Obama Administration Comes out in Support of Key International Provisions in Climate Bill

White House and cherry blossomsTodd Stern the Special Envoy for Climate Change, just testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming on: The Road to Copenhagen and International Climate Agreement.

His testimony (available here) and response to several questions for the first time publicly stressed the importance of the three international investment provisions in the House clean energy and global warming bill passed this past June:

  • Deforestation reduction program — sets aside 5% of the allowance value to supporting reductions in deforestation emissions;
  • Clean energy export provision — sets aside 1% of allowance value (increasing over time) to support clean energy investments in developing countries that commit to reduce emissions on their own; and
  • International adaptation assistance — sets aside 1% of allowance value (increasing over time) to support the most vulnerable developing countries in adapting to the impacts of global warming and helping to minimize future national security threats.

As I’ve discussed (here and here) the deforestation reduction program, clean energy export provision, and international adaptation assistance programs in the House bill are critical elements to help secure a strong agreement in Copenhagen that puts the world on a path to solving global warming.

As Todd put it in his written testimony:

“…the adoption of appropriate financing provisions is pivotal to getting a deal, and I hope that the Senate takes this into account as it develops its own version of a bill.  This is not charity.  It is squarely in our national interest to help ensure that all countries…pursue a clean development pathway.”

And he was more explicit in response to a question from Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) regarding “elements that we have done here that will help make your task easier.”  In response Todd Stern said:

“…I think there are provisions in the bill, one that involves a set?aside for international forestry at 5 percent of allowances, and another that provides a scaling?up set?aside for adaptation and mitigation, a percent for each, and scales all the way up to 4 percent for each in the mid?2020s.  Those provisions are engines for financial support for poor countries around the world and in a way that I think is, again, very much in our interest, and both in our interest from a substantive standpoint and a diplomatic standpoint of being able to attract support from developing countries.

So I mentioned to you in my opening remarks that I am very hopeful that those provisions, or at least some facsimile thereof, can be maintained in whatever version of the bill comes out of the Senate, because I do think those are quite important.”

These provisions aren’t “charity”, but rather strategic investments.  These investments help:

  • provide incentives for other countries to undertake meaningful actions on their own to cut their global warming pollution (in the case of the clean energy export and deforestation provisions);
  • mobilize early actions to reduce deforestation emissions and prepare these countries more quickly for the private sector financial investment that will flow through the deforestation carbon offsets rules (in the case of the deforestation set aside program as I’ve discussed here); and
  • create opportunities for US companies to export clean energy technologies to developing countries that will be demanding these technologies as they move to reduce their global warming pollution (in the case of the clean energy export provision; a market that could be $500 billion to $1 trillion in China alone according to a new study reported in the LA Times); and
  • minimize the national security implications of destabilized countries as highlighted by the New York Times (in the case of the adaptation provisions).

They arm the US negotiators with a powerful set of tools.  It is important that the Senate builds upon these key provisions and supports greater investments in supporting developing countries that commit to reduce their emissions, cut deforestation emissions, and support the most vulnerable (as my colleague Dave Hawkins recently testified).

Oh and let’s not forgot the most important tool — passing a climate bill in advance of Copenhagen.  The farther along the path to actually implementing a reduction in US global warming pollution, the more credible the US will be in securing commitments from other key countries.  A point made by Todd Stern as the Associated Press reported: Todd Stern told a House panel that it was critical for the Senate to pass legislation to give the U.S. the ”credibility and leverage” that it needs to convince other countries to reduce their pollution.

So there were a number of important signals that the Obama Administration outlined today when Todd Stern testified — critical need for the Senate to include the international “investment” provisions that were in the House bill and the need for the US to pass a global warming bill so the US is credible.

Your move Senate!
Jake Schmidt is the International Policy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, read his blog at NRDC’s Switchboard

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