U.S.-Norway Cooperation on Low-Carbon Economy

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs 
Bellona's 25th Anniversary Event "The Future is Carbon Negative"
Bellona, Norway
June 16, 2011

Thank you for that kind introduction and for including me in this impressive conference showcasing new technologies and innovative solutions to achieve a carbon negative economy. And congratulations to Bellona on your 25th anniversary.

The daily reminders of global warming are all around us—from rising seas to increasingly violent storms. I grew up in Bolivia where the glaciers of my childhood no longer stand high above the horizon. And just last year, I joined government officials from around the world in the Arctic to discuss the rapidly changing conditions of our world’s northern waters.

So from Bolivia to the North Pole, I personally have witnessed the stark conditions of our fragile climate, and I, along with President Obama and Secretary Clinton, am committed to a future marked by clean energy.

In his State of Union in January, President Obama committed to achieving a clean energy future. In his words, “The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out... We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high.”

So, the United States is investing more than $90 billion in clean energy; and we are working across government and industry to develop innovative clean energy solutions.

For example:

  • Through the Department of Energy, we are supporting more than $28 billion in loans and loan guarantees for 26 clean energy projects, including:
    • the world’s largest photovoltaic solar plant;
    • two of the world’s largest solar thermal projects;
    • the world’s largest wind farm,
    • and a biodiesel project that will nearly triple the amount of renewable diesel produced in the United States.
  • We are modernizing the electric grid so that it can carry remote sources of wind and solar energy. With $4.5 billion in Smart Grid investments, we expect 26 million homes to have smart meters by 2012—up from 8 million today. 

And through all of our clean energy efforts, the President is focused on bolstering the market for new technologies that will expand the parameters of existing capabilities.

Of course, Norway remains a leader on all of these issues, and we are grateful to have a close relationship on clean energy matters. In particular, I want to highlight three areas:

First, we are pleased to be working with Norway and the Arctic Council on the reduction of black carbon emissions in and around the Arctic. And we are grateful for Bellona’s leadership in encouraging the reduction of emissions from agricultural burning and shipping.

Secondly, we very much appreciate Norway’s commitment to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD+. The Norwegian government’s pledge of up to $1 billion to support Indonesia’s efforts to reduce emissions from forests and peat lands has set a new standard for international attention to this important issue, and the United States is following suit.

In 2010, we provided over $200 million in REDD+ assistance programs, and we have launched a number of new programs that enhance partner nations’ Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS).

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Finally, as we envision a carbon negative future, I want to highlight a third area that we are elevating in US foreign policy—and that is water security.

In a beautiful setting like Norway, with its world-famous lakes and fjords, it is easy to forget just how difficult it can be to obtain water in many parts of the world. Experts predict that by 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live under water-stressed conditions, and by 2030, the world’s demand for freshwater is expected to outstrip global supply by 40 percent.

Climate change will only make matters worse: Greater variability in rainfall will increase the number and severity of floods and droughts. Melting glaciers will increase the need for water storage.

So we must be clear-eyed about our reality: to meet the needs of future generations, we must be smarter with our water resources. Norway and the other Nordic countries have already been deeply involved in this challenge. Let me add just a few words about what the United States is doing.

Simply put, our goal is to see that people and the environment have the water they need, when they need it and where they need it, while also reducing the risks from extreme hydrological events.

To achieve this, the United States is working to increase access to safe drinking water and sanitation, improve water resources management, increase the productivity of water resources, and mitigate tensions associated with shared waters.

In order to achieve water security, we are pursuing five “streams” of action:

1. We are building and strengthening institutional and human capacity at the local, national and regional levels. Countries and communities must take the lead in securing their own water futures. We need to give them the tools to succeed.

2. We are increasing and better coordinating our diplomatic efforts. Put simply, we need to build political will so that countries—developed and developing alike—will prioritize water and sanitation in national plans and budgets.

3. We are mobilizing financial support. The United States is one of the largest bilateral donors to water and sanitation efforts. In 2009, we invested over $750 million for all water sector and sanitation-related activities in developing countries.

4. We are promoting science and technology. Recognizing there is no technological silver bullet, innovations in science and technology can make a huge impact, so we are creating new incentives and sharing expertise across government, the private sector, and civil society.

5. And Finally, we are building partnerships. Water security is not a challenge the United States can tackle on its own. There is a great deal of knowledge and experience that lies within technical agencies, the private sector, and the non-profit community; we need to bring these resources to bear internationally. We look forward to continued cooperation with Norway and others in the years to come.

Clearly, water security, black carbon and REDD+ are just three of the many interventions necessary for us to achieve a carbon negative future. But our cooperation on these three important areas is a strong indication of the United States and Norway’s shared commitment to building a better climate for future generations. With that, I thank you again for inviting me to be here with you today, and wish you all the best in your important work. I look forward to continued progress as we move towards a cleaner, greener world.