Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: Andrew Light and Julian L. Wong on Today’s U.N. Climate Change Summit
Press Statement

STATEMENT: Andrew Light and Julian L. Wong on Today’s U.N. Climate Change Summit

Review statements by CAP Senior Fellows as well as a Myth v. Fact Sheet on international climate change negotiations.

To read the Myth v. Reality sheet on current International climate change negotiations, click here.

Andrew Light, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, on President Obama’s Speech

"In a historic address to the world today at the U. N. Climate Summit, President Barack Obama acknowledged what no other U.S. president has acknowledged before: That the United States has not been living up to its historical responsibility to respond to climate change: “It is true that for too many years, mankind has been slow to respond to or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. It is true of my own country as well. We recognize that. But this is a new day.” In another first he acknowledged that developed countries like the United States “caused much of the damage to our climate” and “have a responsibility to lead.”

This was welcome news to the assembled delegates who received the clearest statement yet of America’s return to the global discussion on addressing our world’s biggest challenge.

Two new announcements stand out from the address.

First, that the United States will embark on a first ever program to track the amount of greenhouse gas pollution emitted throughout the country. The president made this announcement just moments prior to the EPA announcing a new reporting rule to establish an economy-wide program to monitor emissions covering approximately 13,000 large facilities accounting for 85 to 90 percent of U.S. emissions. This program would establish a critical baseline necessary to measure future success for domestic emission reduction programs. It would also go further to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we will have the capacity to measure, report, and verify our reductions, just as we expect developing countries to do eventually.

Second, that the United States will propose a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies at the G-20 meeting later this week in Pittsburgh, PA. This idea was originally floated in a letter to colleagues by White House G-20 leader Michael Froman on September 3 arguing that moving to an elimination of fossil fuel and electricity subsidies would “help energy markets work better and improve our energy efficiency.” While this letter was made public in the press last week the president’s speech today was the first official acknowledgment of this move. Though no details of this proposal are yet public suggestions are for eliminating non-needs based subsidies as well as providing assistance to non G-20 countries who take complimentary steps to reduce their subsidies as well. Both the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Energy Agency estimate that eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would reduce global emissions in 2050 by 10 percent. Raising this proposal at a forum that includes Saudi Arabia is a bold and unexpected move."

Read transcript of President Obama’s speech here.

Statement on Chinese President Hu’s Speech at Today’s UN Climate Summit

Julian L. Wong, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for American Progress, on President Hu’s Speech

"President Hu Jintao of China announced that China will build on existing domestic climate change policies as embodied in its National Climate Change Program and current Five Year Plan to step up its efforts on energy efficiency, development of low-carbon energy such as renewables and nuclear, and increase of forestry cover.

Most noteworthy was President Hu’s introduction of a new goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product from 2005 levels by 2020 by a “notable margin.” No specific numbers were provided, but this should not be surprising as such a far-reaching national policy must undergo various necessary legislative steps before it can become domestically binding. However this is the clearest signal yet that China is willing to take on responsibilities that are commensurate with its resources and global emissions impact. This policy would set China on a path to slow down its carbon emissions growth, and implicitly commits China to measure and report carbon emmissions in some verifiable way – a result that begins to meet the expectations that developed nations have of China.

The significance of President Hu’s announcements are best understood in the context of other very recent Chinese policy developments. In August, China’s State Council, led by Premier Wen Jiabao, laid down the objective of incorporating climate change considerations into the medium and long-term development strategies and plans of the Chinese government at every level. Later the same month, the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, essentially the inner circle of China’s main legislative body, adopted a resolution on climate change action that explicitly calls for the strengthening of domestic climate legislation while giving assurance that it will be a constructive player in the international climate process.

Taken together, President Hu’s latest message underscores China’s seriousness in tackling climate change and narrows the gap between the asks and wants among the developed and major developing nations in the international negotiations. This should serve as an indication to the developed countries of China’s good faith on climate action, and as a catalyst to other developing countries to formulate their own robust low-carbon strategies."

To read the Myth v. Reality sheet on current International climate change negotiations, click here.

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Suzi Emmerling
202.481.8224 or [email protected]

Radio: John Neurohr
202.481.8182 or [email protected]

TV: Andrea Purse
202.741.6250 or [email protected]

Web: Erin Lindsay
202.741.6397 or [email protected]


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