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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Preview of Upcoming Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Ministerial (ECPA) and Sixth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM6)

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz
Washington, DC
May 20, 2015




11:00 A.M. ET

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Thank you.  Thank you, Cynthia, and thank you all for coming here for a little chat about what is fundamentally really a road to Paris and then, of course, a road from Paris, but a major stop on the way being Mérida, Mexico next week where I think in a pretty unusual format we are putting together two ministerial meetings that address climate and energy.  The first, I think as you know, the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, and then immediately – in fact, with a little overlap, the clean energy ministerial.  So this has been engineered with our gracious Mexican hosts to, in fact, have the opportunity then for a set of Western Hemisphere ministers to also engage with the 20-plus countries in the Clean Energy Ministerial, countries that represent something like 80 percent of the global emissions. 

So we’re looking forward to this, and again, Mexico is really, I think, stepping forward not only by offering leadership in these two meetings, but in addition, of course, not so long ago coming out with their own emerging economy set of commitments for Paris.  And then I’ll come back to that because together with that announcement, as you probably know, there was also an announcement by the presidents of a joint task force that I will chair on the American side that is looking at how we’re going to be able to work together to meet our commitments. 

So let me just say a little bit now more broadly about the arc of our pathway to Paris and what we, especially the Department of Energy, within the U.S. Government, will be trying to emphasize along the way.  And that is, starting with that last point, specifically, our focus is going to be on what we call the solution space.  So the idea here is in Paris in December we are anticipating, and I think it’s been very encouraging so far – we are anticipating a very significant number of countries coming forward with ambitious targets – plans at various levels of development, but certainly ambitious targets.  And we believe that an absolutely critical part of being able to meet those targets is going to be continued technology innovation leading to cost reduction of clean or low-carbon technology.  

So in the U.S. Government we do have a set of responsibilities, including setting efficiency standards for appliances and this – and the like, but I would say the one area where we are really quite unique is being in the leader of advancing technology innovation and the underlying science.  So I just want to say it right up front, in all of these meetings we will be at least representing very strongly the critical role of technology innovation.

Now in terms of the path to Paris for us, if I start by going back a ways to last November, of course, the announcement in China by President Xi and Obama in terms of joint commitment on climate we think was – and I think many others think was – certainly a very important event where the two largest emitters – two largest economies came together to, first of all, state jointly a commitment to being ambitious in addressing CO2, greenhouse gas emissions.  And I would have to say that in my own experience, that announcement has certainly changed the nature of the discussion both domestically here in the United States and especially internationally.

In fact, I would just mention, as well, that just about a week and a half ago I had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Fabius of France, who will be the president of the COP meeting.  And both the themes I already mentioned, the significance of the U.S.-China announcement last November, and the idea of a central role for technology innovation and cost reduction, was very much the focus of our discussions and a place where we certainly agreed.

Now, without going through every other step along the way, let me just say a little bit more about the meetings in Mexico, and then a little bit about some additional – at least one additional meeting between Mexico and Paris that we will discuss.

So if I change to – if I switch to – no, actually I’m going to say one more thing with regard to China.  The announcement of the presidents, of course, was accompanied by a set of statements about collaborative work.  And again, given my Department of Energy hat, just to focus on one of those, if you had a chance to look at it, was an expansion in scope and scale of what’s called the Clean Energy Research Center that U.S. and China have been working together on for five years in a variety of areas.  So one of them, which is again very much in line with particular U.S. and Chinese needs, is that of carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.  But there was more, including adding an entirely new track on the energy-water nexus.

Then going to Mérida next week.  There are actually three things happening; I mentioned already the two summits, and I’ll come back to that.  But I do want to note in addition that we will have – maybe not a full-fledged formal meeting, but a meeting of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral taskforce that I mentioned set up by the presidents when Mexico made its INDC.  So Minister of Energy Joaquin Coldwell will be the host of the summit meetings and will be there, but Minister Guerra, minister of the environment, will also come to Mérida for the ability foras to get together, discuss how this taskforce can go forward. 

And that will then lead into the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas.  We’re going to be talking about ways in which quite a few of the Western Hemisphere countries have already come out with strong, ambitious targets.  What we can do – again, technology innovation will be a big part of the discussion to – for all of us to meet our needs.  And of course, I should note – especially because yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the Brazilian ambassador, who’s just arrived, basically, in Washington D.C. and who himself has been deeply involved in climate negotiations – how working with Brazil will be important.  Of course, we have the visit by President Rousseff coming up at the end of June.  And I may say I think we all recognize that of course Brazil is already a pretty low carbon economy with its major hydro sources, with its big ethanol commitment, et cetera.  So anyway, I think we’re going to have a lot to discuss in this ECPA meeting.

Then, again, that’ll be followed by the Clean Energy Ministerial.  As I already mentioned, 80 percent of global greenhouse emissions; about 90 percent of the global clean energy investment in the country’s represented there, and there we are going to be discussing – as agreed last year in South Korea, we are going to be discussing what we have been calling SIM 2.0 – that is kind of upping the game in a certain sense, a very appropriate on this road to Paris.  And so with China and India, the European commission, the U.S. and others working together again, we are going to focus on this clean energy revolution that I think is going on right now.  We will be talking about a number of important directions where we think we can move out as a group. 

An example would be in the technology revolution sense.  We have seen this dramatic – I mean, I would even say incredibly dramatic reduction, for example, in things like LED costs.  Well, how are we going to take advantage of this and move out with the tremendous economic and environment implications?  We will talk about an area that we discussed in quite some depth in our recent Quadrennial Energy Review: the need to modernize electric grids.  This is something that I think all of our countries face, and so we’re going to be talking about that.  And modernizing the grid addresses two different facets of the climate change challenge.  One is mitigation.  For example, we need to get a modern grid in order to be able to take advantage of efficiency opportunities, to integrate large-scale renewables into the system.  But we also need to look at our grid from the point of view of the risks of adapting to the changes that we are and unfortunately will probably see more of with extreme weather.  Of course, there are also cyber threats, which are not climate connected, of course, but a variety of issues.

And finally, we’re going to be talking about what we can do to extend something that has already been covered under the same umbrella, and that is – where DOE, again, is very heavily involved, and that is the Clean Energy Solution Center, which is a mechanism that has been taken advantage of already by 80 countries in terms of getting essentially technical assistance in a web-based delivery platform.  And we feel that’s been very effective and we are looking to get more partners in there – more, if you like, consultants or technical experts from multiple countries who will be available to provide this kind of advice, especially to developing countries for climate solutions.

I might just add that the CEM has also had other focus areas and, as one example in terms of human capacity building, established something called C3E, which is a long acronym for bringing more women into clean energy.  So the CEM, I think, has been effective and now we’re looking to, again, up the game in terms of 2.0, and that’ll be an important discussion in Mérida.

The last thing I’ll just say is now – I’ll just give one more example of a stop on the way to Paris, and that is that in November, I will have the opportunity to chair the International Energy Agency – IEA – biannual energy ministerial.  That happens to fall just a couple of weeks before the COP meeting in Paris, and that’s going to be another place – so I’ll just go back to my opening theme – technology, innovation for cost reduction is going to be, again, a major theme that we can then ride into COP for hopefully supporting the ambitious targets put forward by the international community.

So that’s kind of the big picture, and I’m happy to answer some questions.

MODERATOR:  Great.  So we’ll go into the question and answer.  I again would like to ask individuals, please wait for the microphone.  We are transcribing.  And please identify yourself by name and outlet.  And I’d like to ask – we have a lot of interest, I’m sure – let’s try to keep the questions to one or two-point questions.  New York, if you have a question, please approach the podium, and I’ll call you in due order.

I’m going to start right here with Claudia.

QUESTION:  Hi, Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de Sao Paulo.  I’d like to – what can we expect on the climate change issue from the Brazilian in the meeting that you have during the visit of President Dilma Rousseff here, considering the fact that, as you mentioned, Brazil already has a low level of emissions?  And what can you expect in this area and in terms of technology, what the U.S. could offer Brazil in terms of technology in this area?  Thank you.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I’m not sure I can predict what the specific outcomes will be of the President’s visit.  But it’s been reported, certainly, that the presidents had a very productive discussion in Panama.  And certainly in my discussion with the ambassador, there’s every indication that President Rousseff is very much committed to Brazil being a strong player in the international climate discussion.  So we’re obviously looking forward to Brazil’s specific plans.

Let me just note that – and this is not a statement in terms of specific outcomes, but an example of the uncertainties created by global warming and climate is certainly – if we don’t act aggressively – is that in many parts of the world, including potentially in Brazil, there are risks to water resources.  And so precisely in Brazil, with its tremendous dependence on hydro – and as you know, there have been some fluctuations year to year not only in Brazil, elsewhere – there is a concern there.  And that means one is going to have to have, I think, probably a robust plan for electricity provision that remains very low-carbon. 

So those are areas, again, where certainly the United States and others – but the United States would be looking forward to working with Brazil.  We can imagine, again, clean energy research collaborations on areas of mutual interest.  We already have a lot going on in terms of advanced biofuels – next-generation biofuels – but also Brazil has many remaining major opportunities with renewable deployment for electricity. 

So I think those are all going to be, I’m assuming, active topics of discussion.  And then using an existing mechanism called a strategic energy dialogue that we have with Brazil, we will presumably, I think, reactivate that to pursue the specific directions that we agree upon in the June visit.

MODERATOR:  Great.  I’ll go to Ching-Yi and then Andrei, I’ll move to you.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.  I’m Ching-Yi Chang with Shanghai Media Group.  You just mentioned about the U.S-China cooperation on climate issue.  And actually, Secretary Kerry just revealed that you are going to visit China very soon.  So for your upcoming visit --

SECRETARY MONIZ:  That was classified.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  So for your upcoming trip to China, what’s your expectation?  And for the upcoming U.S.-China S&ED in late June --

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Right.

QUESTION:  -- what kind of deliverables that you hope to see?  Thank you.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, I might say that last year’s S&ED in Beijing was, I thought, very productive and frankly was a big part of the platform leading to the November announcement.  Secondly, in the November announcement, it was announced that Secretary Pritzker and I would lead a kind of a trade-focused group on energy technology to China.  And regrettably – for me, at least – at the last minute I had to be involved with a different country discussion, so our deputy secretary went.  But she also went with the message then that I would visit between the S&ED and the visit of President Xi to the United States, so we are looking at a time in the mid to late summer to have that visit.

In that visit – again, I’m not going to get into specific deliverables at the moment, but one thing for sure is that – and I might add, by the way, that Minister Wan Gang will be in Mérida next week – but in China, clearly we will be looking at moving forward on the CERC – on the Clean Energy Research Center – and specifically in moving out on something of relevance to the last answer, the energy-water nexus work, where we both have a tremendous interest. 

Also, we have had our staff go now several times to set up something that I hope we can get more solidified, which is the next stage of our carbon capture and sequestration initiative.  Another area of great interest which I have to say is at the early stages, really, of discussion, but it was a major theme in the Commerce-Energy mission to China a month ago or two months ago, and that is looking at urban issues.  And of course that’s of great interest in China.  It’s of great interest here and very important globally.  So those are some of the areas we’ll be looking at.  Oh, I’m sorry – one other area which we always discuss and is very important is our continuing nuclear power collaboration, with China, as you well know, having by far the most aggressive building program in the world today.

MODERATOR:  Andrei?

QUESTION:  Thank you, and thank you, sir, for doing this, for coming over.  My name is Andrei Sitov.  I am with the Russian news agency TASS here, so another BRIC country.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  Everyone is interested and --

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Oh, that’s true.  Right, right.

QUESTION:  -- thanks, yes.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  So where’s the Indian representative?  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I guess coming up.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Not far behind.  Thanks to our hosts as usual, the FPC.

Basically, Russia and Ukraine.  You emphasized in your opening remarks the importance of science and technology cooperation, innovations.  Until recently, it was a major field of cooperation between U.S. and Russia.  Are you still interested in that sort of thing?  Are there any plans for resuming it anytime soon?

So that’s for Russia, and then I have a question on Ukraine if possible.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, with regard to Russian collaboration, there has been strong interest expressed on both sides in terms of having cooperation, but the reality is it’s been very hard to actually have it happen under the current circumstances, which we all understand.  And certainly on the area of nuclear collaboration, where we had very robust programs for quite a few years, that is essentially – I should emphasize it’s not entirely stopped.  I mean, we do have projects going on, but much of the work with Rosatom is now suspended. 

So we are always open to looking for areas of mutual benefit.  That certainly includes, I do want to emphasize, that our collaboration in terms of addressing nuclear materials in third countries has continued without interruption from the Ukraine situation.  That’s, again, an area of clear mutual security interest – by the way, as has, of course, both of our participation in the P5+1 discussions with Iran.  But look, the reality is that while we do have work going on together, it’s quite diminished at the moment, and I think we can only hope for a resolution of the Ukrainian situation.

MODERATOR:  Follow-up?

QUESTION:  And speaking about Ukraine, I know that you have practical cooperation with Ukraine at this point.  You deliver nuclear fuel.  So if you could just describe for me, please, briefly your plans for the future.  What’s in the realm of the possible?  Maybe producing nuclear fuel there, building a plant?  Would you be willing to finance such a plan?  Maybe building a nuclear reactor for them – what’s in the realm of the possible?  Thanks.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, I want to make clear we don’t do any of those things.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY MONIZ:  We – the – that’s right.  Now we did – going back to the 1990s, we did – at the Department of Energy we started supporting a program in terms of alternative fuel provision – that was with Westinghouse – fuel provision for Ukrainian reactors.  And that has now come to fruition in the sense that the – that program is starting.  Similarly, not the government per se but American firms involved also in nuclear spent fuel storage in Ukraine, and we certainly support that activity.  But again, we do not directly support any of those commercial – commercial activities. 

MODERATOR:  And our next question?

QUESTION:  Good morning.  This is Andy Judzik from South America, from Chile and Argentina press.  I want to ask you a question.  You mentioned technology in a moment, and I want to know what’s your impression about the advances in technology in all the region.  Some countries, for example Venezuela, are limiting the use of energy in this moment.  You can only use energy in some times of the day – some power.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  I don’t believe that’s a climate initiative.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Yeah.  In Argentina, also there were some problems with electricity and there is a lot of investments that are stopped in this moment because of the price of oil also.  I want to – and also there is another subject here, another competitor – China – that’s coming and investing.  For example, in terms of hydro they’re investing and giving resources in terms of finance, financing for new, super investments and projects.  China is coming to the region.  What is the point – what the U.S. can give to the Western Hemisphere in terms of technology?  What is the competitive advantage of the U.S. in this moment when you have all these countries with not so much advanced technology and another place like China interested in the region?

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, of course, obviously, we have an interest in our technology being exported to a variety of countries, and we do think we have a lot of excellent technology.  And it is happening in Chile.  For example, in renewables there’s quite a lot of engagement of the United States and including in the north of Chile with a lot of the need for energy in a dry part of the country.  And we are engaged there with solar-thermal and other technologies.

Now, I think a huge issue – and there is a major issue right now to be resolved over the next five weeks – and that is things like the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank which, of course, we believe is absolutely critical.  It’s critical for allowing – helping U.S. companies to participate in large projects. 

So we just think that this is a question of normal trade.  We need to have the mechanisms of support for that trade to remain in place.  But we also think that with the confidence that at least I personally have that we and many, many others – certainly, Chile is a good example of a country that I think is quite forward-leaning – that we are going to have a serious transformation of our energy system in an accelerated fashion relative to historical timeframes towards low carbon.  Well, that’s going to open up tremendous opportunities for all technology providers to provide that competitively, and also for the infrastructure one needs to put that energy system together, like the smart grid that I mentioned earlier.  So I just think there’s going to be a tremendous need, and there are going to be companies from all over the world that are going to be providing that technology.

MODERATOR:  I think we have time for one last question, and we’re going to go here to the third row. 

QUESTION:  Thank you for this.  I’m Jairo Mejia with EFE News of Spain.  I wanted to ask you if --

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Spain is an example of a technology provider in wind and solar.

QUESTION:  Yeah, green energy, wind and solar.  I wanted to ask you if cross-border cooperation in oil and gas with Mexico is going to be part of the discussion in Mérida, and also if we can expect any new announcements on integration of North America energy sector in this meeting in Mexico.  Thank you.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, there are a couple of different activities with Mexico.  One is this task force that I mentioned, which, on the Mexican side, is headed by Mr. Guerra.  We did have a preliminary meeting a few weeks back when he was in town for other reasons.  I should say, by the way, the task force, as I mentioned, that he chairs on the Mexican side I chair on the U.S. side, but in both cases these are multiagency task forces that spread across the government.

Just as one example, in our earlier discussion there was a lot of focus that we will now pick up again in Mérida around energy efficiency as a key issue, everything from – well, like efficiency standards to efficient technologies.  But there’s another activity specifically – because you mentioned the hydrocarbon issues – another activity specifically is the trilateral energy ministerial meeting.  So that involves Minister Joaquin Coldwell on the Mexican side.  And there, in our meeting in December, there was a – first of all, a very major discussion, which we appreciated – the Mexicans giving us a detailed presentation about energy sector reform broadly. 

And clearly, that leads in the hydrocarbon sector to new opportunities, but I would like to emphasize – and it’s been emphasized by Minister Joaquin Coldwell – that we should not forget about the electricity system integration.  And that will also provide qualitatively new opportunities, particularly, I would emphasize, in the context of climate, to maximally be able to use renewables on both sides of the border.  So that will – and I’m very much assuming inevitably is going to be part of our task force discussion in terms of meeting INDCs, in terms of how that energy – electricity sector reform will help with integration and renewables.

The last thing I’ll say on that is that another of the specifics in the December meeting, since you mentioned trilateral – and, of course, Canada also came out with an INDC declaration just last Friday – but in December, the three of us – the three energy ministers – signed an MOU in terms of much more energy data integration.  And I want to say that that has proved to be not just a piece of paper; it’s been very, very active and real progress has been made, including a meeting – a trilateral meeting – in Mexico City about a month ago so that we can share energy data and hopefully have all of us agreeing what the data are across the borders.  Okay.

MODERATOR:  And with that, I’m sorry, I think we have to close the briefing.  We are now off the record.  Thank you very much for the generous amount of time you spent with us.  Thank you.

SECRETARY MONIZ:  Okay, thank you.

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