WRI's incoming President Steer discusses int'l agenda

With the World Resources Institute recently announcing former World Bank climate change envoy Andrew Steer as its new president, how will Steer's international climate experience affect his goals for WRI? During today's OnPoint, Steer discusses the state of the international discussion on climate change and the impact of U.S. EPA's latest New Source Performance Standards proposal on international talks.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Andrew Steer, incoming president of the World Resources Institute. Andrew, thanks for coming on the show.

Andrew Steer: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: Andrew, before coming to WRI you were most recently, and still are for a few more months, the special envoy for climate change at the World Bank. Over the time you've spent at the World Bank, how has the conversation on climate change shifted in the international community?

Andrew Steer: Well, I think it's made progress, but in a few areas it's made regress. If you look at the last couple of conferences of the parties, we've made good progress across a range of issues, most dramatically obviously the agreement in Durbin that by 2015 there will be a global deal. That's all good news. So too is progress on forests, on carbon markets, on, not the price of carbon by the way, but the rules associated with carbon market, on the adaptation framework, on the green fund. These are all good things. On the other hand, we now know that we are living in a decade in which there will be no global regulatory regime for climate. When we were in Copenhagen we thought maybe there would be this decade. So essentially we've lost a decade and in many ways this is a make or break decade. So we now need to look not to the negotiators for really doing a lot this decade to help things, their role will be when the global deal becomes effective in 2020, but this decade we need to see action. And so we need to find leadership, we need to find the right resources, we need to empower the right coalitions, we need to show that it can be done at scale at a reasonable cost in a way that benefits the citizens of countries. And that applies on the adaptation side, but also on the mitigation side.

Monica Trauzzi: And WRI focuses most of its attention on developing countries. What kind of role do they need to play in these conversations during this decade?

Andrew Steer: Well, you know, the old myth was, 20 years ago, that rich countries were concerned about climate change and poor countries couldn't afford to be concerned about climate change. Nielsen just did a survey, 50 percent of North Americans say they're concerned about climate change, 90 percent of Latin Americans say, 68 percent of Europeans are concerned with climate change, but 93 percent of East Asians are concerned about climate change. So, in other words, it's the developing countries that are concerned about climate change and they should be, because they're the most threatened by it. So, an organization like World Resources Institute brings sort of world-class analysis, great ideas to the marketplace, if you like, the marketplace of ideas, the marketplace of politics, together with the private sector. There are 150 developing countries right now asking for help on green growth and low-carbon development and climate resilient growth. And an organization like WRI, which is premiere in its field in many ways, is bringing, is able to bring not ideas that are based upon opinion, but ideas that are based upon serious, sharp penciled analysis. And then it takes those ideas and it doesn't just put them out in reports and say, you know, anyone interested take them, but actually then works with governments, with politicians, with the private sector, with civil society, with partners in the developing world so that those ideas sort of become part of the mix and gradually are. So, it's a think tank, but it's also a do tank.

Monica Trauzzi: So, why then was this a good transition for you to go from the bank to WRI?

Andrew Steer: Well, I think that both organizations are playing a very, very valuable role. The World Bank obviously is a financial agency and I've been privileged play an important role. One of my jobs is to oversee the climate investment funds, 7.2 billion, doing great work. But World Resources Institute has a really special role to play. It has a role, as I'm saying, to bring sort of an honest broker, world-class, analytical capacity to the table at a time when ideas that really will work and ideas that are based upon analysis are at a premium. There are lots of players out there now providing advice to these 150 developing countries that want them. That advice is very heterogeneous. We need to raise the game overall. WRI plays a very, very important role in this and because it's starting point is measurement, numbers, analysis, science, policy and so because of that, when it speaks, you know, it can have a really significant impact.

Monica Trauzzi: And I know you're in the middle of your transition between the two organizations, but are there any topline issues that you have in your mind right now that you would like to see WRI focusing on when you transition over there?

Andrew Steer: Well, as you know, WRI has certain themes it works on. So, if you like, it works on climate and energy and it works on people and ecosystems, if you like. That's the what of how it does it. But then it also, across the entire piece, looks at governance and institutions and it looks at markets and private sector. And, in the way, that matrix, if you like, two broad substantive issues that are absolutely going to drive humanity's success or failure over the next 20, 30, 50, 100 years. But then asking the question, OK, that's fine, this is what the textbook might say about what to do, but what about the issues of institutional development, governance issues? These are deeply, deeply complex, whether in the forests of Kalimantan or in the renewable energy space in South Africa, you've got to understand governance, institutions. But you also had better understand how private sector investors think. I mean one of the great things about WRI, as you probably know, is it's got a deep and rich set of relationships with the private sector and some of its most innovative sort of aspects are precisely in sort of next-generation private sector investment, whether that's in financing, whether it's in technology, whether it's small startups in developing countries. Often it's the small or medium enterprises that do a lot. So, I would see, I mean, these I don't have strong views as to sort of brand-new directions, but I do think that for the next four years, as the world is working towards a climate deal, that has to be a very high priority. Also on the adaptation side very important, on forests, so there is a range of issues that we'll be working on.

Monica Trauzzi: I want to ask you a question about United States, because the lack of action in the United States has played such a big role in the international conversations that we've seen. And U.S. EPA recently released the New Source Performance Standards for new power plants here in the United States. Given the failure of climate change legislation, what kind of role do you think EPA's aggressive, some would call it aggressive, attempts at these rules might play in the international discussions?

Andrew Steer: Well, I think the international community looks to the United States, looks to them for leadership, looks for new ways of doing business. The United States has committed to the 17 percent, 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gases. This plays an important role. So obviously, you know, we need to welcome this kind of change. And, you know, out there in the rest of the world, there is a deep, deep concern about climate change and, obviously, the role the United States plays in this space is hugely important, so we certainly welcome this.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show.

Andrew Steer: Thank you, very much indeed, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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