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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Climate Talks Update

Air Date: Week of June 16, 2000

Host Steve Curwood talks with Frank Loy, U.S. representative to the Kyoto Accord talks on climate change, for a briefing on the most recent round of negotiations.

Transcript

CURWOOD: The US government has released a striking new draft report on the projected impact of global climate change on America. Concerns range from the loss of sugar maples in the East and salmon runs in the west to coastal erosion and widespread shortages of fresh water. The report brought even more urgency to efforts to finish the 1997 treaty that would cut pollution that leads to climate change. The treaty is known as the Kyoto protocol. Unresolved issues include how to verify and enforce agreed pollution reductions, and how credits for reductions might be traded among nations. At the latest round of treaty talks last week in Bonn, Germany, the US was criticized for being obstructionist. It insists on being able to meet its obligations by investing in reductions in greenhouse gases overseas without a minimum requirement for reductions at home. Frank Loy is the American Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs. He explains the Administration’s position.

LOY: It's a fact that you can reduce emissions much more inexpensively in some places than others, and one of the things we want is to make sure that we take full advantage of that. Not only to reduce costs, but actually to increase the number of tons of carbon we can take out of the air. And one of the consequences of that, of course, would be that we would be able to transfer to developing countries where I think some of the cheaper tons would be available, some important technology and very significant resources in the form of investments. And get back certain of these credits, which would show that we were meeting our obligation. One sticking point is that some members of the European Union want to put a limit on the extent to which that mechanism is used, and want to require that we take certain additional measures at home.

CURWOOD: How do you respond to criticism of the United States, that our nation is concentrating too much on helping the developing world clean up its act without concentrating enough on reducing emissions at home?

LOY: I say two things. First of all, we are doing in fact a lot at home. But the second thing I would say is that the Earth doesn't care where the reduction in emissions takes place. A ton of carbon taken out of the air is a ton of carbon taken out of the air, whether it's done over Omaha or whether it's done in Oman. Therefore, it seemed to us that it made sense to develop a system where we took the ton out of the air in the most efficient fashion. In relatively few years, the developing countries as a whole will contribute more than half of all the greenhouse gas emissions. The developing countries are going to have to, in some fashion, become part of the system, and that's feasible. President Clinton, again and again, when he meets with leaders, makes the point that today, as opposed to 20 or 30 or 50 years ago, we know how to develop our industries without the kind of pollution that characterized the early part of the twentieth century.

CURWOOD: The criticism comes, though, that the United States is talking the talk but not walking the walk. Looking at our actual emissions since the Kyoto Protocol was signed, they continue to go up, rather than down.

LOY: That's accurate. We have had, since 1990, an unbelievably robust economy. And that has made our task more difficult. At Kyoto we took on a tough target. We said we would reduce our emissions by seven percent in a five-year period, 2008 to 2012. Because since that time our emissions have actually grown, we're going to have to reduce our emissions a good deal more, and the number is over 30 percent. What that tells us is that we have to work harder, but it also tells us that we have to work smarter. And that means that we have to use all of the techniques that were built into the Kyoto system to reduce emissions, and that includes the trading mechanisms that we just talked about.

CURWOOD: Frank Loy is the Undersecretary for Global Affairs for the United States. Thank you for speaking with me, Mr. Secretary.

LOY: Great pleasure.

 

 

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