Washington - During a meeting with Chilean media in Santiago this month, the United States' special envoy on climate change, Todd Stern, was peppered with questions about last year's United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen and what the world should expect for the talks in Cancún, Mexico, late this year.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington — During a meeting with Chilean media in Santiago this month, the United States’ special envoy on climate change, Todd Stern, was peppered with questions about last year’s United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen and what the world should expect for the talks in Cancún, Mexico, late this year.
Progress was made at the 11th hour in Copenhagen, Stern responded, and he hopes the next round of negotiations will lead to a more specific and concrete agreement that can be adopted by all members of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organization leading the talks.
But the United States’ top climate negotiator also stressed that even if the world can agree on legally binding greenhouse emissions cuts, the job of tackling climate change begins on the ground.
“If we got an agreement tomorrow it would set a framework,” Stern told the Chilean reporters. “The hard work of actually taking concrete steps to be more energy-efficient, to build solar plants, to do the things you need to do to reduce emissions, would still be in front of us. That’s action that would be happening on bilateral, domestic and regional levels. Whether we have an agreement or not, we need to move forward and have stuff happening on the ground. We have to take action.”
Stern and Arturo Valenzuela, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, traveled to Chile, Peru and Ecuador July 10–15 to meet with government leaders, students, citizen groups and others to discuss how the two continents can collaborate to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and halt the rise in global temperatures. Their discussions focused on ways the United States can work with individual countries and the Latin American region as a whole to reach those goals while at the same time strengthening economic growth.
CHILE MOVING TOWARD “CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY”
Chile, which has transformed its economy and reduced its poverty rate from 40 percent to 15 percent over the past 20 years, is already taking active steps to make clean energy and climate programs part of its national agenda, Stern said in a speech at the University of Chile. The country is among the 135 countries that so far have signed the Copenhagen Accord, announcing a voluntary commitment to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Some supporters of the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord hope the agreement will serve as a foundation for the next round of United Nations-led climate negotiations, known as COP-16, that will begin December 29 in Mexico.
Chile has adopted several national policies that will help drive low-carbon growth, including an energy-efficiency law that requires utilities to produce 5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2014 and 10 percent by 2024, Stern said.
Stern suggested a regional effort to halt deforestation in the Amazon basin.“I also understand that the newly formed Ministry of Energy is now working to increase the percentage of renewable to 20 percent by 2020, which is very encouraging and will move Chile down a path to a clean-energy economy,” Stern said. “By working together, we can accelerate our progress.”
The U.S. Department of Energy and Chile’s Ministry of Energy last year created the Chile Renewable Energy Center to support technology and knowledge transfer between the two countries. The U.S.-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory is designing a clean-energy data repository and clearinghouse for the center.
It’s among a number of initiatives listed under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, formed in 2009 to advance clean-energy solutions in the Western Hemisphere.
CLIMATE DIALOGUE ESTABLISHED WITH ECUADOR
Speaking at Andean University in Quito, Ecuador, Stern said he was encouraged by his meeting with President Rafael Correa and other government officials. Ecuador is among countries that continue to distance themselves from the Copenhagen Accord, and Stern acknowledged that some of his colleagues in Washington had questioned his decision to travel to Quito to talk climate.
“I think we need to be able to listen to one another and talk to each other and share views,” he said. “The objective I had to establish a dialogue has very much been met. We believe there’s substantial potential for the United States to collaborate with Ecuador both bilaterally and even regionally.”
Ecuador has taken significant steps on its own to address climate change, Stern added. Especially noteworthy, he said, is Socio Bosque, a program launched by the Ecuador government in 2008 to compensate landowners and indigenous communities for trees that are preserved. The program already affects 10,000 families and 500,000 hectares of Amazon forest, with the goal of protecting 4 million hectares by 2015.
PERU AIMS TO FULLY PROTECT FORESTS BY 2021
Peru has committed to a number of ambitious domestic actions to help slow climate change, including a plan to completely halt deforestation by 2021 and to generate one-third of the nation’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The United States is working closely with Peru on a number of climate-related projects, such as forest preservation, mapping and management, Stern told an audience at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima. Another looming issue in Peru — water scarcity resulting from shrinking Andean glaciers — is being addressed in a program to help local residents learn how to better manage mountain ecosystems, he said.
The United States would be interested in supporting a REDD — or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation — program that would involve all countries in the Amazon basin, Stern said. “Together, we can find new ways to collaborate and engage in dialogue across the hemisphere as we make real progress in our efforts to combat global climate change,” he said.
( This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov )
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