THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 11, 1997 12:30 P.M. EST
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT
ON KYOTO AGREEMENT
The Roosevelt Room
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Senator Lieberman, I want to begin by thanking you for your very generous words and for your own leadership. I want to acknowledge your wife, Hadassah -- Joe and Hadassah Lieberman have been great friends to Tipper and me over the years, and I just really admire the principled leadership that Joe Lieberman has brought to environmental issues and practically every other issue that he has dealt with.
I also want to express my thanks to Deb Callahan of the League of Conservation Voters, and Tom Kasten, President of TriGen Industries, for being part of this program. I want to acknowledge my colleagues in President Clinton's Cabinet -- Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; Secretary of Energy Federico Pena; Administrator of the EPA Carol Browner; the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration James Lee Witt; Gene Sperling, head of the Nation Economic Council; Deputy Secretary of Treasury Larry Summers; and Deputy Secretary of Labor Kitty Higgins; and Deputy Secretary of Transportation Mort Downey; Jim Baker of NOAA; and Rich Rominger, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. I also want to acknowledge Stu Eizenstat and Katie McGinty, both of whom are still coming back from Kyoto.
There are leaders of the business and environmental organizations here -- forgive me for not trying to acknowledge everyone -- but there are some oil company leaders, companies that specialize in conservation products, leaders in businesses that trade emissions rights and so forth. And thank you all for being here.
History was made yesterday in Kyoto because, for the first time, the industrialized nations of the world agreed to a binding and realistic framework to deal with the enormous challenge of global warming. Because of yesterday's agreement, we can now begin to reduce the forms of air pollution that cause global warming. Our air and water here at home will be cleaner, and our businesses will be more competitive in the new global economy.
Over the course of the next century, it will mean that our children's future will be more secure from the dangers that scientists have warned about -- more record floods and droughts, spreading infectious diseases, melting glaciers and rising sea levels and stronger, more frequent storms.
I'm extremely proud of the work of our negotiating team and I'm especially proud of the work of our chief negotiator, Under Secretary of State Stu Eizenstat, who did a superb job in pulling together all of the facets of this negotiation and he really did a great job; and as mentioned by Senator Lieberman, the work of Katie McGinty, who joined Stu during the final work there. I also want to thank Under Secretary Tim Worth for the five years of hard work that he put into this agreement, and all of the others who have put so much time and effort into this over a long period of time.
No question about the fact that these have been among the most difficult negotiations ever held -- maybe the most difficult. One of the individuals that I met with in Kyoto earlier this week described them as an intricate, three-dimensional chess game. I think that kind of understates the difficulties of it. Over 160 nations participated and there were, as everyone knows, deep and profound differences among the different delegations.
But we hung tough, and in the end the final agreement was based on the core elements of the American proposal. And make no mistake, we stuck by the President's principles and we prevailed. This agreement reflects most of the key elements of the President's plan. It's based on the simple idea that it will not be government bureaucrats or regulators, but free markets and free minds that will be our best bet to win the battle against global warming, while lifting the lives and the hopes of citizens around the world.
The agreement will enhance growth and create new incentives for the rapid development of technologies through a system of joint implementation and emissions trading. It creates binding limits. It asks us to do what we promised, not promise what we cannot do. It is comprehensive, including all six greenhouse gases. And some of you know that there was a big fight there -- we wanted all six of them; most of the rest of the world just wanted to cover half of the greenhouse gases. It's also based on the specific timeline that we proposed. And it will create a level playing field for American industry.
I think that all Americans can and should be proud of the role that our country played in leading the world to finish this agreement. And we would not have reached this critical moment in what has been a decade's long fight, if it had not been for the vision and tenacity of President Clinton. As someone who has cared very deeply about this issue for a long time, I want to express my personal gratitude to President Clinton for his leadership and courage.
Although Kyoto is indeed an important turning point, everybody understands we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us. In many ways, this is just beginning. We still have to press for meaningful participation by key developing nations. We made a good start on that and laid down a foundation, put in place a framework and a negotiating process that will continue in the months ahead on that point. And let's be clear, as we said from the very beginning, we will not submit this agreement for ratification until key developing nations participate in this effort. This is a global problem that will require a global solution. But I am confident that with the framework achieved in Kyoto and the continued negotiations with the developing world begun there, we will be able to meet this test.
In the coming days and months it will be critical that we avoid looking at this effort through a narrow, political lens. Too much is at stake. We must focus instead on the longer-term future of our planet and our economy, and on the health and well-being of our families and communities.
This is not a Democratic or Republican problem. Nor is it a problem for any one nation alone. It is a problem for the entire world. It's new in that respect, and it requires new thinking and the kind of leadership that President Clinton has provided. The stakes are simply too high -- environmentally, economically and morally -- for us to allow the special interests to get in the way of the common interest of all human kind.
So many times in our nation's history we have banded together and successfully met what seemed to be an insurmountable environmental challenge. And each time the skeptics have said it couldn't be done at all or it could only be done at the cost of ruining our economy. We've heard that often. And each time they were wrong. From cleaning up our rivers and lakes, to combating acid rain, to tackling ozone depletion and others, our technology and our innovation have allowed Americans to enjoy a cleaner environment and a stronger economy at the same time.
Never in history have we had the kind of forceful, persistent environmental protection efforts we've had here in the United States over the last five years, and we've had the strongest sustained economic recovery at the same time that we've had in more than a generation -- 13.5 million new jobs, record low unemployment, the deficit almost eliminated, higher wages and more new businesses while inflation declined. So cleaning up the environment and strengthening our economy go hand in hand.
Before I go to your questions, let me conclude by saying I'm very optimistic today. I believe the American people can meet the challenge of global warming and end up with a better and stronger economy in the process. So on behalf of President Clinton, I call on all Americans in our best bipartisan tradition to join together in this critical undertaking, to stand with us on the right side of history. For in the end, I think that at at core of global warming is not just a challenge, but an opportunity to create a cleaner and more sustainable environment with new jobs and new businesses and a more secure future .
Thank you very much. I appreciate you all being here. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President, how much will this treaty cost the average American in either higher taxes or energy costs?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've completely ruled out new taxes of any kind as a means of meeting our obligations under this treaty. We have specifically indicated that the President will propose in his State of the Union address new tax incentives -- that is tax cuts -- to encourage the purchase of the new technologies that will be necessary in order to have more efficient uses of energy and generate less pollution.
Q Mr. Vice President, will you wait until after Argentina next year, when maybe the developing countries will come on board, before this treaty is officially submitted to the Senate?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as we said from the very beginning, we will not submit this for ratification until there's meaningful participation by key developing nations. Now, there is a negotiation now underway that will aim toward the meeting in Buenos Aires next November. However, there will also be bilateral talks with key developing nations.
And the progress made in the Kyoto treaty on joint implementation with credit offers mechanisms for pulling developing nations into this, voluntarily. And based on what we heard during these talks in Kyoto, I can tell you that while the world was given the impression that there was a monolithic opinion on the part of the developing world, actually lots of these developing countries have a different position and want to be a part of this treaty. Some of them are suffering the impacts of global warming already. Some of them are trying to urge the others to join in this.
And so we've got a big task ahead of us, but we've got some prospects of getting agreement to bring key developing countries in. We will not -- let me repeat -- we will not submit it to ratification, as we've said from the very beginning, until we have that participation from key developing countries.
Q Mr. Vice President, when you talk about -- are you talking about voluntary -- (inaudible.) The second part of the question is, even before the agreement -- (inaudible) --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all on your first question, no, we're not talking about voluntary limits. We're talking about voluntary agreements to join in binding limits. That's a big difference. And we don't have that yet, but we're heading in that direction and I think that there's reason for optimism that eventually we will get there.
Now, as for the second part of your question, there's going to be a huge debate in our country in the years ahead about why it's in our best interests to secure the future for the next generation and the generations after that. The fact is, we've reached a new period in history when the power that we have with new technologies in our civilization, multiplied by the larger population around the world, leads to the emissions of these greenhouse gases, a form of pollution that traps more heat in the atmosphere and changes the climate. And the consequences are devastating, unless we act. And the awareness of that fact has been growing steadily.
And I think that, as Senator Lieberman said a moment ago, the American people are ahead of the politicians where cleaning up the environment is concerned. They want cleaner air, they want cleaner water, they want less pollution, and they want the new technologies that create new jobs and new businesses as we take the lead here in the United States in making and selling this new generation of products around the world.
Q Would you prefer to see this come in 1999 after a new Congress has been sworn in? And does it help you or hurt you if this becomes a serious 1998 campaign issue?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have no idea what the answer to the second question is. On the first question, we will concentrate on getting the meaningful participation from these key developing countries, and that will be the threshold that we have to cross before sending it for ratification. We've said that from the very beginning; I reiterate it again here today. And that's without regard to other thresholds in the political process.
Q But again, does it help you if it becomes a campaign issue or does it hurt you to be demagogued so easily?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know the answer to that question. I think the American people want to see the people in public office in both parties do the right thing. And I believe that protecting the environment is the right thing. And I think that they're way ahead of political calculations on this. They see the problem. They see the need to solve the problem. And we need to debate this issue fully and completely, and we will.
But I think that at the end of the day, the strongly-felt opinion of the American people will win out.
Q How are you going to fight the special interest groups?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the same way we did when we fought for clean water and clean air. I think when people at the grass-roots level get involved, you will see the miracle of American democracy, where the public interest eventually wins out. We've got some representatives of religious groups here today. We've got representatives of grass-roots citizens organizations. There's a movement out there in America that rejects this false conflict between the economy and the environment. And there's a growing realization that the environment is the economy and that if we get serious about cleaning up our air and water and stopping the pollution that leads on a global basis to this problem of climate change, then we're going to create more jobs and more new businesses and a higher quality of life in the process, and a stronger economy overall.
So this is in the best interests of the United States and the world. And we're going to be tireless in trying to convey that message and enlist men, women, children and families all across the United States in an effort to make sure that our country does the right thing.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. (Applause.)