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OPENING STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE SAM GEJDENSON, CHAIRMAN,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC POLICY, TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT From the start of the global warming debate, many have argued that we cannot protect the global environment and the interests of U.S. business at the same time. Tough action on global warming, they argue, will cause far-reaching damage to the American economy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. American firms are on the cutting edge of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean coal technologies. Tough U.S. action to stem global warming will help ensure that American firms will move forward with environmentally sound technology which will undoubtedly dominate the international market in the 21st century.
In the subcommittee's hearing in March on global climate change, it was clear that the Bush administration's National Action Plan failed to grasp this basic concept. This was by no means the only flaw in the draft plan, however.
The plan failed because it did not commit the United States to return to 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000.
The plan provided no direction for American policy because it simply restated existing U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The plan returned to the "hat and sunglasses” days of former Interior Secretary James Watt by giving too much attention to the different ways that Americans can live with the effects of global warming, such as rising oceans.
President Clinton, however, has made it clear that Congress can expect a completely different global warming policy from his administration. In his recent Earth Day speech, the President announced that the previous administration's National Action Plan would be thoroughly rewritten. In a dramatic break with the past, he also said that the United States would return to 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000.
Today, we have the opportunity to receive testimony from the Honorable Tim Wirth. We are fortunate to have him heading up the administration's efforts to protect the global environment. I called today's hearing so that we could discuss the details of the Clinton administration's new global climate change policy. In particular, I would like to examine:
• the strengths and weaknesses of the draft plan from the Clinton administration's standpoint;
• the new policies and programs being considered by the administration to improve the plan's effectiveness;
• the timetable for reviewing and improving the plan, particularly those aspects related to technology transfer; and,
• the possibility of committing the United States to further reductions in greenhouse gases beyond the year 2000.
By signing the Climate Change Convention in Rio, the United States agreed to draft a meaningful plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help developing countries achieve this important objective. Having examined the Bush administration's draft plan, it is clear that the United States has yet to live up to its commitment.
I believe that the United States must put together a meaningful, far-reaching plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and to promote U.Š. environmental technology firms. I would like to thank my old friend and colleague, Tim Wirth, for coming before the subcommittee today to explain how such a plan will be written.
Testimony of Timothy E. Wirth
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Economic Poli Trade and Environment
May 18, 1993
I am delighted to be with you today to discuss the Clinton Administration's policies on global climate change.
I am especially pleased to appear before the Subcommittee on Economic Policy, Trade and the Environment as this subcommittee will consider many of the priorities that our nation is facing in a challenging and changed world order.
Foremost among those challenges is a broad set of international environmental concerns about which we are learning more all the time. Perhaps overarching all others in terms of its centrality, complexity and challenge is broad scientific and international concern about the issue of global warming.
Addressing this issue will require close collaboration between the Administration and the Congress, including this Committee. It will also require significant U.S. leadership because we cannot solve this problem on our own: we must help guide the international resolve that has developed in support of action to prevent dangerous human intervention in the complex climate system that influences so many aspects of our society and our world.
Let me begin by reviewing the international context in which we now confront the issue of global warming.
While concern about human intervention in the Earth's natural climate system has existed for some time, global warming has emerged rapidly in recent years as a powerful foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Driving this process have
been advances in the scientific basis for concern. As our understanding of the atmosphere has improved, we have become more aware of how our actions affect it. It is clear that human activities are increasing atmospheric concentrations of "greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide). While there are uncertainties about the magnitude, timing and regional patterns of effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations, there is sound scientific evidence that the rate of climate change in the next century could far exceed any natural changes that have occurred in the last 10,000 years, and that the Earth would be warmer than it has been in millions of years. Furthermore, the change in atmospheric composition will persist for decades and possibly centuries because of the long atmospheric lifetime of some of these gases.
The climate Convention
Last year, the international community acknowledged this scientific concern and took the first steps to address this significant challenge for the world. More than 150 nations signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Earth Summit last June and to date it has been signed by more than 160 countries. The United States, along with sixteen other natiors, have now ratified the treaty.
As you and this committee are aware, Mr. Chairman, the Climate Convention was the subject of considerable discussion and debate last year. Let me take a moment to discuss what specifically is in the treaty.
The Convention's ultimate objective is to:
"(A) chieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of
This is a major undefined challenge perhaps requiring massive reductions in emissions. As a first step to agreeing on the international action required, the Convention set forth a series of commitments in Article 4. While the language of these commitments is rather confusing, let me quote the critical lines from paragraph 2 (a) and (b) of this Article. Article 4.2(a) states:
... parties shall adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting ... anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing ... greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs. These policies and measures wil! demonstrate that developed countries are taking the lead in modifying longer-term trends in anthropogenic emissions consistent with the objectives of the Convention, recognizing that the return by the end of the present decade to earlier levels of anthropogenic emissions ... would contribute to such modification..."
Article 4.2(b) goes on to say:
"In order to promote progress to this end, each of
While the language contained in these paragraphs is non-binding in terms of emissions reductions requirements, the intent of the negotiators was to have countries move toward the Convention's ultimate objective through the preparation of inventories of their net greenhouse gas emissions -- including both sources and sinks of all greenhouse gases, and the adoption by developed countries of national policies and measures to mitigate climate change and to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the Convention calls for developed countries to provide resources to help developing countries meet their obligations under the Convention. And, finally, it calls for countries to report on the actions they are taking to meet their commitments. The Conference of the Parties, which the United States anticipates will meet for the first time in mid-1995, will review these reports, and the adequacy of the commitments under the Convention. Subsequent reviews will take place at regular intervals, with the second review coming no later than December of 1998.
Since assuming office, President clinton has directed his Administration to conduct a broad review of international environmental conceras, including global climate change. Through this process, the President has determined that the United States should provide leadership to help guard against undesirable global climate change.