Frank E. Loy
Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and
Head of the U.S. Delegation
Statement to the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 6)
The Hague, Netherlands, November 25, 2000
I had hoped to be able to say today that we had reached another major milestone in the fight against global climate change. Regrettably, I cannot. Although an agreement on key issues was close at hand, the parties to this conference were unable to reach the agreements needed to make the Kyoto Protocol a working reality. The United States made one last effort in a meeting this afternoon with the European Union. We made clear we were willing to move even further in hopes of concluding the agreement we believed we had this morning -- to no avail. Yet we remain fully committed to building on the movement seen here and achieving the goal that so narrowly eluded us at this Conference.
The United States is deeply disappointed -- because these issues are of such profound importance, and because we came so close, only to see our efforts unravel. We stand ready to resume our negotiations at any time.
The United States arrived in The Hague fully prepared to engage in the genuine give and take needed to forge a strong, sensible agreement -- one that was cost-effective and had real environmental integrity. Through the course of these negotiations, we made every effort to accommodate the reasonable concerns of other countries. We showed real willingness to compromise. And no country offered more forthright, creative proposals to try to break the logjam.
While many nations here demonstrated a similar willingness to compromise and negotiate in good faith, others did not. On too many of the core issues before us, too many of our negotiating partners held fast to positions shaped more by political purity than by practicality; more by dogmatism, than pragmatism. And while we were prepared to compromise our positions, we were not prepared to sacrifice our core principles. We were not prepared go home with an agreement that would make it impossible for us to fulfill our commitments to the climate.
The United States put forward a number of constructive proposals in hopes of arriving at a more positive outcome. We proposed a robust compliance regime with real consequences and penalties for non-compliance. We came forward with a creative plan to provide substantial new resources so developing countries can reach their sustainable development goals while they also fight climate change. We advanced rules to recognize the central role of forests and farmlands in the carbon cycle, while agreeing to dramatically reduce the amount of credit the United States could claim under Kyoto from carbon that is absorbed by U.S. forests -- so-called carbon sinks.
We stressed -- particularly with the EU -- that the real focus of our discussions should be completing the architecture and rules that will allow all of us to truly meet this challenge over the long term. And in this vein, there is cause for optimism. The elements of an agreement were sitting on the table in plain sight. It included some of the toughest issues -- sinks, compliance, and ensuring strong domestic action. We were ready to sign on to that agreement -- others could not. But we stand ready to pick up where we left off.
I am troubled that some of our partners in these negotiations held fast to positions that not only strayed from the Kyoto bargain, but ignored some of the fundamental realities we face.
They ignored environmental and economic realities, insisting on provisions that would shackle the very tools that offer us the best hope of achieving our ambitious target at an affordable cost. Listening to the rhetoric in these halls, one might think that emissions trading is some new, half-cocked notion being offered up here for the first time. Some seem to have forgotten that it is a fundamental feature of the Kyoto Protocol -- accepted by all parties as a legitimate means of meeting our targets. Trading is a proven way to achieve maximum environmental benefit for every available euro, dollar, or yen. And artificially limiting it, as some here insisted, was simply unacceptable.
Some of our negotiating partners also chose to ignore physical realities of our climate system, depriving parties of another important pool by refusing them credit for carbon sequestered by their farms and forests. Again, this is not a new idea, but a fundamental feature of the Kyoto Protocol.
And, finally, they ignored the political reality that nations can only negotiate abroad what they believe they can ratify at home. The United States is not in the business of signing-up to agreements it knows it cannot fulfill. We don't make promises we can't keep.
One could hardly overstate the enormity of the task we faced here in The Hague. Forging a strong global warming agreement is a diplomatic challenge second to none. Like virtually no other issue in history, it truly implicates every nation on Earth. Given the sheer complexity of the issues, and the tremendous differences among us, our success at Kyoto was no small wonder. It is a profound disappointment that we were unable here to build on that foundation.
The Kyoto Protocol remains a landmark environmental achievement. It establishes a sound long-term framework for addressing climate change, combining strong environmental targets with flexible, market-based mechanisms for ensuring those targets are met cost-effectively. Today, there is broad and growing acceptance that these tools must be an essential part of any long-term strategy to fight global warming.
In the 3 years since Kyoto, scientific consensus on climate change has only deepened, and so has support for addressing it. This is nowhere more true than in the world business community. Three years ago, corporations came to Kyoto to block action. Three years later, corporations came to The Hague to contribute constructively. This momentum makes the outcome here at COP-6 all the more disappointing.
The pages of history are filled with stories of important and worthy international efforts that took years to triumph, and suffered many setbacks along the way. Some said the superpowers would never limit their nuclear arsenals -- but they did. Some said we would never rid the world of smallpox; that we would never join together to take action to fix the ozone hole in the atmosphere. But we did.
Likewise, I am confident that world efforts to fight global warming will continue. I am equally confident that the United States will continue be a leader in this fight. We will not give up. The stakes are too high; the science too decisive; and our planet and our children too precious.
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