Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Nations won’t be able to agree on a legally binding climate treaty this year at Cancun COP16"

- U.S. chief climate negotiator Todd Stern

By Karin Rives Staff Writer

Washington 23 November 2010 — Nations won’t be able to agree on a legally binding climate treaty this year, but they can make progress in a number of key areas that could — “maybe” — lead to a final deal next year, the U.S. chief climate negotiator said.

“What we’re seeking now in Cancún is a balanced package of decisions,” U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern told international journalists in Washington on November 22. “Rather than insisting on a legal treaty before anything happens, we should move down the pragmatic path of concrete operational decisions.”

The United Nations-led 16th Conference of the Parties (COP-16) in Cancún, Mexico, between November 29 and December 10, will be the biggest climate meeting of the year in hopes of taking negotiations forward.

The immediate goal, Stern said, is to make good on nonbinding commitments made at last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen.

If done right, he said, representatives from 192 countries could set up a “green fund” that will handle financial climate assistance to developing countries, start implementing significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, put in place a system of transparency and accountability, and rapidly advance climate-adaptation and forest-protection programs.

A key provision of the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord, drafted by the world’s largest economies at the 2009 summit, required developed countries to raise $30 billion from 2010 to 2012 to assist developing countries. This so-called “fast track” pot of money for developing countries, many of which are already grappling with the effects of climate change, would be followed by a much larger commitment of $100 billion annually by 2020.


More than 110 countries have signed on to the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord to fight climate change.

The U.S. Department of State released a fact sheet November 22 showing that the United States spent $1.7 billion in 2010 on fast-track financing programs in developing countries.

Climate assistance from the State and Treasury departments, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, more than tripled from $316 million in fiscal year 2009 to about $1 billion in fiscal year 2010, which ended September 30. Over the same period, the three agencies increased their assistance for nations adapting to climate change tenfold to reach $244 million.

“This financing is being used in a range of projects all around the world, from adaptation activities in Africa and the small island states, to assisting Indonesia with efforts to reduce deforestation, to helping Andean countries address the impacts of tropical glacier retreat,” Stern said. “In our view, these investments are not only good for developing countries, they are important for our own economic, environmental and national security well-being.”

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should remain the venue for future negotiations, Stern said. “It has history and credibility on its side and we should try to make progress there.”

But, Stern said, “It is incumbent on all countries there who want the UNFCCC to remain the venue for climate negotiations to make it work because year after year of stalemate will inevitably lead to a migration to other places. … That’s not something that the United States is looking for.”


The United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, announced last year it will reduce emissions 17 percent by 2020. Stern said he believes the country will meet that target as new vehicle-emissions standards and restrictions on factory emissions take hold and regulators and lawmakers continue to look for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Comprehensive climate change legislation will likely remain stalled in Congress, but there could still be pieces of energy and environmental legislation passed that contribute to a reduction in U.S. emissions, he said.

A Norwegian journalist asked whether the recent election of some members of Congress who openly question the science behind climate change will affect U.S. climate commitments and diplomacy. Stern said the question keeps coming up and that he’s been responding with a long-ago quote from a former New York senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

“Everybody is entitled to their opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” Stern said. “And that’s something some of our friends in Congress are going to have to learn.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: Read more:

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