much. Marissa, you asked the question about the MRV and the satellites. The answer is that, no, people at the negotiation were primarily not focused on satellite solutions.
People have talked about them in sidebar conversations. I myself had a number of conversations, both with folks at NASA and others who maintain American satellites and capacity.
I think that's going to be an issue that we're going to have two probably raise. People have looked at a variety of different mechanisms and sources for doing MRV.
One has been this kind of let's call it a technical verification protocol that might be done through satellite data. Another could be through proxy data.
For the vast majority of interrelated greenhouse gas emissions, proxy data is not actually too bad because the scale of trade in fossil fuels really accomplishes much of that and the data is reasonably good.
It turns out satellite data is excellent for forests and on that side you get a big chunk of it there. You can do land truthing with some of the information as kind of a way to do point source estimates and give you more accurate characterizations of data that you got through other means.
I think that ultimately we'll end up with a number of procedures for that. My own sense is that Congress is going to want us to be fairly clear about both what the international community says and what we think, which means that we are likely to do our own work on this.
We're likely to evaluate in our own databases, in our own capacities how performance is moving forward and that will probably proceed in parallel and we'll use all the information available to us to make those decisions.
But I'd also say that the issue is not narrowly about emissions. The issue is also about policies.
If greenhouse gases end up declining precipitously in a particular country, but it turns out that the country has also at the same time released substantial assistance to its steel industry and our steel industry is feeling competitively disadvantaged from that, the emissions are only part of the story.
The policies are also going to matter, so there's going to be some need to have a much more wider diversity of ability to evaluate performance.
Alden, you asked about two degrees, I agree with you, I think there was substantial progress from L'Aquila in terms of where it went. And the question of whether countries will do what they say they will do is only part of it as you note.
The other part of it is whether what they say is enough. My sense is that we need to be careful about taking all of our steps at once.
It was clear to me from the negotiations that one of the difficulties that we currently have is that the art of the practical and the possible is not yet at the same level as the understanding of what they think the science might require.
It doesn't mean that these steps are not valid or these steps are not huge, significant advances from where we are, but it may mean that we're going to have to come back at this and take another bite at the apple.
You don't eat the apple in one bite. You take a bunch of bites of the apple. This first one is a fundamental turnaround from where we had been.
Where we were, even under Kyoto, was a relatively small share of global emissions addressed and, for some of the countries in theory covered by Kyoto, like the United States, that were not in, the emissions grew by 17 percent.
So too aggressive a number doesn't get you very far either. This gives some flexibility on that and hopefully the process for review will, in fact, move us to levels that are commensurate with required needs.
That ends up being something that everyone has to engage in. That's something that we will engage in, trying to promote in the administration aggressive and robust policies at home, that we will engage in diplomatically by encouraging others to do the same in their countries.
That civil society will engage in at the private sector finding technological solutions and reduce costs we'll engage in. It's a much more comprehensive conversation, which this sets in motion.
Will it do everything that we need? No. Is the alternative something that we'd prefer? Absolutely not, because the alternative is not some perfect deal.
And this is a conversation that I had just yesterday with some members of the Alliance of Small Island States who said, well, why don't we just wait because we could have had 1.5 degrees.
That was not going to happen and if we wait we will lose the possibilities that are in this agreement and you need, in my view, to take those steps when they come and to build on them, because if you don't take them, you just waste time.
You don't necessarily have a better outcome next time. What you have is whatever outcome you might have gotten now but a year or two years or three years later and I don't think we can afford that time either.
Hillary, you asked the question about my optimism on Kerry Boxer. I think that that's a conversation better answered by others. There are many in this room who follow that conversation in great detail.
My sense was that when Mr. Kerry was at the meetings he was optimistic that the Senate would, in fact, act. He was quite optimistic about that.
He was less clear about when and he was substantially less clear about exactly what that action would consist of. So, that doesn't give you much of an answer, but here's someone from the inside giving you a much better answer than I can from the outside.
I think actually there will be action. I'm really quite optimistic. I think that part of the objective that we had was to create space for the Senate to feel that this was not inappropriate to the United States because we were not isolating ourselves.
We were not moving forward without others. We, in fact, took the world with us. We now can demonstrate also that this is in our collective interest and we're going to play our role and our part.
So, I'm optimistic that this helped in that discussion. Dave, you asked the question about if no congressional action. I don't think that's a plausible scenario.
And so my current thinking about that is that it may be a little while and so more likely is that we have this year to work on, while we are still doing our legislation, and we have it in a month.
I mean the original hope was that we were going to have legislation before Copenhagen. Obviously, we don't have legislation yet.
I think the current hope is that we have it fairly soon in the first half of the year and we'll have to see how that plays out. And in that case, we're going to have to start working alternatives if it doesn't happen.
But, at the moment, we're optimistic that things will continue to move forward. Valerie, you asked the question about how to characterize China and Chinese tactics.
My own sense about it is that China has a very particular set of constraints under which it was operating. It does not feel confident about its ability to predict the long-term change in its economic structure.
And, as a consequence, was rather reluctant to take on legally binding obligations on the basis of a projection that had some uncertainty.
I think it was unfortunate that the early part to the meeting when senior people were in Copenhagen they didn't meet with other senior officials from other countries. I think that was a mistake.
I think it was a bit of a mistake to not have China push back more aggressively on Sudan, which was egregious in the kind of language that it used throughout the negotiations.
What they have been effective? I don't know. Should they have done more? I believe they should. Those kinds of things I think will correct. We'll see different performance, different behavior, different processes going forward.
What I think I'm waiting to see really is what they inscribe at the end of the month. If they inscribe what they said we're on our way to a successful outcome.
If they do not and it's substantially less, it will be a significant thing which we'll have to really devote our best minds to to move us forward.
Sarah Ladislaw: Well, that's great. Thank you, Jonathan. You've really given us a picture of a degree of success coming out of a very chaotic process, so I thank you very much for sharing that with us.
Maybe we can keep the trend of you coming by in January and giving us an update going or something like that. Please join me in thanking Jonathan.
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