Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern

The Special US Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, said he is “not pessimistic” about a climate change conference scheduled for later this year but he warned that the US will back a revised Kyoto protocol depending on what shape it will take and what nations sign on.

“The US position is that it would consider it only if it is genuinely binding with developed and developing countries including China and others without escape hatches,” Stern told reporters at the end of the 12th Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington (September 19). The meeting took place ahead of the Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, scheduled at the end of November.

Stern said the future of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change was the key subject at the Forum. “It was one of the toughest issues, if not the toughest issue in the negotiation. What happens to it? Will there be a second commitment period or not? What shape would the regime take? These are controversial and difficult subjects.”

The Major Economies Forum was launched by President Obama in 2009 to provide open and frank discussions on climate change issues in support of concrete progress in the United Nations climate negotiations.

The 17 members of the Major Economies Forum are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition, representatives from Colombia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Spain attended.

Asked about a perceived loss of confidence in President Barack Obama on the international front, Stern replied, “I think what people in the climate change world were hoping for with quite a lot of vigor in 2009-2010 was for the comprehensive energy and climate legislation that we tried to get enacted…and there was a lot of satisfaction when it got through the House, but disappointment when it didn’t get done.”

Stern praised the President’s accomplishments in regulating the transportation sector, increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and making major investments with significant impacts on renewables. “Would people like to see the US do more? Absolutely. No doubt about it… I think there is a lot of faith that the President wants to get things done.”

Asked what kind of progress might be accomplished in Durban, he said “I am truly not pessimistic,” adding that “several specific results could be achieved in Durban with respect to the Green Fund. There could be good progress on how to set that up…I’m not predicting what will happen but they have to go as a package.  We can’t say we want a Tech Center or a Green Fund…so throw transparency overboard. No, we’re not doing that. I’m not a bit pessimistic. I think there’s real work that can get done.”