Alliance for Climate Strategies' Kelly says Asia-Pacific program not a Kyoto competitor

As the debate over how to handle the issue of global warming on the international level continues, the United States, China, and other nations are promoting the Asia-Pacific Partnership as a viable way to develop and share technologies to curb greenhouse gas emissions. During today's OnPoint, Glenn Kelly, executive director of the Alliance for Climate Strategies, explains the current status of the Asia-Pacific Partnership. He discusses some financial challenges facing the agreement and talks about how a shift in administrations in 2009 could affect the future of this program.


Darren Samuelsohn: Welcome to OnPoint. I'm Darren Samuelsohn. Joining us in Washington is Glenn Kelly, executive director of the industry group the Alliance for Climate Strategies. Mr. Kelly thanks for coming on the program.

Glenn Kelly: Thanks for the invitation Darren.

Darren Samuelsohn: Your group is involved in the Asia-Pacific Partnership, the Bush administration's premier international climate change program. It's been going on for about a year now. Tell us what it's been able to accomplish so far.

Glenn Kelly: Well, it's mostly been organizational to date. The administration, together with the other partner nations, developed this idea in the past year and a half or so. They met formally in Sydney in January, earlier this year, to begin putting the organizational framework together necessary to get the partnership up and running in a fairly rapid window of opportunity here throughout this year. They've met again since in Berkeley earlier this spring and scheduled to come back together in October, I believe somewhere in Asia, to assess progress and the results of some of the task forces that have subcommittees, if you will, that have formed within the structure to actually begin the implementation process.

Darren Samuelsohn: To a large degree a lot of this has happened behind closed doors. Can you give us any sort of sense of what's been happening on a day-to-day basis on this partnership?

Glenn Kelly: Well, all of the work is being done at the task force level. The task forces consist of two government representatives and two industry representatives from each of the partner nations. These are the policy, legal, technical experts who understand the eight industrial sectors that have been defined and targeted for the first work of the Asia-Pacific Partnership. I've not actually been participating in those. They are, really, at a much more technical level than certainly somebody like I would be able to fit into and contribute to. But the work that they are doing is intended to identify the types of legal, trade and regulatory, even sometimes cultural barriers that are impeding the development and actually the deployment into the field of the type of advanced energy technologies that can and will make a difference in terms of pollution in the developing worlds and of course concerns about climate change.

Darren Samuelsohn: Give me some examples of the technologies that are envisioned that the partnership could help stimulate.

Glenn Kelly: IGCC, I think is at the top of the list in one of the sectors, obviously in the energy and fossil fuel task forces. Those are certainly immediate opportunities that the partners have identified. But it goes down to anything as basic as insulating steam pipes at electric facilities, where it's not always common in places like China or India, where it would substantially improve efficiency and heat loss and actually lead to lower demand for fossil fuel use. So it ranges the gamut. The hope is that the partners can identify the industries, can call to the attention of the governments that control the flow of trade and regulation, the types of technologies that are available either today or in the very short term future that can be implemented in a relatively short period of time. Long term the partnership hopes to identify much more promising technologies in the renewable sectors and also in the types of energy type generation sectors that will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, lower pollution, for other sustainable development reasons. So there is a broad picture. You know, the partners are getting their arms around it right now. The industries are finding their way and it's certainly a work in progress.

Darren Samuelsohn: I've heard that the goal is to spur private investment in these technologies. How can a government -- how can government agencies from these six nations, we're talking about United States, Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea, how can they actually spur private investment?

Glenn Kelly: Well, they can encourage it. They can create the type of market framework and regulatory framework that allows the flow of technology and trade. I think there was an excellent example just recently that Caterpillar announced a deal in China, 50 some odd million dollars to provide methane reducing technologies for coal mine methane that came about under the auspices of the Methane to Markets Program. But I think is an excellent example of the first contribution that the Asia-Pacific Partnership can bring. What it will do is significantly improve the mine methane capture and recovery. That is, you know, methane is a very potent greenhouse gas emission. It's also a dangerous gas. And it would help them improve workplace safety for the mines in China that will benefit. So that's one example how the Methane to Markets Partnership, working in coordination through the Asia-Pacific Partnership, can actually bring about deals, bring about technology and have results today.

Darren Samuelsohn: Should this partnership be seen as a rival to the Kyoto Protocol, the existing U.N. framework?

Glenn Kelly: I don't think so. I think the Asia-Pacific Partnership should be viewed more in the context of the U.N. Framework Convention on climate change. All of the partners that are involved in the partnership are parties to the Framework Convention, some are parties to Kyoto. Japan, for instance, is an excellent example where they have taken on a commitment under Kyoto. And this they see, I think, as part of their obligations to help meet that commitment. The US and Australia certainly would view this as a commitment under the Framework Convention. So I think they're working in the same purpose rather than at cross purpose and shouldn't be viewed in that context, I don't think.

Darren Samuelsohn: I've heard Bush administration officials, Jim Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality included, saying that this is a better way to deal with international climate negotiations because there's fewer people in the room. But at the same time, Jim Connaughton, for example, cannot give a specific amount of pollution reductions that, you know, can be achieved through this partnership. How do you square those two very interesting points?

Glenn Kelly: Well, as I mentioned at the beginning of the program, the Asia-Pacific Partnership is a work in progress. There's still a lot that can be identified in terms of what results can be achieved over a relatively short period of time. The difference, you mentioned Kyoto a minute ago, the difference that the Asia-Pacific Partnership brings to this is a much more short-term outlook in terms of what are the technologies available today or that we foresee in the very near future that can be deployed to aid in our efforts to address sustainable development, pollution mitigation and climate change mitigation as well. The Asia-Pacific Partnership, as a work in progress, has a lot of work yet to be done. But I think that the beauty of the program, if you will, is an opportunity to identify the types of technologies that are going to be necessary over the long term that help us deal with these very, very significant issues and challenges that are ahead of us.

Darren Samuelsohn: China and India are involved in the partnership. They're also involved in Kyoto without mandatory targets. Can you give me any sense, has China and India, are they at the table in a way that they're not through Kyoto, through other mechanisms?

Glenn Kelly: That's a fairly broad question, but I think it's also important to bear in mind that the parties who are involved in Kyoto are, at this moment, negotiating the second commitment period. Many of the parties recognize that they're not going to meet the targets that they set for the first commitment period. So I think nations like China and India, Japan in particular, are looking for the types of models, and I think the U.S. is looking for the types of models that can be adopted in a post-Kyoto first commitment period world. This may be it. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

Darren Samuelsohn: Is there talk amongst your group, the industries and the administration that this might be the avenue for post-2012?

Glenn Kelly: No. This is a short term, or near term, opportunity that we see to continue providing the types of voluntary technology-based approaches that we've long argued are the much more effective means of addressing concerns about climate change. And it happens to have the added benefit of being able to address much broader issues with regard to other pollutants. So this is an opportunity that's presented now, that our industries are very eager to contribute to, just as they've been working aggressively to develop the technologies that we think, over the long term, will respond more effectively to concerns about climate and sustainable development.

Darren Samuelsohn: Up on Capitol Hill this is the first time that the president has been able to present the Asia-Pacific Partnership and ask for money from Congress. And with budgets being tight the House didn't provide much money, only a couple of million dollars of President Bush's $52 million request. The Senate has given a little bit more. If the Congress, when they finally finish the appropriation bills, gave no money to the Asia-Pacific Partnership would that be a major blow to this partnership?

Glenn Kelly: I think so. We'd certainly not like to see that result. But as you mentioned, and fortunately, the Senate has taken steps in some of their appropriations bills to provide the funding levels requested. I think the lack of funding in the House bills is not reflective of a lack of support, but simply it was an organizational dilemma. The Asia-Pacific Partnership ministerial declaration was finalized in January. The president's budget was well along in that process and, of course, it was included, but it took a little effort on the part of the administration and other supporters to call this new program to the attention of the appropriators. The House, of course, was very fast out of the box in terms of the appropriations bills this year. So the Senate had a little bit more time to actually begin to chew on it and digest the nature of the program and the benefits of the program and they've come around and, thankfully, been very supportive. We had a letter, indeed, that was sent by Senators Hagel, Pryor and Voinovich. It coordinated 21 signatures from a bipartisan coalition of senators. I think that's indicative of the type of support we're beginning to see for this program as people become aware of it, what its promise is and the contributions that it can bring to this issue.

Darren Samuelsohn: What happens to the partnership when President Bush leaves office in 2009?

Glenn Kelly: I hope it is sustained. I think if the partners are successful in getting this up and running to the point where it is fully operational -- right now, I mentioned earlier in the show that they've identified eight sectors that they're targeting as the initial ones to address. They're not limiting themselves to those eight. Those were just the first that came to mind. Transportation, for instance, is on the table for the next discussions. That may be coming around. So this is intended, if the partners are successful, to be a self-sustaining, living partnership that will continue on as a model, not only for the United States and the other partners, but hopefully -- and the administration has signaled its willingness, at some point in the future, no date defined, to consider bringing in other partners. It's been kept to the six nations to start, just to try and keep it manageable. You've been to many of the Framework Convention meetings overseas and you know with very large delegations of governments and NGOs and other organizations they can be kind of unwieldy. So I think the partners didn't want to expand the partnership too quickly before the basics were in place to have it operational. And I think over time the partners will begin looking at others who have expressed -- and other nations have already expressed interest, for instance Canada is rumored to be interested. Other European nations are taking a very close look at this partnership. So I think, over the long term, this actually becomes self-sustaining partnership that expands over time.

Darren Samuelsohn: And the next meeting, you said is in the fall and has there been a location picked yet?

Glenn Kelly: I'm hearing South Korea. I can't confirm that, but that's what I'm hearing and it would be some time, I believe, in October for the next policy, the steering committee is called the Policy and Implementation Committee. But, my guess, I think that's going to be a government meeting.

Darren Samuelsohn: OK, so we won't book our tickets quite yet. Thanks for coming on the program, Glenn.

Glenn Kelly: Thanks for having me, Darren.

Darren Samuelsohn: Until next time, this is Darren Samuelsohn for another edition of OnPoint. Thanks for watching.

[End of Audio]



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