"There needs to be transparency so everybody can have confidence that everybody else is undertaking what they said they're going to do," Stern said. "And there needs to be a sense where the whole world is going with respect to emissions. We can't be in a world where transparency is just trust -- 'Trust us, and we'll tell you what we're doing' -- there's got to be some type of consultative-type process that allows countries to look at each other and get confidence that everybody is doing what they say they are."
China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa have in recent weeks begun spelling out some of their offers for curbing emissions, including a pledge from Beijing to reduce greenhouse gases 40 to 45 percent by 2020 relative to economic growth.
"It's one of the things to be optimistic about actually in the long run, and I hope in the short run also," Stern said of the proposals. "If you look around at what countries in the world, they're actually doing a lot. China has put down a number. It might not be the number everyone would like to see. But it is a significant proposal."
Still, Stern explained that the developing countries' proposals needed to be included in the international agreement, "not just that it's a press release domestically."
No U.S. funds for China -- Stern
From the developing world's perspective, any commitments developing countries make must come with financial support from the world's wealthy nations -- U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer has put the price tag at about $100 billion per year. Stern today focused only on a short-term pledge that the United States would offer its share of a $10 billion fund for 2010-2012, though that money would go toward the world's poorest countries, with an emphasis on adaptation and forestry.
China, with a $2 trillion reserve and a revved-up economy, won't be a recipient. "I don't envision public funds, certainly not from the United States, going to China," Stern said. "There's inevitably a limited amount of money. The amount ought to be as high as it possibly can be, but it's necessarily going to be limited. That's just life in the real world."
Developing countries in recent days have criticized the amount of funding from the developed countries, including the short-term figure. "If divided by the world population, it is less than $2 per person -- not enough to buy a coffee or a coffin in some of the poor countries suffering floods and droughts as a result of climate change," Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, a Sudanese diplomat who speaks for the Group of 77 developing countries, told reporters yesterday.
Stern pushed back today at the idea that the funding was necessary to account for the United States' historical contribution to global warming, something that some international activists have taken to calling "climate reparations."
"I actually completely reject the notion of a debt or reparations or anything of the like," Stern said. "Let's just be mindful of the fact for most of the 200 years since the Industrial Revolution, people were blissfully ignorant of the fact that emissions cause the greenhouse effect. It's a relatively recent phenomenon. It's the wrong way to look at this. We absolutely recognize our historical role in putting emissions in the atmosphere that are there now. But the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations, I categorically reject that."
Environmentalists offered mixed reviews on the U.S. envoy's opening remarks.
John Coequyt of the Sierra Club said Stern was spot on in calling for transparency and accountability from the developing countries. "That's a helpful frame for these negotiations and probably a good way to judge the final outcome of the agreement," he said.
But Greenpeace's Kyle Ash pushed back at the State Department negotiator.
"Todd Stern has arrived in Copenhagen blaming everybody else for the U.S. stance on climate change, from China to Denmark and, of course, his favorite fall guy, the Congress," Ash said. "This sets an extremely poor tone for the high-level segment of the climate summit between the U.S. and the rest of the world."
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500