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U.S. Climate Change Negotiator Says Time Is Right for a Deal

With the United Nations climate change conference imminent, the U.S. special envoy for climate change optimistically outlined what sort of agreement could drive the transition to a low-carbon world.

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Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change, told reporters Tuesday that he’s optimistic that a strong, worldwide agreement on combating global warming can be reached at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference that kicks off on Monday.

“The stars are more aligned right now to reach agreement than I have ever seen happen before,” Stern said during a teleconference with journalists.

Buoying his optimism, Stern noted that nearly 150 countries have submitted to the United Nations their intended nationally determined contributions that include targets to cut emissions. “That indicates a very considerable level of buy-in by the world community to getting this agreement done,” he said.

“Nobody would go through the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to put together one of these targets if they didn’t think the agreement was going to happen.”

Terms of Agreement

Stern said the United States is looking for an “ambitious, effective, fair, and durable” agreement that accelerates the transition to a clean-energy and low-carbon economy that is applicable to all countries.

To fulfill those expectations, the agreement must include strong provisions on reducing emissions; adapting to climate change already under way; transparency by countries in monitoring, reporting, and verifying emissions goals; and providing adequate financial and technical assistance to poor countries.

Noting that developing countries contribute 60%–65% of global emissions, Stern said, “You can’t solve climate change just on the back of the 30%–35% represented by developed countries.”

The agreement also must spell out the details, he added. “We need to make sure that what’s in this agreement is itself robust, itself makes clear where we’re going, [and] provides the guidance for any follow-up work that’s needed.” He deemed it “critically important” that the agreement send a signal to the public, civil society, and the private sector around the world “that the leaders of the world have taken on this issue, that we are moving forward, and that there is no going back.”

“Something that we want to be careful about is not trying to achieve an agreement which is just minimalist and puts off decisions too much to the future,” Stern said. “We don’t want to kick things over for the next time. Now is our time. This is the moment, and we want to seize it.”

—Randy Showstack, Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2015), U.S. climate change negotiator says time is right for a deal, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO040341. Published on 25 November 2015.

© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0