« PreviousContinue »
ADMINISTRATION VIEWS ON GLOBAL
TUESDAY, MAY 18, 1993
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC POLICY,
TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 1:30 p.m. in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Sam Gejdenson (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GEJDENSON. The committee will come to order.
It is a privilege for the committee to have a former colleague of ours and a former U.S. Senator.
Tim, it is great to have you here. Your record on environmental issues and your work in both the House and the Senate gives those of us who worked with you great confidence that you will undertake your new responsibilities and put America in the lead again. 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.
I might add that our colleague George Miller, when he returned from Rio, said that what he saw was America under the previous administration, apologetic about environmental issues. The Japanese, with exhibit after exhibit of Japanese technology and environmental clean-up methods, have caused great frustration for the United States. America, who is really taking much of the lead in this environmental technology, is not taking advantage of it.
And, clearly, from my perspective, 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 technologies which will not just give us an advantage in the international marketplace but will give us an advantage in our own productivity here at home.
In the subcommittee's hearing in March on the global climate change, it was clear that the Bush administration's National Action Plan failed to grasp that basic concept. This was by no means the only flaw in the draft plan.
The plan failed because it did not commit the United States to return to 1990 levels on 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 Secretary James Watt by giving too much attention to the different ways that Americans can live with the effects of global warming and the rising of our oceans.
President Clinton, however, has made it clear that Congress can expect a completely different global warming policy from this administration. In his recent Earth Day speech, the President announced that the previous administration's National Action Plan would be thoroughly rewritten and a dramatic break with the past. He also said that the United States would return to the 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000.
Today, we have the opportunity to receive your testimony, and we are fortunate to have you heading this administration's efforts to protect global warming. I called today's hearing so that we could discuss the details of the new administration-the Clinton administration's new global climate policy with you 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 approving the plan, particularly those aspects related to technology transfer; and the possibility of committing the United States to further reduction of 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 help developing countries achieve this important objective. Having examined the previous administration's draft plan, it is clear that the United States has not yet lived up to its commitment. I believe the United States must put together a meaningful, far-reaching plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to promote U.S. environmental technology firms.
Before giving you an opportunity to make your statement, I would yield to my Ranking Republican colleague, Mr. Roth. Mr. ROTH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will try to be brief. Mr. Wirth, it is great to have you before our committee.
Mr. WIRTH. Nice to be here, Toby.
Mr. ROTH. For a while, I was wondering if you were ever going to be here. You were a great Member in the House and did a great job in the Senate, and we are honored that you are with us.
Let me join the chairman in welcoming our former colleague and congratulating you again on your appointment as Counselor for Global Affairs. You have some of the most difficult and important foreign policy issues in your jurisdiction. Global climate change is one of those. There is a big debate over global warming.
I remember you were in Chile a number of years ago and you were looking at this issue. You are well versed in this area; the debate over what is causing it and what the future trends will be.
But in signing the Rio Convention last June, President Bush committed the United States to doing what it can to limiting the growth of the harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Today we will hear how the Clinton administration will pick up on what President Bush started.
Before we look at the details, let us keep in mind that many nations signed on to the Rio Convention, but the United States is virtually the only one in coming up with a specific plan to meet the goals of that Convention. With one or two exceptions, no other country has done as much as we have; and no one, frankly, has done more.
So instead of debating how perfect our plan can be, let's also focus on how we can get other nations to meet their commitments. Mr. Wirth, do you agree with that?
Mr. WIRTH. Oh, absolutely. I am going to address some of that in my statement. But I couldn't agree with you more, that we have a major leadership responsibility around the world, and it is appropriate that we exercise those responsibilities. Absolutely.
Mr. ROTH. Thank you, I look forward to your-to Mr. Wirth's testimony and the Q and A.
Mr. GEJDENSON. Tim, please proceed as you are most comfortable.
STATEMENT OF TIM WIRTH, COUNSELOR, DEPARTMENT OF
Mr. WIRTH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased to be back in this building in which I spent a dozen years. And I enjoyed almost all of that. And I am enjoying being back here today.
Mr. Roth, thank you very much for your kind opening comments. Mr. Ballenger, we didn't have a chance to serve together, but I look forward to working with you in this new incarnation for me. I am pleased to be here with this subcommittee, Mr. Chairman, which makes sense for the committee to focus on the issues of economic policy, trade, and the environment.
Let me say at the start that I greatly appreciated, and the administration greatly appreciated, your strong letter of March 25, in which you called for very strong U.S. action and leadership. We appreciate that and look forward to using that as further spring board for cooperation between the administration and the Congress on these enormously important issues.
Foremost among the challenges that we face 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 climate change. Addressing this issue will require close collaboration between the administration and the Congress, including this committee.
It will also require significant U.S. leadership as pointed out in Congressman Roth's question 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, if I might, Mr. Chairman, 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 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 greenhouse gas concentrations, there is sound scientific evidence that the rate of climate change in the next century would exceed any natural changes that have occurred in the last 10,000 years.
There is also evidence that the Earth would be warmer than it has been in millions of years. Further, the change in atmospheric composition will persist for decades and possibly centuries because of the long atmospheric lifetime of some of these greenhouse gases. Last year, the international committee acknowledged this scientific concern and took the first steps to address this significant challenge for the world. More than 150 nations signed a 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 16 other nations have already ratified the treaty.
As you on this committee are aware, Mr. Chairman, the Climate Convention was the subject of considerable discussion and debate in 1992. Let me take a moment to discuss specifically what is in the treaty.
The Climate Convention's ultimate objective is to, in its words: "Achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level could be achieved within a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner."
This is a major undefined challenge perhaps requiring massive reductions in emissions. As a first step to agreeing to the international action required, the Convention set forth a series of commitments in Article 4. While the language of these commitments is rather confusing at times, let me quote the critical lines of 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 will 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 these parties shall communicate . . . detailed information on its policies and measures referred to in subparagraph (a) above, as well as its resulting projected anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases... with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 levels these anthropogenic emissions..
While the language contained in these paragraphs is nonbinding in terms of emissions reduction requirements, the intent of the negotiators was to have countries move toward the Convention's ultimate objective through the preparation of their inventories of 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 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 action they are taking to meet these commitments.
The Conference of the Parties, which the United States anticipates will meet for the first time in mid-1995, will review all of 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 1998.
Since assuming office, President Clinton has directed the administration to conduct a broad review of international environmental concerns 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. President Clinton clearly set forth the direction of our climate policy in his Earth Day speech. He said, quote, "We must take the lead in addressing the challenge of global warming that could make our planet and its climate less hospitable and more hostile to human life. Today said President Clinton-I reaffirm my personal, and announce our Nation's commitment, to reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels by the year 2000.
"I am instructing my administration to produce a cost-effective plan by August that can continue the trend of reduced emissions. This must be a clarion call, not for more bureaucracy or regulation or unnecessary costs but, instead, for American ingenuity and creativity to produce the best and most energy-efficient technology." The administration is committed to seeing the Convention promptly implemented and, if necessary, strengthened.
To this end, the administration is taking a two-pronged approach: a domestic effort to reduce emissions and enhance sinks of greenhouse gases and an international effort including working to implement the Convention, and to support developing countries and countries moving toward free market economies, in meeting its goals.