With less than two months until the Copenhagen climate talks, will the meeting be considered a success? And if it is not, who will be to blame? During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, climate experts, Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and Strategies for the Global Environment, Margot Wallstrom, vice president of the European Commission, and Mohamed El-Ashry, a senior fellow with the UN Foundation, give their take on the United States' role in the upcoming negotiations and discuss prospects for the Copenhagen meeting and beyond. The panelists also discuss the various approaches to negotiating a deal.
Jessica Mathews: The Copenhagen meeting has been, I think, in my long experience in international affairs, one of the most eagerly anticipated negotiations.
It's been sitting out there as a goal for a great many years and we now, with less than two months to go, face, I think, I hope I'm not jumping the gun or overstating, but I think the reality that we are not coming out of Copenhagen with a ratifiable agreement, notwithstanding all the work that has gone into preparations for it.
We want to explore, today, what we can get out of it, how Copenhagen can be used to extend forward efforts towards reaching a global agreement and to try to identify what are both the key issues and the key steps that might be taken.
So without taking anymore of our time, let me ask Ms. Wallstrom to begin. We'll hear from each of our speakers.
I'm going to then give them a chance to mix it up because I think we have some different views in the panel and then I will give you all a chance to mix it up and I look forward to the discussion. So thank you.
Margot Wallstrom: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. One of my favorite Swedish authors, Sven Lindqvist once wrote, "You already know enough; so do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions."
And I actually find these words appropriate when it comes to fighting climate change. Obviously, we don't know everything about the changing climate and its repercussions, but we do know that it is happening.
Science is telling us that action is needed now and if we fail to agree on a new global climate regime, we would put the whole world in a very dangerous situation. But do we have the courage to understand and to act?
For me, the answer is quite simple, we cannot afford not to. And it is also very simple because I have two sons and I would like them to be able to live a good life on this planet and life on this planet as we know it. But first, I would like to say something about the economic opportunities in fighting climate change.
And the famous Stern Review that put a price on climate change estimates that failing to act will cost between 5 and 20 percent of the world's GDP every year. And the cost for the emission cuts we need to make is estimated to be only 1 percent.
And the fight against climate change gives us the opportunity to create new jobs and develop new sources of economic growth through innovation and investments in green technologies, technologies such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner cars, which promise to transform our economies into sustainable, low-carbon economies of the future.
The European Union's unilateral commitment to cut our emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, the adoption of a climate and energy package with binding measures and our ongoing energy efficiency program, all these testify to our determination to make the low-carbon economy a reality.
No other region of the world has both committed to such ambitious targets and put in place concrete measures to achieve them. But of course, Europe, responsible for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, cannot solve the climate crisis alone.
What is needed, then, in Copenhagen? Well, what is needed is a roadmap to a low-carbon economy on a global scale. And this is what Copenhagen must provide in the shape of an ambitious and comprehensive global agreement covering the period after 2012.
And in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, industrialized countries collective emissions need to cut to 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 if global warming is to be kept to 2 degrees Celsius.
But the science tells us that action by the industrialized world alone is no longer enough and to keep temperatures below danger level the Copenhagen agreement also needs the developing countries and first and foremost, the big emerging economies, of course, to control their rapid emissions growth.
As our own contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement, the European Union has always made clear that we will scale up our emissions reduction target for 2020 from 20 to 30 percent, provided that other major players do their fair share, too.
In practice, this means that we are looking to other developed countries to commit to emission reductions that are comparable, though not necessarily identical to ours.
Developing nations will need to make adequate contributions to the global effort according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities.
At the same time, we have to recognize that the poorest countries, those least responsible will be also the most vulnerable and exposed to climate change. And this is a moral obligation.
Copenhagen must deliver a global agreement based on social and development needs, burden sharing and the polluter pays principle. Developing countries will also need substantial financial and technological assistance from the industrialized world.
And this is necessary to help them both to limit their emissions, not least those caused by deforestation in tropical countries and to strengthen their resilience to climate change through adaptation. And the EU is committed to contributing our fair share to this financing.
Finally, with fewer than two months to go until the Copenhagen conference, an enormous amount of work is still ahead of us to reach an agreement that will tackle climate change, both effectively and equitably.
I continue to believe that we will reach our objective until you say something different here, but the ambition level and the pace of the discussions must urgently be raised.
And virtually all our partners in the developed world have not put forward their emissions targets but these fall considerably short of what is required. So far, they add up to a collective emission cut between 9 and 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Far from holding global warming below the danger level of 2 degrees Celsius, these targets would actually allow the temperature rise to exceed 3 degrees Celsius, leading to a high risk of irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes in the global environment.
Our partners in the developed world need to show leadership and come forward with revised targets and what is an offer now cannot be there last word. Will Copenhagen be a success or not? It has to be.
And I actually believe it will be because we cannot afford to fail and this is ultimately a question of political will and I believe that will exist.
Given the scientific warnings of the changes that we are already experiencing, and again it's the poorest countries in the world that are first and hardest hit, it is also hard to imagine how the political will or courage could be lacking.
Continuing with business as usual will lead us to unabated climate change with disastrous consequences for our economy and millions of people and we cannot fail these people or the generations to come.
I hope that the global agreement will lay the foundations for a truly sustainable development in the 21st century, sustainable not only in environmental but also in economic and social terms.
And development cannot be sustainable unless it's equitable and that means promoting also human rights and democracy. It means ensuring peace, gender equality and social justice.
It means working for fairer world trade and remodeling our global financial systems so that they serve people rather than only markets.
And it's like the Chinese proverb says. One generation plants a tree; the next generation gets the shade. Thank you for listening.
Eileen Claussen: Well, let me say before I start, that I really am a yes-we-can person. But maybe I should actually just sort of lay a bit of groundwork here.
I think everyone who's been involved in this issue agrees on the goal for Copenhagen, which is a new, comprehensive and binding treaty. I think we need a flexible framework, which allows for different types of commitments.
You know, for developed countries, I think they have to be absolute and economy-wide emissions targets. The developed countries have to put finance on the table to help the developing countries move forward into a low-carbon economy.
I think for the developing countries, we can have a range of policy commitments, like carbon intensity goals, efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, or programs to reduce deforestation.
But they must be measurable, reportable and verifiable so that we have something that's real. So if you sort of set that out there as a goal, I think it's worth thinking about exactly what is possible in Copenhagen.
And I think that the limited progress in the last international negotiations session in Bangkok underscores the challenges we have. When that meeting started, I thought there were three big interrelated issues to be resolved.
I actually now think there are four, which is going in the wrong direction. Let me just sort of quickly give you my sense of where we are in all of them.
Developed country targets, financing and developing country commitments were the three that we went in with. I think the fourth that we also come out with is what is the legal shape of the agreement and that's actually a huge issue.
And I think I also have to say that substantive negotiations on the core issues have yet to begin. I mean, we went in with a very big text. It's now a slightly smaller text; some of the extraneous stuff is out.
But everybody's wish list is still in there, so there's a huge amount of work that has to be done. Now, it's hard to do this but I think the main reason that we are not further along on the three big issues that we started with is that the U.S. is really not able to say what it's prepared to offer in terms of a specific target.
And we're not prepared because we had 8 years of sort of denying the relevance of this issue and not really moving forward, and it's really only been nine to 10 months of a new president who is committed to doing something on this issue, but is constrained because he can't do everything by himself.
In our system, you actually need the Congress. And so let me just give you a slight aside here: It's great that we actually got a bill through the House.
I mean, it may not have everything that everybody wants, but it does set some absolute reduction targets. I think it's a decent bill. I mean, we all would like to see certain changes to it, but in general, it's a decent bill.
But if you look at where the Senate is, I think before Copenhagen, you will probably have a bill that emerges from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but that committee is not really representative, in my opinion, of the Senate as a whole, and it's going to require a great deal of work.
And if you assume that health care takes into December to get resolved, I don't see how it's possible for the Senate to actually act on this until the first quarter or the first four months of 2010, which I think is possible, but that is not exactly right for Copenhagen.
So if the U.S. doesn't have a target to put on the table, will the developing countries be willing to put real commitments on the table? I think we've seen some encouraging signs here.
I mean, China and India have both started to talk seriously about national commitments, but they haven't taken the step to say we're willing to make these internationally binding.
And of course, I think they're not willing to do that because we don't have something on the table. So there's a relationship there.
But the third issue, which is finance, is also crucial because I don't think the developing countries will commit to anything in an international agreement unless we have a mechanism and some dollars, some amounts of money to put on the table.
And if you look at where the negotiations have gone, there is no agreement on the mechanism at this point. And only the European Commission has actually put a number on the table.
So we're really far away in that area. And then the fourth one, which really emerged in a big way in the Bangkok meeting, was what is the shape of this new agreement? I mean, the U.S. has said that it wants an entirely new agreement.
The E.U., Japan and Australia want a new agreement, but with Kyoto incorporated into it. The developing countries want to save Kyoto, essentially.
They like the notion of binding targets for developed countries, but no real commitments for them. So how all of that gets sorted out and what the final shape of the agreement as a whole is, I think we've just barely sort of touched on it.
And there are five more negotiating days and then Copenhagen, and if you add that to all of these other issues which are not resolved yet, I think it's impossible to really get to a binding international agreement.
So what can you get to that will be helpful and how do we make as much progress as possible so we can get to a binding international agreement as soon as possible? Because I think, again, we all agree that's where we need to go.
Well, I think we won't get anywhere without real engagement from heads of state. And I think there are all kinds of opportunities for that.
There's a U.S.-China summit, there's talk of a leaders' summit on the heels of the AIPAC meeting. I think we actually have to get the leaders to find some way to talk to each other about what is possible.
My most optimistic view is that maybe we can have a solid framework agreement that at least lays out all the parameters with some of the details to be filled in later.
But that's actually quite tricky because the "ask" of developing countries is agreeing, in principle at least, to a commitments-based framework without any knowledge of what the number from the U.S. would be and we're just not on the right track to actually provide that.
So what can you actually get from Copenhagen? Well, some people have said you could get a strong political statement, an agreement to get to 2 degrees, and then a date certain to conclude the negotiations. And that may be where we end up.
I think it's really important to have a date certain because otherwise, you're sort of in this Never-Never Land and it's not clear that you ever actually get anywhere.
What that date certain should be I think is difficult because since we are at least part of the problem here, I think we have to look at when we actually might be able to do it and when the president can actually go and say, this is our number.
And if I was in government, which, happily, I am not any longer, I would say, I at least need to see the Senate act. I don't need to go to conference and I don't need to actually sign something, but I actually need to have a clear idea of what the Senate target will be.
I think it has to be in the first half of 2010 because it's an election year, and if you know U.S. politics, it's certainly not going to be in the second half of 2010.
So, I mean, if I was picking a date, and I'm so glad I'm not, I would say maybe mid-2010, maybe May or June. So maybe you get as far as you can in Copenhagen and then try to finish it up in about six months. So my sobering story. Thank you.
Mohamed El-Ashry: Well, in between the very optimistic and the sobering views, there is another view that lies in between (inaudible) to share with you if I can read my notes because this is a level in between my glasses that see far and without my glasses I see very close.
Jessica Mathews: Wouldn't it be better sitting down? If you prefer ...
Mohamed El-Ashry: It might be easier because there are numbers that I want to share.
Eileen Claussen: You're right, we're old friends.
Mohamed El-Ashry: And this way you get lost between two settings. Is this on? Yes, it is on. Okay, very good. One of the advantages, really, of being last is that the people before you have outlined, you know, what is really needed in a major comprehensive deal or agreement, and what are some of the issues that are still remaining.
So I can just go ahead and, you know, get to the points that I want to make. So the question that we are starting with is can a deal be reached at Copenhagen? And the answer is yes.
But the question really should be what kind of an agreement or what kind of a deal that ought to be reached?
We all know that since Poznan, or even going into Poznan a year ago, it has become obvious that the comprehensive deal that many of us sought and had hoped to have by the time that Copenhagen would be upon us is not going to be possible.
And I think we heard many of the reasons now why. So rather than focusing on areas of disagreements, which are still, you know, many, perhaps we can just step back and focus on where we had agreement.
And where we had agreement was the Bali Action Plan, or the roadmap, and the four pillars; mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance, something that we had actually proposed out of the Global Leadership for Climate Action that has 25 global leaders, including 13 former presidents and prime ministers as well as current and past global leaders.
The first two, mitigation and adaptation, basically constitute the actions that need to be made and, of course, technology and finance are the means to facilitate these actions on the mitigation and adaptation side as well as help with the implementation.
So if we could envision a two-step approach, the first step in Copenhagen, we would agree on areas of immediate action that are core elements to any strategy for dealing with climate change.
We used to call them "building blocks" over the last six months or a year, and now some people were not happy that these were just building blocks, so we said, okay, let's call them "core elements," and then we can help share them along the way.
Ten days ago, the U.N. Foundation and the Center for American Progress released a report that identified ambitious but achievable goals in three areas for mitigation: energy efficiency, renewable energy and forests.
Then we went to McKinsey and Company and we said, if you could look at these targets and tell us how much emission reductions they would constitute by 2020.
And their conclusion is that they could achieve 75 percent of the emissions reductions that are needed in 2020 to prevent warming beyond 2 degrees centigrade, but they also concluded that you can actually achieve that while generating a net benefit of $14 billion by 2020.
Those 75 percent, the target of the 20 percent by 2020, is equivalent to 17.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This strategy here would give us about 13.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide.
In the case of energy efficiency, by raising annual energy efficiency gains from the current average of 1.25 to 2 percent by 2015, which would be equivalent to 5.4 gigatons and a reduction of 12 percent of the emissions needed by 2020, you'd end up with a net benefit of $98 billion a year by 2020.
Increasing renewable energy, on the other hand, to 20 percent by 2020 would reduce emissions by 10 percent at a net cost of 34 billion. And that would be equivalent to 1.3 gigatons.
Forest conservation and sustainable land use, which is the third area, by reducing deforestation by 50 percent by 2020, would reduce emissions by more than 50 percent and a net cost of 51 percent.
So the benefits are largely in the energy efficiency and the help paying for the other two and a net still benefit of $14 billion a year. So these are actions that can be pursued by countries in their own interests.
They might be ambitious, but at the same time, they're achievable and at the same time, they have benefits to the countries themselves.
And in fact, and I think Eileen mentioned that, major countries like China and India and, of course, we know the U.S. is starting now, but we're not there yet and the EU, of course, have been there for some time now, have put or are putting in place ambitious national plans for energy efficiency, renewable energy and forests.
And we can go over some of that during the discussion in terms of the specific commitments of China, specific commitments of India and even Brazil on the deforestation side, and the aspects of the U.S. legislation or the regulatory mechanisms that are being proposed in the U.S. and we're all familiar with the 20/20/20 by '20 of the EU.
So as a first step, an agreement in Copenhagen on these immediate actions could build confidence among parties and lead to a broader deal shortly afterwards as the second step in this approach, which can answer some of the questions that Eileen mentioned here, in particular, what shape of an agreement it ought to be legally and otherwise.
And, if I may just use the words of the minister of India, Ramesh, who had been described as being very negative and taking negative positions, well, 10 days ago, he was in Washington and actually put out a very good plan of what they are actually doing, and concluded by saying that, let's focus first on specific performance targets embedded in domestic legislation.
And he started using the word outcomes, national mitigation outcomes, instead of national mitigation actions. And I think that's encouraging, and it's a way of trying to enter into getting some sort of an agreement in Copenhagen along the lines that I was describing.
But key to it, since these are national actions, national domestic actions and national targets that are trying to lead into a global target, then the review mechanism becomes important, and that's why you need credible but also transparent review and monitoring to monitor progress on implementation.
Finally, on adaptation and linking to finance, again, a proposal has been made for the last six months, first from the Global Leadership for Climate Action and then with the Swedish Commission on Climate and Development that I also have the honor of being a member of, that developed countries put on the table immediately $1 to $2 billion to help the least developed countries and the vulnerable small island developing states, who are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, be able to implement their own national adaption programs of action that have been prepared among 39 countries, the GEF even from my time, we helped fund that and they are sitting there waiting to be implemented.
So here, we can move into implementation, show good will and raise the confidence of the developing countries that the developed countries are actually serious about helping with the adaptation aspect and putting some aspects of finance.
Of course, the $1 to $2 billion will not be enough to get the confidence that the other speakers were talking about, so we'd have to talk also about another number, and that number has not really been said except by the European Commission.
And, as a result, it actually hinders addressing the other issues because you need the finance for the technology cooperation for the mitigation actions, for other adaptation actions with the other developing countries who are vulnerable.
So ultimately, the last thing I want to say, so that these do not appear to be small pieces in a big ambition that we all have is that recognizing that climate change is closely linked to economic development.
And the need for a low-carbon economy future based on low-carbon economy, as Ms. Wallstrom said, is really the way to go.
So if we think about these steps leading us towards that future that is based on a low-carbon economy and taking immediate actions so that we don't lose the momentum on what needs to be done to address what the scientists are telling us about climate change, I think would be the way to go.
And, of course, we can't forget about political will and leadership and I would ask Europe, that has carried the leadership flag over the last 8 years or so when the U.S. was silent or actually being negative and when the developing countries were watching what's happening, to continue to play that leadership role. Thank you.
Jessica Mathews: All right, let me offer the panelists a chance, and maybe to start, Ms. Wallstrom, with you, as to whether this American cold water on the idea of the original goal for Copenhagen is, in your view, justified or not or how you would respond to that, to what you've heard?
Margot Wallstrom: Well, I think so far we have realized that it is a matter of managing expectations for Copenhagen and maybe that is easier than managing disappointment afterwards. What you are outlining here is already a two-step approach.
You are saying that we will not get there in Copenhagen, but we have already now to plan what will come after Copenhagen. And that will be also a pedagogic challenge, I would say, to explain this to those that, today, have much higher expectations for a result.
And I think the most important change is that we have, today, a general public that expects a lot. And we have lots of young people, not least, who want us to take action.
And of course, this has built up to a situation where Copenhagen is seen also symbolically as a very, very important place and event and time for decisions. I think also we have a very different situation when it comes to the scientific evidence.
And this is the change I have seen, of course, also in the U.S. over the years; that today, this is established scientific knowledge and it is not questioned as it was in those days when we first met, Eileen.
And that is very important, but it means, also, that the pressure builds on Copenhagen.
We have done that before, we have actually been in negotiations on climate change where we stopped the clock; where we said, we will fail now but we stop the clock and we meet again in another place to actually see if we can agree and we manage to agree.
But I think that the time schedule that you anticipate here would maybe not allow us to stop the clock but, in that case, say that we have to have a continuation.
What you said about the leaders taking responsibility is also very important and that is why you need your president to go there, to Copenhagen. I think that is absolutely ...
Jessica Mathews: He already tried that once.
Margot Wallstrom: I know that, but I think that's a different game, altogether a different game. Let's leave football and sports to the side. But this time he has to go, I would say. If that has not sunk down yet, it has to.
It has to be told again that he has to go and of course that will in itself be such a strong signal if the leaders go. They don't want to go there with a failure; they don't want to leave with a failure.
So they have also tied themselves to the mast if they go to Copenhagen. I think they need to feel that, you know, they have to go down with ...
You know, we are in the situation in the European Union where we want to do both things at the same time. And that's a difficult balancing act. We want to keep pressure up on the United States.
We want to keep repeating our message, you have to do everything possible to get a deal and to have something to contribute in Copenhagen.
At the same time, we understand the practical problems here and the political problems of getting to a deal and getting all the decisions necessary through the Senate. We understand that this will be very difficult.
So we are still in that balancing act and we want to continue to say we want all the others onboard as well, and we will not get them there unless there is something promising in the commitments and in the discussions leading up to Copenhagen.
So we will continue to sort of keep pressure up and at the same time, we cherish the political signals coming from the United States.
So, if there is a way of ensuring that if we don't reach the whole way to the ultimate target that we have, that we have to ensure that there is a continued process. And exactly how to decide that, I have no idea.
We take one step at a time, but I think there were interesting, interesting ideas. And maybe, as you said, to be concrete enough in a first step would actually then hold this whole procedure together.
And I hope that we haven't insisted on bringing the two tracks, the one on the convention and the one on the protocol, together, and we think that that is reasonable.
But I hope that this does not take over because we will probably have these things to negotiate on the procedures as such, but if that means that we lose sight of what we are there to do, to deliver results and real emission reductions, then I think it's bad.
And I hope that we'll find a reasonable framework within which we can work. And to us, also, the protocol with a number of provisions has been helpful, the emissions trade, the flexible mechanisms, the emissions trading, the whole concept of common but differentiated responsibilities. It has been a good tool in many ways.
Jessica Mathews: Eileen or Mohamed?
Eileen Claussen: Yeah, I just want to raise two issues, one based on what you just said and one based on what you said. I agree it's a difficult balance between keeping the pressure up and not blaming the U.S. for everything, or however you want to sort of coat that.
But part of the problem with keeping the pressure up is that it keeps the expectations up. And I think you started by saying part of this is a question of expectations.
And I think we have to be really careful how we sort of glide into something real but possible in Copenhagen. And too much keeping the pressure up just makes me very nervous; that then you might fall off a cliff. And I really think that would be terrible for all of us who care about this issue, so just a point.
Jessica Mathews: Before you go on can I just ask, doesn't keeping the pressure up also keep you from working on fall backs?
Eileen Claussen: Well it does, it does, and I mean, unfortunately we've been saying this for quite some time and got enormous push back for probably saying it too early, that maybe you can't get there.
And now I think, at least privately, everybody agrees you can't get there, but publicly they're still keeping the pressure up and in fact we're not actually working on what a possible deal is.
With respect to your core elements, I mean I think this is an interesting idea but if you've got this train going down this track towards an agreement with a midterm target and an end sort of target in 2050, I don't see how with five negotiating days before Copenhagen you turn the ship around and all of a sudden get everyone to agree on targets for energy efficiency or targets for renewables.
It's not that it's a bad idea, I just don't see how that can -- I mean it takes more work than the kind of thing that I was thinking about it. I don't see how you get there.
Jessica Mathews: Tell us how you get there.
Mohamed El-Ashry: But just really to show the agreement here is that all or nothing is a bad strategy and we should not really look at Copenhagen as the end of the line, but as an important milestone towards achieving the kind of an agreement, comprehensive agreement that is needed to address climate change at the scale that the science is telling us.
Are we too late? I don't think so. Not just being the optimist but also based on the history that is out there. Of course, if we continue with the notion of five days of negotiations and then we go to Copenhagen it's not going to work.
But if there is a will, there is a way and the way I would propose it is that, as happened even in the original negotiations on the climate change convention, is that you'd have working groups, you know, made of countries big and small so that no one sees themselves isolated.
Because at some point in time, someone suggested that maybe the G-20 can do that, maybe the MEF can do that. But you can't really work it out among 20 countries and then take it in Copenhagen for the 180-some countries and say, now, endorse that.
So if someone has got to take the leadership role among the parties and try to get an agreement on establishing working groups to start looking at that first major step that would make Copenhagen a success, keeping in mind that there is the longer vision of the bigger agreement and the shape of the agreement.
Because as you said, you know, we love processes and we can sit and discuss words and commas and punctuations you know as long as we want and we'll never get to anything.
So having some substance at the table and say, okay, what does it look like, you know, taking this into action, moving forward for the second step, but these are things that we can do now.
And the one thing I didn't really mention earlier is that, even if you reach an agreement in Copenhagen, the bigger agreement, it will not be implemented until 2013, right? So that is another 4 years from now.
Whereby here, you are talking about actions that can be really taken now without having to wait for the ratification because it is not a legal agreement yet, but it is a major part of the final agreement or comprehensive agreement.
You have about a month and a half before Copenhagen, so before the president goes to Copenhagen or the vice president or whoever, there is a period of time here.
If there is a process that's agreed to and we start talking about certain global targets and how they can be met with national targets and national commitments, then there is enough time for that administration working with Congress and the Hill to try to get at least the broad features of what these national commitments can be, but they are national commitments and not global commitments.
They are national commitments towards meeting a global target, so the criticism that is being held that how can the administration actually agree to a global target when -- I mean to its contribution to a global target before a legislation could be moderated quite a bit.
Jessica Mathews: You want to say something Eileen?
Eileen Claussen: Yeah I do. I mean, I think you could look at authorities that the administration has to use. You could take a look at the proposed rule for autos, which has come out of EPA.
You could take a look at other possible EPA actions under the Clean Air Act. You could take a look at the appliance efficiency standards and things like that at DOE that you can ratchet up and you could add it all up and see where you are.
And, in fact, I've asked whether they're doing that because I actually think it is really important that they do that and apparently they are doing it, but I don't know exactly what the answers are.
I think it's a beginning but it is nowhere near what you need to get to a reasonable 2020 target that at least comes close to what the science is telling you. I'm not even saying gets there, but even comes close.
So what does that, I mean what does that do? I mean, I'm just trying to think about all the ways that Copenhagen doesn't end up in the blame the U.S. and I'm afraid if that is the thing that could just precipitate it if you're not talking about sort of anything that is even reasonably ambitious.
Mohamed El-Ashry: But at the same time, you can't really accept the fact that it has to be completely a watered-down agreement so that the U.S. does not get embarrassed.
Eileen Claussen: No, but I think a bad agreement is worse than sort of creating an abyss or a second where we can actually get a real one. A weak or bad agreement, I think, is a problem.
Margot Wallstrom: I'm afraid I will not be able to promise that we won't blame the U.S. I'm not going to promise that. No, but I think you have to understand also sort of the core dynamics of this negotiation.
And this is where you have to find and where you have to look at the things to promise or the things to commit to in Copenhagen.
And the core political debate is the one about, you can call it climate justice if you like, but the fact that the developing world will want to see action from the rich countries and they will want to see some money on the table because they will be first hit and they will want to see that there is some financing.
So you have to address that, and maybe the other thing would be to say we accept science today, we accept the scientific advice and this is why we would follow with an overall sort of global target and at least sort of agree on that and then we can start to count backwards.
If we don't reach all the way in Copenhagen, but we will continue, but that sets the frame. That sets the targets that we can all agree on, on a global scale, and I think then you have at least identified the most important dynamics.
Because otherwise, you will have the whole G-77, all the developing countries, against and they will be outraged that nothing can be achieved.
Eileen Claussen: Can I just make one other point here? I mean you were talking about the adaptation funding, and that's one thing, but I think you were talking and I was talking about funding to help them mitigate to reduce emissions which is a different story and that, I agree, maybe that can be part of what emerges from Copenhagen.
Jessica Mathews: I think we have a framework to take this discussion further but before I open to the general questions, I want to just focus for a minute on China, on the number one emitter.
And try to clarify for all of us how far China's recent statements take us both positively and negatively in the direction of a viable global agreement and Carnegie has been working hard in China and on this issue for the last 2 years.
And I wonder if I can ask Taiya Smith, whom I can't even see; where are you? There! Who is now leading the project to say ... Taiya, in the context of what you just heard, to clarify how far President Hu's statement in the UN went and Dr. Shu's statements in Washington last week about a 40 percent renewables target, etc.
What's the mix of good news and bad news, and how far do you see China -- how close do you see it being able to play a constructive role on this?
Taiya Smith: Well, President Hu's big announcement was that China has decided to take climate change seriously. It has made the decisions within its own internal structure to include climate change in its economic and social planning process, so for all of us that means great things.
It means that China is now fully embracing climate change, overcoming any opposition to dealing with it and is putting in place a domestic program which will allow it to begin to deal with it.
So Dr. Shu was here just last week, and was spelling out some of the very specifics of what they're doing, the most notable figure has been the one that you're citing about 40 percent of renewables and nuclear sort of non-fossil fuels to be part of its energy mix.
And that is part of the overall plan that China has been laying out. They are working very hard in wind and solar. They are working to construct nuclear plants and moving to a very different, as they call it, model of economic growth that is not as energy consumptive.
What President Hu said in September is that China is looking to decrease its energy intensity. So for every dollar of GDP, they are going to be reducing the amount of energy that it takes to create that dollar worth of GDP.
And that does not give us a cap, so it means that China is negotiating in Copenhagen with a different set of figures than other countries are looking at.
And it says that they're going in the right direction but we don't know how. His term was "by a significant amount." Some will wonder what's significant.
And again, it leaves us a little bit lost in terms of knowing what China's overall goal is going to be in the negotiations. So in summary, they're going in the right direction, they've made it clear they're going in the right direction.
Those who watch China know that when China decides to do something it does it, faster than any other country in the world. But exactly how far they're planning to go we're still unsure.
Jessica Mathews: Thank you. Let's open the discussion now to everyone. And please introduce yourself, please wait for the microphone and we'll start right here.
I think because there's so many, I think I'm going to take three questions, comments at a time and then turn to the panel if that's OK with everybody.
Alden Meyer: Thanks, Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists. Question for Eileen, I think the president can go to Copenhagen with some level of certainty about the target issue even if legislation hasn't passed.
You've got the House target, our emissions are now down 8.5 percent, projected from 2020, with that additional action we're halfway to the Waxman-Markey bill without doing anything because of the various factors.
And the executive authority that the president has that you mentioned, I think, could have a pretty credible story to tell there, but I think it is a different case on finance.
I think on finance under our Constitution, the president can't spend money without Congress. You might have an annual appropriations bill done by then, maybe not.
You certainly aren't going to have the big kind of money that's in the Waxman-Markey bill, particularly for forests, anywhere near certain if the Senate hasn't acted.
What credibility would the president have particularly with the developing countries in the absence of Senate action that if we suspend the negotiations and come back in six months he can pretty much guarantee that there will be a serious finance issue on the table, finance offer on the table?
And then for Vice President Wallstrom, on the European strategy, I think what I saw in Bangkok last week is the danger of the Europeans setting themselves up to take the blame rather than the U.S. because of the notion of shifting out of Kyoto into a single instrument without there really being a credible strategy to get that single instrument.
Because the U.S. is saying very clearly it does not want the things that we basically invented in Kyoto, emissions trading and the accounting system and assigned amount units and all that, transferred into the new single instrument.
And of course, the major developing countries don't want that because they see the writing on the wall that they would then have to eventually take on some targets within that new regime.
So, you're basically by yourself saying, let's save Kyoto by transferring it and the developing countries are charging you with wanting to kill Kyoto by transferring it, knowing that it's not going to be transferable.
So I guess the question is, what's your strategy to avoid the E.U. taking the blame and Copenhagen and letting President Obama off the hook?
Jessica Mathews: Yes.
Lisa Friedman: Thanks, Lisa Friedman with ClimateWire, and thanks for doing this. It's very useful. I also have a blame-game question. Watching the Bangkok talks from this side of the world last week, there seems to be so much anger against the United States and, I believe, posturing as countries were preparing to blame the United States if Copenhagen falls apart.
And so what I'm interested in getting is an assessment from any or all of you about will it be the United States' fault if Copenhagen falls apart or if we don't get as far as some of you are hoping we'll get?
And to what extent will it be the United States' fault and what will the fallout be for the administration? Thanks.
Jessica Mathews: Okay, we'll take one more up front just if you can go - thank you.
Dana Marshall: Dana Marshall with Dewey and LeBoeuf, and Eileen it's very nice to see you again after a long time. I have sort of a question and a comment. Clearly, the 800-pound gorilla in this whole discussion is the economy.
And in a world with 10 percent U.S. unemployment, 20 percent unemployment in Spain, obviously that is a tremendous driver, perhaps the most important issue certainly in the United States, I think arguably it is.
I may be missing something, but I have not seen in the flurry of advertisements that we see regarding trying to connect what we're trying to do here with job creation, which is the best way to pull this thing through, I've not seen any really good analysis or projection, that at least I'm confident in, that we're going to see a real jobs response.
And I'm just speaking for the United States right now. In this country, if we do what people want to do, we have a situation in this country where we have trade deficits in green technology and in which we are importing more wind and solar equipment, under OECD lists of carbonized tariff codes, than we are exporting.
Clearly, the discussion we just had regarding China, their role in all of this would be very important, the G-20's commitment to rebalance economic flows is very important.
What I'm simply saying is we need to smash through a couple of silos here, it seems me, and try to make the jobs case more convincingly, bringing in trade, currency, labor standards, wage rates, all of those kinds of things, I think much better or we will be in our own sandbox on this talking about this and being able to put the commas in the right place, but we'll have no answer unless, in my view at least, it is connected to the larger issue.
Jessica Mathews: OK, let me let the panel at those three.
Margot Wallstrom: Well, I hope we are not putting ourselves in the firing line and taking the blame for the new procedure. I would also admit that I am not sort of in the middle of these negotiations, so I'm not sure about exactly what shape they are taking at the moment.
But I just see the risk clearly that we would be so engaged in this whole negotiation on procedures that that risks taking over a number of other things.
And I guess the best way forward would be a very pragmatic one to say what is it that has worked, the elements that we've been able to extract and use to the full and that we think have been effective and that can allow us also, for example, to use the market forces at the service of fighting climate change and emissions trading being the best example of that.
And what are the things that do not work, but of course we will also lose a lot of energy if we keep on those two tracks. And to bring everybody around the same table, of course, to merge these two tracks into one would probably be reasonable.
But I will have to ask the ones who are in the proper sort of negotiations to see exactly if this is a risk that they see. I hope not, I hope we can be constructive.
I think you made a very important point, and that is to make the jobs case more convincingly, as you said. And we have tried to calculate also the number of jobs that could be created, not least in renewable energy, and they are impressive figures. And this is happening already. We see an enormous growth, especially in the wind energy sector, thousands and thousands of new jobs being created.
And this is how you have to underline sort of the business opportunities in fighting climate change and we need also businesses onboard to make that case.
So I just agree, I think you're absolutely right and I think we could maybe develop and describe and make an inventory of more of these examples as well as letting some of these climate witnesses have a voice, because I think there are so many people who think that this is only something theoretical for in the future.
But this is already happening. This is already affecting our world, and especially the poorest people. And I think they also have to be given a voice.
I think the most impressive in all the negotiations that I, myself, was part of, I think, was the small island states that really made a difference. They were always the ones with sort of the strongest made, strongest impact on all of us, because they know it's sort of on their skin and their lives have already changed.
And I think more of that is, maybe, necessary so that it doesn't turn out as just a theoretical exercise.
Jessica Mathews: Right. OK, the two of you, then, go ahead.
Margot Wallstrom: I skipped the issue about, will it be the U.S.'s fault, as you have noticed.
Eileen Claussen: I'm happy to deal with that one.
Mohamed El-Ashry: On just to the U.S. fault, let me just say that China used to be described as the "bad actor" and so they came around very quickly and they said, you know, we are doing, actually, many good things. Why don't we just tell the world what we are doing?
And so the focus shifted to India. And the Indians realized that, you know, they also have started, really, to move aggressively on that front. Of course, it is as a development strategy, but it can count, also, for climate - and came out with it.
And now the focus is completely on the U.S. So the U.S., I think, needs to also step back and say what is it that we can present now to show that we are actually an important player?
And I think there is, really, many things that are happening in the U.S. But they have not been really collated together with the administration coming out, putting its will behind it to show the world that the U.S. is not the bad guy.
And when it comes to whether it's Kyoto or whether it's a different agreement, that's another story. You know, if we go with a two-step approach, then we're not really trying to figure out the legal shape of the agreement in Copenhagen.
On the jobs, very important, of course, issue, some numbers came out of the stimulus talking about a good part of the stimulus will go into green energy and the number of jobs it would create. But I think a good measure of it is the level of private investments in renewable energy.
In 2008, in spite of the recession, it was $155 billion increase with an increase over 2007, rather than what happened with the fossil fuel in the nuclear industry, where it actually shrank, the investment there.
Jessica Mathews: Is that a global figure?
Mohamed El-Ashry: That's the global, yes. But the major aspect of it, 75 percent of it was in the U.S. and Europe. Developing countries were 25 percent; most of them were China and India, but the major part was the U.S. and Europe.
And I think this is a good parameter to measure the interest in green energy, is with the amount of private money that's going in, because that's ultimately what's going to drive that agenda forward.
Talking about trillions of dollars that will be needed -- it cannot be covered by public funds; it will have to be private investment and the public investment can only help incentivize that.
Jessica Mathews: Eileen?
Eileen Claussen: Just some quick things: Alden, you're absolutely right about the inability to actually put a number on the table in December, given that the president doesn't have the ability to do that. Can he do it, say, in six months?
I mean, I hope so, but I mean it's very difficult given our system. On your, sort of, how you would count up the reductions, it's true that we are way down because of the recession, but quite honestly, if things pick up, which everyone hopes they do, I'm not sure you can count on all of that.
I mean, maybe some of it, but maybe not all of it. So it's not as easy a picture for him to come through with a really credible number without, sort of, presupposing some action by the Senate, which I think would be a real problem because everybody has their own prerogatives and the Senate likes to do what the Senate likes to do, and so I think you have to be careful.
On how much of the blame is the U.S.'s, I mean, I think because we don't have a target, we don't have the developing countries saying they'll make binding commitments and I think that's dependent upon it.
On the finance issue, I think it's everybody's fault because people haven't come to any agreement on the mechanism, and while we don't have a number on the table, only the commission does, so that's everybody's fault.
So I mean, maybe we get a little more blame than most, but I actually think it's a collective failure. I mean, it's not just us, although we are certainly a part of it, and maybe the biggest part, but not entirely.
On the jobs issue, you know, there are not really good data on the jobs that will be created. I mean, there have been some analyses that have been done. We've looked at all of them.
We don't think any of them are really credible. And, quite honestly, I don't think the jobs lost side of the equation - because there are lots of people who have very specific numbers of jobs that will be lost in a particular county in Ohio or something, those numbers are no good, either.
So you've got a lot of numbers swirling around here and you don't have a really good - I mean, I think you have a general case that there will be jobs created, but you don't have any specifics to put on the table.
You made the point about importing wind and solar from other places, that's because we don't have in place a national requirement for renewables.
If we did, we actually would start manufacturing more of it, in my opinion, here and that would help with the jobs, but we don't have a policy yet. And, unfortunately, a lot of this depends on us having the right kind of policy to actually create the jobs and get things moving.
[End of Audio]