How does this month's National Climate Assessment inform the domestic and international discussions on climate change mitigation? During today's OnPoint, Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy, discusses the United States' shifting influence in the international negotiations and previews next week's Green Climate Fund meeting.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy. Ned, great to have you back on the show.
Ned Helme: Thanks, Monica -- pleasure always.
Monica Trauzzi: Ned, last week the White House released its National Climate Assessment report, and it's seen by many as a critical tool for informing and advancing the discussion on climate policy here in the U.S. Do you think it effectively does that? Does it take it to the next level?
Ned Helme: Yeah, I do. I think the plan really does take us to the next level, and it lays the base line for the next step. And we're hoping in June, June 2nd, we'll see the president come out with the first set of rules for utilities for regulating greenhouse gases and carbon pollution from utilities. So he's done a very good -- built the case very well, and now the next step is to take the regulatory steps needed.
Monica Trauzzi: So then what are the impacts on the U.S.'s ability to act and negotiate in the international community and in the international negotiations?
Ned Helme: Well, I think, you know, he's really -- since last summer when the first announcement came out from the president, it's really changed the tenor of how other countries look at us. And Secretary Kerry, you know, he goes and negotiates on all kinds of things but apparently always brings up climate change. So we are really seen as a very positive voice in the debate now, and having laid out the story of what it means for the U.S. and talking about what needs to be done and then showing some leadership on our reductions -- we've been the best in terms of the number of reductions we've made already -- has really changed the perception.
Monica Trauzzi: So onto the international negotiations. I know that you'll be heading to ... a Green Climate Fund board of directors meeting tomorrow. What does the Green Climate Fund need to demonstrate in the short term?
Ned Helme: Well, they've got six issues they need to cover at this next meeting that starts on Sunday, and a key here is really how do we choose which programs get funding from the Green Climate Fund. And the Green Climate Fund's said so far they want transformational policy. They want something that really changes the way we deal with greenhouse gases and carbon pollution dramatically, and they're going to do it in a competitive way. So they're going to say countries put their proposals forward and the best and the brightest -- the race to the top occurs, much like the president did this program in education with Arne Duncan and the states all competed, the school systems, and the best and the brightest got the money. It's the same idea here, a small amount of money, but money that can really leverage private-sector investment and movement in this area.
Monica Trauzzi: And so then how does this move the international community forward to the next U.N. climate meeting?
Ned Helme: Well, this is really the first down payment on the deal, on the agreement. You need the carrot. You need the attraction and this idea of making it competitive. It's not a block grant. It's not all easy money. This is really competitive. Countries who step up and do the best and the brightest kinds of things will get the money. And so I think it really helps us lay that out. And once we've got that commitment I think it means that presidents in all these other countries start to say, "All right, there's some help here, but there's real universal support for taking action on this." And Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, is holding a big meeting on September 23rd where all the presidents will come, cities, CEOs of corporations, all making their pledges. And then this is to lead to next spring when each country's supposed to come up with a specific pledge and move toward Paris when we get a final agreement we hope next December.
Monica Trauzzi: And what can banks and the private sector be doing to sort of help innovate ways for climate finance?
Ned Helme: Well, I think banks can be big players, and not just banks in the U.S., but banks in Chile and Peru and Vietnam. Basically this structure is designed to take a small amount of money, let the banks play in this process, and leverage it so that other private-sector players come in and make the investment. So maybe you have a country like Colombia changing its policy on waste so new technologies that reduce emissions dramatically are encouraged, and then you have a financial mechanism in the GCF that goes through the banks, give them equity support so those companies can make money while doing good. So the idea here is that you really can't do it all with grants and government. You really have to bring the private sector in and make it attractive to do things that really protect the climate and also produce sustainable development and poverty reduction and other kinds of benefits.
Monica Trauzzi: And developing nations continue to have such an interesting storyline in terms of the ambitious actions that they're taking to mitigate the effects of climate change. Out of the recent occurrences among developing nations, what stands out to you the most?
Ned Helme: Well, I think this one I started to talk about was Colombia, where they're going to take -- 6 percent of their emissions there come from waste dumps, garbage dumps, methane release and that sort of thing. And they put all their garbage, 90 percent, in these waste dumps. They're going to move to a strategy where instead of putting it all in the dump they're going to compost, they're going to recycle, they're going to grind up the rest of it and have cement kilns burn it in place of coal. So they're going to go to a situation where they'll have zero emissions in a sector -- zero emissions -- and they're going to solve a social problem with the waste pickers who live in the dumps and the social poverty and that sort of thing, and the smell and all the problems we have with waste dumps -- solving all of those problems in one package for a very small price tag that can really transform things. And that's what we're after. That's what the GCF is after, the Green Climate Fund. It's looking for those best examples that other countries can copy. That's the key.
Monica Trauzzi: What are the biggest challenges, though, that still remain to mitigating the effects of climate change?
Ned Helme: Well, you know, these kinds of steps are good, but we've got a big lift to get to the level we need to get to to protect the climate. So we need to do all these things and more, and so we need action by the developed nations like the U.S. Yes, we've got a great 17 percent target, but we've got to do more. In terms of 2025 and 2039 we've got to do more, and the Europeans have to do more, and China. So it's really a thing where all the countries have to join hands and rise together. We've got to forget about old competitive -- you know, if I do this, it hurts my companies. Everybody has to step up together, because this problem is gigantic. I mean, the recent reports today, the Antarctic ice sheet falling -- you know, incredible. And so we really have to take a number of big steps, and it'll require the private sector being a part of it. Can't do this just with government. It's got to be something where the private sector sees an incentive for them as well to play.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, Ned, we'll end it there.
Ned Helme: Thanks.
Monica Trauzzi: Safe travels.
Ned Helme: Fun.
Monica Trauzzi: Thanks for coming on the show.
Ned Helme: All right, thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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