Volker: U.S. and EU doing same thing on climate change
On February 12, GMF Berlin hosted a lunch discussion with Kurt Volker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs in the U.S. Department of State on U.S. climate policy.
In his remarks, Kurt Volker argued that the United States has a much better record on climate change than it usually gets credit for in Europe. In his words, "we're very much in the same place, doing the same thing", and it's primarily public perception that thinks there's so much transatlantic disagreement. He said that the United States has made tremendous investments in reducing emissions and "these efforts are producing results that stand up favorably against anyone in the world." In his opinion, the U.S. and Europe are doing a lot, but the problem is that together they don't even cover 50% of all CO2 emissions, so that the real challenge is how the U.S. and Europe can work with China and India in getting them clean technologies.
Kurt Volker acknowledged the fact that the United States currently still is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, but explained that this is to be expected considering the United States' position as the number one economy in the world. He went on to say that, looking at the trend line, the United States is actually ahead of the EU-25 when it comes to slowing down the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Using data from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, he remarked that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.3 percent from 2000 - 2004, while the EU-25 collective emissions increased by 2.1 percent.
He said the reasons for reducing U.S. dependency on fossil fuels go beyond the environmental aspects. He pointed out another motive for change: democracy and human rights. In this context, he mentioned countries such as Iran, Sudan, and Venezuela, but also referred to recent problems with Russia arguing that by reducing its "addiction to oil" the West would lessen the ability of governments who supply it to use that dependence for political ends.