05/25/16 – Ambassador Lippert Remarks on Strategies and Global Cooperation for the Transition to a Low-carbon Climate Resilient Economy

Mark Lippert

-Session Title-
Strategies and Global Cooperation for the Transition to a 
Low-carbon Climate Resilient Economy

Remarks
Ambassador Mark Lippert
May 25, 2016  :

Welcome

Good afternoon, everybody. To Korean friends, 안녕하십니까 여러분, 마크 리퍼트입니다 반갑습니다.  (Hello, everyone, I’m Mark Lippert.  Good to see you.)  It’s a great honor to be here today, and really, hard to follow on two excellent presentations that really got to some of the issues confronting the global community on climate change.  Again, I just would like to thank the panel here.  I won’t go through everybody by name, but just to say, if you read through the bios, you get a chance to talk to them:  it is the expertise, it is serious substantive engagement, and long experience on really important issues.  So it’s just fantastic that Director General Lee, and MOFA, and the Jeju Forum are able to bring this panel together.  Let me say, that’s exactly the type of questions, exactly the type of issues that the Jeju Forum is designed to tackle.  Sharing best practices, working together in a cooperative manner to solve the world’s toughest problems –that’s what this forum is all about; and you are to be commended for it in convening this panel today.

Importance of Climate Change

I would also say, the reason I am on this panel today is because this is a critical priority for the United States of America, for President Obama, for Secretary Kerry, and countless other senior administration officials and more importantly, the American people.  We are deeply concerned and we are deeply seized by this issue.  And we view this as a critical challenge to the international community and the United States as well.

It doesn’t take a scientist to see the effects of climate change already.  In fact, 97% of peer review studies point to the downside effects of climate change.  These include floods, unprecedented droughts, and higher global temperatures.  I can go through a long list of these serious consequences, needless to say, President Obama likes to quote Martin Luther King when he talks about climate change.  He says, “There is such a thing as being too late,” and we cannot be too late on this issue.  So today, I want to go through a couple of different areas on which the United States is working – obviously, domestically, bilaterally with good partners especially here in Korea and also in multilateral efforts with the international community.

Let me start by talking domestically.  The United States recognizes our role in helping create this issue, but also very much embraces our responsibility to do something about it.  And we believe, in the United States, that the world will require a fundamental change in the way we power our planet, and of course, our country.  We, in the Obama administration, are extremely proud of our record.  Let me make a few points that highlight the progress that we made in President Obama’s seven-plus years in office.

Technology and Economy of Clean Energy 

First we, the United States, will emit less than we have two decades previously.  We will have doubled the distance cars will travel on one gallon of gas by 2025, tripled wind power output, and the costs of solar power are exponentially down while their availability is exponentially up.  We have stopped public financing for certain kinds of coal and carbon-based power plants.  On methane, the United States took four separate actions that will reduce [emissions by] up to 400,000 short tons of methane by 2025.  And through President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plans, we are on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.  Well, I can go on with a number of statistics and accomplishments as an administration – but in the interests of time let me summarize by saying this:  we, as a result of these and other actions, will have cut carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth, and that is something we are very proud of.

But although we recognize that this is a great record of accomplishment, we also recognize that there is much, much, more work to do.  I think some of the panelists already have identified areas in which we can be more productive.

We are working to effect better policy coordination that gets to some of the issues that were already mentioned.  Our agricultural department, our defense department, our environmental agencies.  That’s why White House leadership has been, and will be, critical in this effort.

Paris Agreement

But let me pivot here internationally, quickly, and say that we also recognize that if all the industrialized countries went to zero on their output, 65% of carbon emissions would still come from the developing world.  Carbon pollution is carbon pollution.  Secretary Kerry said that it doesn’t matter if it’s in Beijing, or Bangkok, or Baltimore or Kolkata, or Cape Town, it still has an effect on this planet.  And that is precisely why Paris is so important, that is precisely why the slide that was previously shown during this panel really elucidated some of the accomplishments and important indicators in deliverables out of Paris.

Let me say that no agreement is perfect.  Even if all the targets of Paris were met, we would only be part of the way there.  But, it doesn’t detract from the significant accomplishments of Paris, and it doesn’t detract from the fact that Paris built a platform on which we can ratchet up and build.  I won’t go through all the details of Paris, but let me just outline a few reasons why we, the United States, strongly support it.

First, it’s ambitious.  You saw the slide that outlined we want to keep the temperature rise below 2% Celsius and target 1.5%.  Second on flexibility:  it recognizes different national capacities, different national economies, different capabilities, and that’s why you have a national planning structure.  Having said that, there has been criticism of the national planning structure:  it’s not binding; there are issues with it.  But that’s why this third point, transparency – which is binding – is so important.  It provides oversight, it provides opportunities for assistance, it provides opportunities for best practices and sharing.  It provides for a five year periodic review, as shown on the slide, and in some sectors, even earlier.  So that is an incredibly important piece of Paris.  Let me make one other quick point – it’s global:  over 190 countries, more than 95% of all emissions.  And to the point that Mr. Dawson made about political leadership:  175 heads of state came to New York to sign the agreement, and that is a big signal to our bureaucracies.

Two other quick points concerning Paris beyond the agreement itself.  On the economic side, the agreement, the leadership, sent a big market signal to the private sector, to private equity, that will help reinforce the agreement.  It also – and I think this might be perhaps one of the lasting consequences of Paris – it showed that we could break through the old arguments that held us up for twenty plus years.  Secretary Kerry called it soap opera.

A couple of the old arguments that were smashed by the Paris agreement are as follows.  The argument that the old divides couldn’t be bridged – developing countries and developed countries.  Well, when the United States and China came together, that was a huge catalyst, and as a result, we got there.

Second, another old myth was:  you can’t get the private sector interested.  Well, in Paris, and on margins of other international organizations, you will see some of the biggest influential companies that have come and provided resources, leadership, expertise and etc.

And finally, another myth that was smashed was the false choice that had been previously established in conventional wisdom:  you have to always choose between economic development and responsible stewardship for the planet.  I won’t go through all the economic data, but Secretary Kerry has outlined this forcefully in a number of speeches.  He said, “Clean energy is one of the greatest economic opportunities the world has ever known.”  By 2035, the demand for new energy investment will reach nearly $50 trillion – T, trillion with a T – and countless other economic opportunities.  The cost of clean energy is now far cheaper than it was.  It is even cheaper when you measure it against the consequences of climate change.  One other data point on this is that the price of solar power is down 80% and installed capacity is up 500%.  So in other words, there are real economic opportunities here as well.

So, in Korea, President Park herself – and I don’t want to steal Director Lee’s thunder, but – she has said that this will unlock a new market in the neighborhood of 100 billion dollars by 2030, and possibly create 500,000 new jobs in this industry.  President Obama said this on the economic opportunities – then let me move off of this point – he basically said we have driven carbon pollution down to the lowest levels in the United States in two decades while our economic output is at all-time highs.  So it shows that the old paradigms can be broken.

Clean Energy

Moving off of Paris, this brings me to the third and penultimate topic:  resources.  You have heard me talk about what United States is doing, you heard me talk about our strong support for Paris.  But let me make a point on resources, because in many respects, resources often are a key indicator for seriousness of purpose.  The United States and other industrialized countries recognize the need to provide assistance to developing countries, to build capacity and to ensure access to low-cost technology in order to start to solve this problem.  I won’t bury you in numbers, but I do want to make the point that the U.S. contributions and commitments to this part of the puzzle are very serious.

Let’s take Mission Innovation.  Mission Innovation is designed to fund research and development efforts that we will ultimately need to accomplish our goals of rolling back this serious problem that confronts the world.  We will need technological innovation to get to our targets, our goals to reduce climate change.  Now the good news is, we didn’t just say, “Well we will need it, and hope it will happen.”  We the international community put resources against it.

The United States announced that it will double its contribution from $5 billion to $10 billion for this important initiative.

On the Green Climate Fund which we heard about, which the Republic of Korea has done a superb job of hosting – and the work is spectacular – the United States has pledged $3 billion.  Mr. Dawson did a fantastic job of outlining how the work of this international organization, with other organizations, really will drive home implementation in many ways.

In the United States, our total dollars for climate finance annually totals about $2.3 billion.  Of that, $800 million is grant-assisted.  That is almost one billion dollars in loans and grants.  And I could go on, but on the slide there is the Copenhagen Pledge as well of $100 billion per year.  So that is serious money to address a serious issue.

Finally a word on the private sector:  financing for climate projects, in our estimation, now is close to $650 billion per year.  Some of the biggest U.S. companies and financial institutions have put their weight behind this effort.  Citibank:  $100 billion per year, for the next decade.  Bank of America:  $125 billion over for the next decade.  Goldman Sachs:  $100 billion over the next decade.  That sends not only a signal on resources, not only on seriousness of purpose; it sends a big signal to the market that there is serious money for this market.

International Cooperation

Let me conclude quickly by outlining what’s next, what’s next on our agenda in the short term.  First, in Korea, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak a little bit about my day job:  the bilateral relationship.  Our two presidents in October put a huge priority on this issue.  We rolled out five new priority areas for the alliance, two of which are energy and environment.  Our two presidents endorsed that as a core part of our alliance.  And as a result, ongoing work that we are already doing, from local smart grids to multilateral work, to really, energy storage; that has been accelerated, that has been bumped up in priority, and I think that portends the future of this relationship.

A final point on the Korea relationship, part of the signal that the two leaders sent, is that we want to start addressing some of the problems that Mr. Dawson outlined, which was, let’s get younger expertise involved early so we can have that cadre [of leaders] well into the future, and that is part of the signal our two leaders are trying to send.

The last two points on what’s next.  We are working hard on the HFC amendment.  We are very interested in amending the Montreal Protocol:  we are hopeful that our diplomatic efforts will bear fruit this fall.  That is a key priority for the United States.  And finally, early entry into force of Paris.  You saw Secretary Kerry on the margins in New York in April host 50 senior representatives of 50 different countries aimed at trying to get Paris entered into force sooner rather than later.


Closing

So let me just say this in closing:  we are very proud of what we are doing domestically, we are proud of what we are doing bilaterally, with great partners in the ROK, we are proud of all the great multinational work.  But much more work needs to be done.  We are ready for the challenge, and we look forward to working with each and every one of you to accomplish these goals.  Thank you.