Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

Special Briefing
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

June 19, 2012

QUESTION: Thanks very much, Mr. Stern. Richard Black from the BBC. There is one specific thing I just wanted to ask you about in the document. “We reiterate the need to work collectively to prevent — and I stress the word prevent — further ocean acidification.” You know, as far as I am aware, scientifically there is no way to prevent further ocean acidification other than to turn off carbon dioxide emissions. So I wonder when you’ll be doing that.

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Well, you know, it is a good question, and I think that it is a positive thing in this document that there was a strong commitment on the importance of enhancing international cooperation on this issue. It’s a really important issue and it does relate to carbon. There are-I mean, there is a whole, as you know, a whole set of efforts going on at national levels in all the major countries to reduce CO2 emissions that, at the international level, obviously, all works through the UNFCCC, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and I could go on at more length if you wanted me to about that process, but I think that it is a good thing to shine the spotlight and call for a strong commitment. I think it is another reason, among many other reasons, why we need to reduce CO2 emissions. We in the U.S. and many other countries around the world are working on that. We made some quite, I think, positive progress over the last, really over the last three years. It was bumpy at first in Copenhagen, but it was a start. And I think that we’ve made some good progress in Cancun and then again in Durban on some concrete things that will be going on over the next number of years. And then in Durban also agreed that all countries would negotiate a new legal agreement of some kind that would take it, that would go into effect in the post-2020 period involving all countries. I think those are all positive steps and we just have to keep moving.

QUESTION: Charlotte Smith, Green TV in UK. Given that ocean acidification is one of the biggest impacts of climate change at the moment, the U.S. delegation is being accused of blocking progress on better protection for the high seas. Oceans was supposed to be one of the priority areas in this conference. Can you talk to that, defend it? And will the U.S. ever support a high seas agreement?

SPECIAL ENVOY STERN: Well, look, I don’t-I surely don’t think that the United States was remotely blocking efforts on oceans. We were quite an active part of the discussion. We are quite focused on this area. I have to say too often, but it’s true, that there are always challenging politics in the U.S. in many different respects. And we have been trying for quite some time now, a very long time indeed, to get the Law of the Sea Convention approved, and we have made a renewed, quite vigorous effort this year to try to do that. Indeed, Secretary Clinton testified in Congress and the Senate about this treaty just in the last few weeks. So we are very committed to progress with respect to oceans. There is some good language, good paragraphs in this outcome document today that involve sustainable fisheries and efforts with respect to fisheries that relate to the WTO and so forth. So the U.S. is not seeking to block progress, just the opposite.

Flickr.com, 19 June 2012. Full briefing.


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