35+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

The Clinton White House and Climate Change, Part II: Engaging the Oval Office

Clinton, Gore, and Podesta

President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore (left), and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta attend a White House meeting. Oval Office engagement was a key element in the administration’s climate change efforts. (Photo credit: Ron Edmonds/Associated Press)

Published: Apr 5, 2021
Briefing Book #753

Edited by Robert Wampler

For more information, contact:
202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Like Biden, Clinton Faced Big Challenges: Presidential Role Was Vital to the Strategy

China, Congress Presented Major Tests for the White House

Post-Mortem Cable Laments "Clock Ran Out" on Clinton, Criticizes China, EU, and G-77 for Obduracy

Washington, D.C., April 5, 2021 – President Bill Clinton’s climate policy faced some of its biggest challenges from two very different quarters – China and the Congress – according to a collection of recently declassified internal papers posted today by the nongovernmental National Security Archive. 

Cultivating China emerged early on as key to the administration’s efforts to build on the Kyoto Protocol because of Beijing's role as one of the leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters among developing countries.  Before considering ratification of the Protocol, Congress demanded the adoption of several measures, which threatened to isolate the United States even further.  Steps such as pushing developing countries to commit to GHG limits and allowing the use of carbon sinks and emissions trading struck much of the world as primarily serving America’s self-interest.

The records in today’s posting address these issues from a range of perspectives, notably those of White House aides and key Cabinet officers, and include weekly updates sent directly to President Clinton himself covering the spectrum of climate concerns. 

The documents provide useful parallels and insights for the Biden administration as it attempts to advance its own ambitious climate agenda abroad and at home.

*     *     *     *     *

The Clinton White House and Climate Change, Part II
By Robert Wampler

In a previous posting, the National Security Archive made available a selection of documents, most of them declassified by the Clinton Presidential Library in response to systematic FOIA requests, which shed light on how the Clinton administration developed a strategy, organization, and process for pursuing its climate change policy goals. Those documents revealed the administration’s approach to tackling the linked domestic and diplomatic challenges surrounding efforts to implement climate change policies as it worked to build on the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

The documents posted today add new details to this story, focusing on Oval Office engagement.  Taken together, the records in these two compilations provide a useful model and cautionary story of how the U.S. struggled to advance climate change programs just as the new Biden administration, which includes many veterans of the Clinton White House, is now taking on a renewed leadership role on this issue.  Congress, for example, still presents problems for the Biden climate agenda, with a West Virginia Senator (Manchin today, Byrd back then) the key to the Senate; and China, having emerged as a global leader in solar energy just as the Clinton officials had hoped, still burns more than twice as much coal today as the U.S. and more than four times as much as India.

The U.S. campaign to promote diplomatic and domestic policies to address climate change required high-level attention and, at key points, involvement by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. The documents posted today focus on various aspects of this involvement. All, in one manner or another, deal with the progress of the post-Kyoto climate change negotiations and the key issues surrounding these talks. As discussed in the previous post, progress in the talks was tightly bound to domestic constraints on the Clinton administration’s climate diplomacy. Even before the Kyoto conference in late 1997, the Senate had gone on record through the Byrd-Hagel resolution, which said the U.S. should not sign any climate treaty that did not mandate developing country commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gases, and reflected wider concerns that U.S. commitments to curb its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would result in significant economic harm.

This congressional imperative compelled the Clinton White House to vigorously pursue developing country commitments to reduce their GHG emissions and the creation of tools such as emissions trading, Clean Development Mechanisms, and credits for carbon sinks (environments capable of absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide) that would allow the U.S. to secure credit that would be counted against its commitment to cut GHG emissions.

These goals met strong resistance, as developing countries vehemently opposed taking on any emission targets before significant action by the industrialized nations, whom they saw as having the primary responsibility for global warming. The European Union also resisted the U.S. push for emissions trading and related tools, suspecting these were a ploy to allow the U.S. to avoid the need for real cuts in its GHG emissions. Another complication was efforts by Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing nations to receive some type of compensation for any reduced revenues due to steps taken to cut GHG emissions.

The documents below address these issues from a range of perspectives and reveal the difficult trade-offs the administration had to weigh. Some call on President Clinton to make decisions about the negotiating guidance to send to U.S. diplomats at the climate talks, which often meant determining what the bottom line was for the administration beyond which compromise was unacceptable. [See Documents 1, 2, 12, 13, and 22] A good example is found in the November 10, 2000, memorandum that Samuel Berger, Gene Sperling, George Frampton, and Roger Ballentine sent Clinton laying out the negotiation issues facing the U.S. in the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP-6).

This was the last chance for the administration to press its climate change goals before the highly possible inauguration of a George W. Bush administration (the election would remain undecided for another month when the Supreme Court ruled on the Florida voting results, giving the victory to Bush). The challenge was to press for U.S. goals that had already isolated the country in the talks, particularly regarding developing country commitments, but also on issues such as new industrialized nation financial commitments to help fund technology transfer and capacity-building activities in the developing world.

The consensus among Clinton’s advisers was that there was no realistic possibility of any breakthrough on developing countries at the COP, so the U.S. should work to make deals on other issues such as emissions trading and sinks, and try to present this as a significant step towards a strong and effective treaty, though this would still leave the Protocol open to criticism that it had failed to meet the Byrd/Hagel requirements. His advisers recommended a similar compromise on new financial commitments to developing countries, involving a two-part strategy under which the U.S. would agree only to non-legally binding “political” commitments to increased funding  and would offer a new proposal for significant new resource commitments only in exchange for new developing nation actions.

Other documents provide updates on the status of the COP talks and U.S. preparations for them, and mark the growing realization that full success on U.S. goals would prove highly unlikely and require a reassessment of what “success” meant. [See Documents 8, 16, and 17]. Roger Ballentine sought to provide Clinton with a positive report on the COP-5 meeting in Bonn that ended on November 5, 1999, pointing to an agreed intensive schedule of technical and high-level meetings in 2000, and convergence on a number of key technical areas such as sinks and compliance. The U.S. support for these steps helped to deliver the administration’s primary message at the COP: that it was serious about climate change and the Protocol.

Many nations, however, including China and the EU states, as well as the environmental community, continued to criticize the United States for not taking stronger action. The U.S. delegation had a “difficult” meeting with the Chinese, who held that the U.S. should take action before they could be expected to participate. A key obstacle with Beijing was that they clearly did not yet understand the economic and other benefits available to China through such tools as technology transfer and the Clean Development Mechanism.

Looking ahead to 2000, Ballentine warned that the U.S. faced an “exceedingly ambitious” schedule that carried many domestic implications: “Our domestic initiatives will receive greater international scrutiny, and our domestic opponents will mobilize” as COP-6 drew nearer. The high stakes for this meeting were laid out in a memorandum that George Frampton, Leon Furth, and Jim Steinberg sent on April 18, 2000, to John Podesta and Charles Burson, Clinton’s and Gore’s chiefs of staff, respectively.

Much of the international community and domestic environmental groups had targeted this meeting as the one at which a Protocol able to secure ratification would have to be finalized. The problem was that these same groups saw the U.S. as the main obstacle to completion of the Protocol, so it was very likely it would be blamed for “failure” at the COP. The U.S. had to come to a consensus as to what constituted “failure” and “success” at the COP. Failure could be defined as COP-6 being seen as ending the multilateral process, at least one that included the United States.

Success could be defined as the meeting ending with a consensus that the Protocol was viable and moving toward completion, with a chance for U.S. ratification in the near term. Getting to success required a balance between the “rightward” pull of the Senate and much of the U.S. business community, and the “leftward” pull of the international community and U.S. environmental NGO’s. This entailed striking a balance between the costs of the Protocol and its “environmental integrity,” with many equating the latter with making the U.S. pay for its past emissions. The crux, as always, was that steps to secure international and domestic acceptance of the Protocol were cross-cutting, polarizing issues: steps to secure flexibility and reduce costs, key to Senate and business approval, were viewed abroad as signs the U.S. did not take its environmental responsibilities seriously.

Supplementing the COP-6 reports in today’s posting are the weekly updates that Todd Stern and then Roger Ballentine provided Clinton on the state of play across the full spectrum of climate change-related domestic and diplomatic activities the administration was pressing. [See Documents 3-6, 10, 11, 15, and 19-21] They provide a fascinating window into both the strategy and tactics of how the administration pursued its climate initiatives diplomatically, politically with Congress, with particular emphasis on budget appropriations, with business, and through the press.

Two of these memoranda are of particular interest, dealing with the challenge of engaging China in the climate change talks, and the strategic use of Clinton and Gore in meetings with Chinese leaders. Stern’s April 3, 1999 memorandum focuses on Clinton’s upcoming meeting with Premier Zhu Rongji, with Stern stressing “The reality is that, when it comes to ultimate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, all roads lead through China.”  China’s participation was critical to any effort to address climate change, as well as to Senate ratification of the Protocol. Beijing had remained “adamantly” opposed to making commitments under the Protocol, arguing that China’s per capita emissions were less than one-eighth of the United States’ and Chinese diplomats had been “unrelentingly obstructionist.”

Stern recommended that the U.S. focus China’s attention on clean energy development; the nation’s plans to add immense power capacity over the next two decades could provide the opportunity to showcase clean energy technologies. China provided a textbook case for the U.S. argument to developing countries; the U.S. was not asking them to restrain their economic growth but to grow with 21st century technology to build a clean energy future that was good for China, the United States, and American business. Stern was working with Vice President Gore’s staff on related talking points for Gore’s working lunch with Zhu during his visit to Washington.

As discussed in a July 21, 2000, memorandum from Ballentine to Clinton, the administration was still trying to secure Beijing’s cooperation in the talks. Ballentine reports on the trip he made the previous week, along with Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, to Beijing to carry out the high level dialogue that Gore and Premier Zhu had called for nearly a year earlier (likely a result of the lunch meeting Gore and Zhu had, as discussed in the April 3, 1999, memorandum above).

This long-postponed meeting “predictably” produced no major breakthroughs, but Loy and Ballentine had secured some primary goals. They explained to the Chinese the importance the U.S. placed on developing country action and expressed U.S. willingness to work with Beijing to start a new international dialogue on this issue that would promote economic growth, including consideration of new U.S.-China bilateral cooperation to increase exports of U.S. clean energy technologies. The Chinese reaction was “less than positive,” as they felt the U.S. was not nearly as generous as other countries, notably Japan, with direct assistance and financial terms to promote greater use of U.S. technologies.

The problem of developing country participation, highlighted by the efforts to work with China, is at the heart of three interesting documents that deal with Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson’s push to take a lead role in solving this problem. [See Documents 7, 9, and 14] In his October 5, 1998, memorandum to Clinton, Richardson lays out a “divide and conquer” strategy aiming to persuade a few key nations to adopt voluntary or binding targets for a time frame stretching from 2009-2013. It would be an interagency effort, exerting cabinet-level pressure on friends and partners.

Richardson offered to lead this effort, with support from Clinton and Gore, and cooperation from State, Treasury, the EPA, and USAID. The key argument would be that it was in the economic interest of these countries to adopt binding targets, as political and environmental arguments carried little weight for nations struggling to develop and dealing with economic turmoil. The focus of the campaign would shift from foreign ministries toward trade and finance ministries and make the case that cooperation on climate change was key to technological cooperation and the generation of revenues from an international emissions-trading regime. Initial targets for the effort could include Israel, Singapore, Mexico, and South Korea.

Todd Stern, replying on November 19th for himself, James Steinberg, Stuart Eizenstat and Frank Loy, told Richardson that they agreed that under continuing State Department direction of climate change diplomacy, Richardson could bring his “personal dynamism, international experience and Cabinet-level stature” to a key role as a top-level climate change emissary to developing countries. The details of this initiative would be worked out between State, the White House, NSC, DOE, and other agencies. Stern agreed with Richardson’s argument that this effort should reach beyond foreign and environmental ministries, which had their own ideological blinders, to engage with a broader range of senior officials, notably energy and industrial planning ministers.

In August 1999, Richardson updated his proposal, laying out for Gore his recommendations for a dual-track strategy on domestic and diplomatic fronts to secure Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, which as always would turn on meeting the Byrd-Hagel resolution’s demand for meaningful developing country commitments and no serious economic costs to the U.S.  The main thrust of the domestic strategy would be to show the U.S. could meet its emissions targets under the Protocol while maintaining vigorous economic growth.

The specific domestic goals Richardson discusses include being aggressive with Congress on FY 2000 and 2001 budget matters related to climate change, showing the American public that the administration was serious about reducing energy use, setting ambitious goals to increase the use of renewable energy technologies, and securing more success in engaging with industry to take steps to reduce their GHG emissions. Richardson saw signs of movement on this last front among oil and natural gas companies and volunteered to reach out to some of them to challenge them to take steps to reduce their emissions.

On the diplomatic front, the U.S. needed to focus on two items: getting the rules right in negotiating the Kyoto follow-on agreements and ensuring meaningful participation by developing countries. Getting the rules right meant securing market-based flexibility mechanisms, with no limitations or caps on emissions trading or the use of Clean Development Mechanisms, and a reasonably expansive definition of carbon sinks that a country can count against its emissions targets. Also important was avoiding any “poison pill” provisions to compensate oil-producing nations for reduced demand as the result of steps to reduce GHG emissions. 

Regarding developing nations, Richardson argued the U.S. needed to develop a portfolio of actions taken by a range of countries that would demonstrate “meaningful participation.” These actions would include a small number, maybe ten, taking on voluntary and binding  emission targets, and a larger number clearly showing they recognized the need for action. Richardson had been working “aggressively” on these fronts, targeting India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico for special attention in an effort to securing their acceptance of the importance of energy-efficient programs, either in concert with the United States or on their own.

The last document in this posting, a cable providing a post-mortem on the COP-6 climate conference in November 2000, and by extension the Clinton administration’s climate change efforts, laments that time had run out on three years of efforts to implement the Kyoto Protocol, leaving a raft of unresolved issues for the incoming Bush administration to confront. COP-6 was intended to complete action on the two-year Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) agreed to at the COP-4 conference in November 1998 to finish work on rules for the Kyoto Protocol. This goal fell victim to a number of factors, including the huge volume of text to review, the tremendous range of issues under negotiation, limited time, and miscalculations by the conference leadership, which prevented even broader agreement on the key political issues.

There had been hope on the last night of the meeting that agreement had been reached between members of the Umbrella Group, which included the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and the EU on some of the most contentious issues, including sinks and compliance, but in the meeting’s “waning hours” the EU had rejected the deal, which in any case would have also required acceptance by the G-77 and China.

On this and other issues, the U.S. had played a key leadership role, pushing for compromises and, through the “forceful persistence” of Under Secretary Loy, kept the talks going when other delegations and the COP-6 president wanted “to call it quits.”  The EU, G-77, and China are especially criticized for failing to respond to U.S. efforts to reach compromises on such critical issues as new proposals to fund Protocol-related activities tied to developing-country commitments on reducing GHG emissions. The cable also warns the U.S. will need to deal with continued OPEC pressure to force developed countries to provide “compensation” for the purported adverse impact on OPEC oil revenues by steps to reduce emissions.

These and other challenges would soon be the responsibility of the new Bush administration, which would bring a very different, and skeptical, approach to the problem of global climate change. In time, many of the key issues confronting the Clinton administration would find some resolution in the 2015 Paris climate accord. This agreement bound each of the main GHG producers, including the United States, China, India, Mexico, the European Union, Brazil, and South Korea, to aim for reduced emission levels. The accord also put in place measures relating to financing and tech transfer to help developing countries reach their goals.  After 55 nations ratified it, a threshold reached on October 5, 2016, the agreement took effect 30 days later, on November 4.[1]

However, the devil is in the details, as the case of China shows. China ratified the Paris accord in September 2016, and under its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) committed to key goals by 2030 or earlier: to maximize its CO2 emissions by that date; to raise the percentage of non-fossil energy usage in its overall primary energy supply to around 20% by then; and decrease the carbon levels of its GDP by 60-65% below 2005. [2]

In September 2020, China pledged to update its 2030 climate target to arrive at peak emissions before that date and become carbon neutral before 2060. Still, the potential outcome of China’s future energy investments is unclear. China is the world’s largest global investor in fossil fuel and renewable development, with its investment in renewable energy and green technologies offset by its continued dependence on fossil fuels, notably coal-powered industries. This mixed picture, along with China’s NDC goals, has led one independent scientific analysis of China’s climate change policies to rate China as “highly insufficient” and to warn that this will not keep global warming to below 2⁰C, which exceeds the Paris objective of 1.5⁰C.[3] The possibility that even with serious commitments to reduce GHG emissions that global warming will continue to rise to unacceptable levels is leading many to consider other approaches that carry their own risks and controversies, including the new technologies of geoengineering and the old ones of nuclear power.

Finally, the Biden administration’s margin for error is miniscule in the Senate, which would need to approve any major climate change legislation. Republicans in both houses have made clear they will oppose new legislation, such as might be built into any major infrastructure laws, while moderate Democrats may also try to block any laws detrimental to fossil-fuel industries in their states. This includes Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the incoming chair of the Senate Energy Committee, who has shown himself willing to protect his state’s coal industry against Democratic critics. [4]

 

The Documents

 
document thumbnail
1997-11-30
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum to President Clinton illustrates well the level of detail with which Clinton was engaged in the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol. As Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, lays it out, there are four issues on which the U.S. negotiators, led by Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs Stuart Eizenstat, will likely need presidential decisions: emissions targets, joint implementation with developing countries, overall developing country commitments, and a national security exemption to any agreed emission targets. On all of these, Clinton would need to decide where the U.S. bottom line is, i.e., the point at which he could move from the current U.S. position, but beyond which he would find an agreement unacceptable. The memorandum goes on to discuss in detail the options available to Clinton on the four issues, along with their up and down sides.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-02-06
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum to Clinton from Todd Stern, Kathleen McGinty, Gene Sperling, and James Steinberg (Deputy National Security Advisor) shows how the question of when to sign the Kyoto Protocol was surrounded by significant policy issues requiring Clinton’s decision. Three options faced Clinton: sign in March when the protocol opened for signature; announce the U.S. would not sign until after the upcoming November Buenos Aires COP meeting, when the administration hoped to have made progress on certain key issues, such as emissions trading, Clean Development Mechanism and the meaningful participation of key developing countries; or signal the intention to sign but defer this for the time being in order to retain the flexibility to sign whenever developments suggest it is the best course of action. Domestically, the administration also had to factor in the sizeable number of critics in Congress and among business, labor, and farm groups who viewed the protocol as a “fatally flawed accord” under which the U.S. accepted overly stringent emission reduction targets and received too little in return, especially with regard to developing countries. Key considerations on timing included the possible diplomatic leverage to be gained by withholding the signature until U.S. goals for the next steps listed above were secure, and the image problem involved if the U.S., which played a leadership role in making Kyoto a success, were seen as on outlier by not signing. On the Hill, positions were divided but clear signs indicated waiting would probably be the best course, especially given the need to address concerns about developing country participation pressed by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who in July 1997 joined with Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to pass a joint resolution that the U.S. should ratify the Kyoto Protocol until developing countries had made firm commitments to reduce their greenhouse emissions. After assessing the pros and cons of the three positions outlined above, the memorandum’s authors, along with the State Department, recommended option three, which kept the timing open as the administration weighed future developments.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-03-28
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

With this memorandum (which was copied to the key officials involved with climate change), Todd Stern began what would be a regular weekly update for Clinton on the various fronts in the administration’s climate change efforts. On domestic policy, Stern outlines the state of play on the administration’s budget package, its federal energy usage and procurement effort, and collaboration initiatives with industry. On the diplomatic front, the U.S. was pursuing the unfinished work following the Kyoto Protocol, including developing country engagement, drafting rules for emissions trading, and designing the Clean Development Mechanism program called for by the Protocol to develop emissions reduction products to help meet national emissions targets. On the congressional front, Stern reports the first post-Kyoto testimony in hearings had gone well, but challenges loomed on the budget and legislative steps to prevent the administration from using funds to put the Kyoto Protocol into effect before it has been ratified. In the outreach/communication campaign, the memorandum notes ongoing efforts to secure industry engagement on technological innovation, getting media coverage for NOAA’s scientific research on climate change, and efforts to promote better understanding of the issues by the foreign policy community.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-04-24
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

Here Todd provides Clinton with details on the state of play on many fronts in the climate change campaign. Items on the public communications front include good NBC and CBS Earth Day features highlighting global warming, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Earth Day speech announcing a “diplomatic full court press” to secure developing country participation in building on Kyoto, and Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to withdraw from the Global Climate Coalition, the major anti-Kyoto corporate coalition. Work was underway for an event for Clinton to roll out the Partnership for Advancing Technologies in Housing (PATH) in Los Angeles. Work in the trenches on Clinton’s climate budget initiative is summarized, including extensive staff meetings in the House and Senate, work with friendly senators to counter Republican attacks, and ongoing contact with interested industry and advocacy groups. The diplomatic front was focused on preparation for the upcoming G-8 summit, with a focus on promoting developing country commitments and countering opposition to emissions trading from the UK and the EU, who feared it would provide a means for the U.S. to buy its way out of its greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-06-06
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This update reports on efforts in Congress to fight cuts to climate change-related budget bills, and on House and Senate hearings where the administration’s climate change policies were criticized. On the diplomatic front, the U.S. still faced opposition to emissions trading in the preparations for the upcoming November COP. On a slightly more positive note, China had signed the Kyoto Protocol but this did not mean much, as the agreement placed no binding commitments on Beijing and the U.S. was pressing South Korea to take on an emissions target. On the public front, Vice President Gore was slated to hold an event showcasing a new NOAA study that suggested global warming was leading to more frequent and intense El Ninos.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-09-04
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

Topics reported on here include congressional, diplomatic, and press coverage. In Congress, progress was seen in stemming constraints on expending funds to promote climate activities and to allow funding for energy programs aimed at reducing GHG emissions. However, the Treasury-Post Office appropriations bill included language prohibiting the spending of funds on actions called for “solely” under the Kyoto Protocol and meant to “Implement” the treat prior to ratification. The diplomatic front, where progress had been slow since Kyoto, was focused on preparations for the upcoming November climate conference in Buenos Aires, where the expectation was for incremental progress as the U.S. continued to meet resistance on issues such as emissions trading and developing country participation. Against this was the development of a more cohesive “Umbrella Group” of industrialized nations not in the EU, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and the Ukraine, which comprised a negotiating bloc with a strong common interest in devising a credible and unrestricted emissions trading regime. The suggestion is raised that it might prove useful for Clinton and Gore to make calls to help advance the administration’s Buenos Aires strategy. The summary of press coverage notes significant stories in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine on the potential impacts of global warming.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-10-05
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum lays out Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson’s proposal for a concerted effort to “divide and conquer” the developed countries who have fought against any commitment to binding emissions targets. The goal would be to persuade at least a few key countries to adopt voluntary or binding targets for the 2008-2012 time frame, followed by binding targets starting in 2013. It would be an interagency effort, involving cabinet-level pressure on friends and partners. Richardson was willing to lead such an effort with support from Clinton and Gore and cooperation from State, Treasury, the EPA, and USAID. The key argument would be that it was in the economic interest of these countries to adopt binding targets, as political and environmental arguments carried little weight for nations struggling for development and dealing with economic turmoil. The focus of the campaign would shift from foreign ministries toward trade and finance ministries and make the case that cooperation on climate change was key to technological cooperation and the generation of revenues from an international emissions trading regime. Initial targets for the effort could include Israel, Singapore, Mexico, and South Korea. Breaking this logjam would persuade Congress that the administration is making a serious effort to secure meaningful developing country commitments to emissions cuts.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-11-16
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum provides Clinton with the major results of the recent Buenos Aires Conference of Parties to discuss next steps in the post-Kyoto climate change negotiations. The U.S. had a good week at the conference, with the substantive results exceeding expectations and producing good press coverage. Leading the good news was Argentina’s announcement that it would become the first developing country to agree to a binding emissions target, a step Clinton had helped secure with a phone call to President Menem. Stern saw this as dramatic evidence of a quieter evolution underway within the developing country bloc, where “fissures are starting to show,” though China, India, and OPEC remained hard-liners opposed to such commitments. The conference also agreed to an overall plan to finish many of the open issues in the Kyoto Protocol, most importantly a work plan reflecting U.S. preferences to develop and finalize rules for free-market tools such as international emissions trading as well as for compliance. The U.S. delegation, led by Stuart Eizenstat, pushed during the conference to begin a process that would bring together key nations from the EU with the “Umbrella” group of non-EU industrialized nations including Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia (which the United States started at Kyoto as a negotiating counter to the EU) and developing countries several times a year to push the negotiations forward. The U.S. decision to sign the protocol during the conference was well received, though this step now made managing congressional opposition a key goal.

 

 
document thumbnail
1998-11-19
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum provides the response to Secretary Richardson’s October 5 memorandum (see Document 7) regarding an expanded role for Richardson in the administration’s efforts to secure developing country participation in the post-Kyoto climate change regime. Following discussions with James Steinberg, Stuart Eizenstat, and Frank Loy, it was agreed that under the continuing State Department direction of climate change diplomacy, Richardson could bring his “personal dynamism, international experience, and Cabinet-level stature” to a key role as a top-level climate change emissary to developing countries. The details of this initiative would be worked out between State, the White House, NSC, DOE, and other agencies. Stern agreed with Richardson’s argument that this effort should reach beyond foreign and environmental ministries, which had their own ideological blinders, to engage with a broader range of senior officials, notably energy and industrial planning ministers. Richardson was well-positioned to show how the steps needed to address climate change were also elements of sound energy policy, as well as to highlight the potential technology transfer and economic benefits of Clean Development Mechanism energy sector projects and emissions trading. Related DOE activities could include expanding its technical and financial aid under the administration’s Country Studies program and organizing energy sector exchanges with developing countries to foster greater understanding of U.S. climate change policies, which emphasized sustainable energy policies. DOE can also support U.S. domestic programs in the areas of electricity restructuring, the Climate Change Technology Initiative to advance clean energy research and development, ongoing engagement with industry to secure wider support for the administration’s climate change initiatives, and promoting federal energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-01-07
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

As the New Year began, Stern was able to report promising news on both the domestic and diplomatic fronts. In Congress, the administration’s focus on budget and tax bills had secured increases for FY 1999 and 2000 in funding for the Climate Change Technology Initiative, as well as for R&D targeting energy sufficiency and renewable energy in the face of intense opposition. Work also continued on tax credit proposals for energy efficient homes, hybrid or all-electric cars and biomass, as well as a Green Bonds proposal to help finance climate-related development and legislation to reward companies that take early action for reducing greenhouse gases. The recent Buenos Aires COP had set the agenda for the coming year by adopting a Plan of Action laying out an “aggressive international work program” on four key issues: emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism, sinks, and compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, the U.S. would continue working to secure greater developing country participation, including preparations for high-level talks with China and Russia.

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-04-03
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

Outside of an update on recent press coverage of climate change issues, this memorandum focuses on Clinton’s upcoming meeting with Chinese Leader Zhu Rongji. As Stern stressed, “The reality is that, when it comes to ultimate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, all roads lead through China.” As the world’s second largest GHG emitter and poised to surpass the U.S. in this role by 2020-2030, China’s participation was critical to any effort to address this problem, as well as to Senate ratification of the Protocol. The challenge was that Beijing had so far remained “adamantly” opposed to making commitments under the Protocol, arguing that China’s per capita emissions were less than one-eighth of the U.S., and Chinese diplomats had been “unrelentingly obstructionist” at Kyoto and Buenos Aires. To meet this opposition, Stern argues one possibly fruitful approach would be to focus China’s attention on clean energy development, where the government’s plans to add immense power capacity over the next two decades could provide the opportunity to showcase clean energy technologies. China provided a textbook case for the U.S. argument to developing countries; the U.S. was not asking them to restrain their economic growth, but to grow with 21st century technology to build a clean energy future that was good for China, the United States, and U.S. business. Stern was working with Vice President Gore’s staff on related talking points for Gore’s working lunch with Zhu, The Chinese leader had shown familiarity with climate change in private talks, and by raising the issue Clinton would underscore the priority the U.S. placed on it and help convince him there was more opportunity than threat for China in joining the Kyoto Protocol efforts to address climate change.

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-04-18
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum lays out the authors’ case for Clinton to approve a new approach in the U.S. diplomatic effort to secure developing country participation in the follow-on climate agreement to the Kyoto Protocol – as seen in the above documents, a critical requirement for securing Senate ratification of the protocol. As the memorandum details, the current policy of urging developing countries to take binding emissions growth targets had met with very limited success, with many countries, most notably China and India, so hostile to the idea that they refused to even discuss it. Their arguments included the need to prioritize economic development and the failure of industrialized nations, whose emissions caused the problem, to take the lead in reducing their emissions. The challenge was increased by the lack of allies in the industrialized world in the effort to engage developing countries, a goal that they viewed as driven by U.S. domestic concerns. To meet this problem, Clinton’s advisers recommend that he sign off on the U.S. either openly supporting or taking preliminary soundings on two changes: seeking adjustable and transitional targets. Adjustable targets would involve developing nations accepting binding targets now, with the understanding they could be adjusted on the basis of future economic performance, and so eliminate the risk that a target could constrain economic growth. The downsides to this approach were the technical complexity and criticism that the developing countries were getting a better deal than the U.S., but on balance the option held promise. Transitional targets, a more significant shift in the U.S. position, would call on developing nations to assume non-binding targets for the first Kyoto commitment period and binding targets for the second period, 2013-2017. Again, the goal would be to minimize the risk to developing countries, though this would still be subject to congressional criticism that these countries were receiving preferential treatment. It also would likely not secure commitments from China, India, or other large emitters, but might drive a wedge between them and other developing nations. Clinton’s advisers recommend that the U.S. negotiators be given the flexibility to support adjustable targets and to take quiet soundings on transitional targets.

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-04-18
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

A second memorandum to Clinton and Gore from Stern, Frampton, and Steinberg drafted on the same date focuses on a broader issue facing the U.S. in the climate change negotiations: the need to reassess the date for the COP-6 meeting in light of the extremely difficult issues surrounding this important meeting. This gathering was the deadline for making progress on major open issues under the Kyoto Protocol: rules for emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism, parts of a compliance regime for the Kyoto Protocol, additional guidance on the role of carbon sinks, and engaging developing countries. The U.S. anticipated “tough, last-minute bargaining” to meet opposition from Europeans on emissions trading, continued efforts by Saudi Arabia and others to block any progress, and significantly less developing country engagement than demanded by domestic critics. Against this was the high motivation of many countries to reach agreement at the COP as the last chance to agree on steps to implement the protocol that could be broadly accepted. Further complicating U.S. diplomacy were the limited options for scheduling the meeting, with constraints on holding it in late 2000 imposed by religious observances – Ramadan – and the 2000 presidential election. The risk that the U.S. role in the meeting would become a factor in the presidential campaign was great, with either failure or success serving to stoke criticism of the administration, not to mention the possibility that a new Republican administration could repudiate any agreement reached, thus undercutting U.S. ability to strike a deal. In light of these issues, Clinton’s climate change negotiators were reluctantly pursuing a delay in the meeting until 2001. This delay would strengthen a President Gore’s ability to shape a positive outcome, while a Republican president would have to take responsibility for U.S. policy at the meeting, rather than just criticizing the administration for a sell-out or failure. (In the end, the meeting was held in November 2000 – see other documents below.)

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-08-23
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

In this memorandum to Vice President Gore, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson lays out his recommendations for a dual-track strategy on the domestic and diplomatic fronts to secure Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, which as always would turn on meeting the Byrd-Hagel resolution’s demand for meaningful developing country commitments and no serious economic costs to the U.S. The main thrust of the domestic strategy was to show the U.S. could meet its emissions targets under the Protocol while maintaining vigorous economic growth. The specific goals Richardson discusses on this front include being aggressive with Congress on FY 2000 and 2001 budget matters related to climate change, where projected funding levels were inadequate, showing the American public that the administration was serious about reducing energy use, setting ambitious goals to increase the use of renewable energy technologies, and securing more success in engaging with industry to take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Richardson saw signs of movement on this last front among oil and national gas companies and volunteered to reach out to some of them to challenge them to take steps to reduce their emissions.

On the diplomatic front, the U.S. needed to focus on two items: getting the rules right in negotiating the Kyoto follow-on agreements and ensuring meaningful participation by developing countries. Getting the rules right meant securing market-based flexibility mechanisms, with no limitations or caps on emissions trading or the use of Clean Development Mechanisms, and a reasonably expansive definition of carbon sinks that a country could count against its emissions targets. Also important was avoiding any “poison pill” provisions to compensate oil-producing nations for reduced demand as the result of steps to reduce GHG emissions. Regarding developing nations, Richardson argues the U.S. needed to develop a portfolio of actions taken by a range of countries that would demonstrate “meaningful participation.” These actions would include a small number, maybe ten, taking on voluntary and binding emissions targets, and a larger number clearly showing they recognized the need for action. Richardson had been working “aggressively” on these fronts, targeting India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico for special attention in an effort to securing their acceptance of the importance of energy-efficient programs, either in concert with the U.S. or on their own. Richardson had used the Department of Energy’s participation in bi-national committees or as host of regional energy conferences to secure “clean energy statements” that showed the nations or regions were committed to take action to address climate change. These steps taken together, he felt, would make a very persuasive case to meet congressional concerns.

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-10-29
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

Following Todd Stern’s move to Treasury, Roger Ballentine took over preparation of the President’s weekly climate change memoranda, now called the Office of Environmental Initiatives Weekly. As this one shows, he continued the established format of updating Clinton on important domestic and diplomatic activities. In Congress, the administration continued to wage familiar battles to increase funding for climate-related spending and to head off anti-Kyoto riders in major funding bills. Diplomatic efforts were focused on the COP-5 conference underway in Bonn, where the U.S. efforts centered on technical issues such as compliance rules, sinks, and technology transfer. The U.S. was also working to deter Saudi Arabia’s efforts to include a process for compensating oil producing nations for expected losses if the Kyoto targets are implemented. Despite some progress on this front, Saudi Arabia, China, and their allies remained obstructionist and would resist joining efforts to address the wide range of complicated issues facing the talks between now and the next COP a year later.

 

 
document thumbnail
1999-11-08
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

Here Ballentine reports to President Clinton on the results of the recent COP-5 meeting in Bonn, which served as an important intermediate step laying out a clear path to the difficult challenge of finalizing the Kyoto Protocol at next year’s COP-6. While Ballentine claims a positive outcome, the details paint a more mixed prospect. On the plus side, the meeting agreed on an intensified schedule of technical and high-level meetings in 2000, and there was convergence on a number of key technical areas such as sinks and compliance. The U.S. support for these steps helped to deliver the administration’s primary message at the COP: that it was serious about climate change and the Protocol. Despite this effort, many nations, including China and the EU, as well as the environmental community, continued to criticize the United States for not taking stronger action. The U.S. delegation had a “difficult” meeting with the Chinese, who hold that Washington should take action before they could be expected to participate. A key obstacle with Beijing was that they clearly did not yet understand the economic and other benefits available to China through such tools as technology transfer and the Clean Development Mechanism. There was also little chance in the near term for securing greater developing country participation, though the U.S. would continue pursuing this goal. On a more positive note, the British were very interested in arranging a joint climate change event between Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair, which they wanted to focus on the economic opportunities of fighting climate change and how developing nations could combine economic growth with emission cuts, which mirrored Clinton’s message. Looking ahead to 2000, the U.S. faced an “exceedingly ambitious” schedule that carried many domestic implications: “Our domestic initiatives will receive greater international scrutiny, and our domestic opponents will mobilize” as COP-6 grows nearer.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-04-18
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum to Clinton’s and Gore’s chiefs of staff, written in the shadow of Earth Day, discusses the issues on the table for the COP-6 meeting to be held next November and the administration’s preparations. The stakes were high, as much of the international community and domestic environmental groups had targeted this meeting as the one at which a Protocol able to secure ratification had to be finalized, hopefully by 2002. The problem was that these same groups saw the U.S. as the main obstacle to completion of the Protocol, so it was very likely it would be blamed for “failure” at the COP. The first step would be for the U.S. to come to a consensus as to what constituted “failure” and “success” at the COP. Failure could be defined as the COP being seen as ending the multilateral process, at least one including the United States. Success then could be defined as arriving at a consensus that the Protocol was viable and moving toward completion, with a chance for U.S. ratification in the near term. Getting to success required a balance between the “rightward” pull of the Senate and much of the U.S. business community, and the “leftward” pull of the international community and U.S. environmental NGO’s.

Put another way, this was a balance between the costs of the Protocol and its “environmental integrity,” with many equating the latter with making the U.S. pay for its past emissions. Specifically, securing this balance depended on resolution of many key factors, including flexibility mechanisms such as emissions trading, the role of agricultural sinks, and cost-control mechanisms. The crux, as always, was that steps to secure international and domestic acceptance of the Protocol were cross-cutting polarizing issues, as steps to secure flexibility and reduce costs, key to Senate and business approval, were viewed abroad as signs the United States did not take its environmental responsibilities seriously. As the administration continued working these issues, one point needed significant stress: to maximize U.S. leverage in the COP negotiations, it needed to show serious domestic action; this could tamp down environmental criticism of the U.S. position and earn greater credibility in the negotiations.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-06-30
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This memorandum served as an update on Energy Secretary Richardson’s efforts to press the administration’s climate change goals on the international and domestic fronts. (see Documents 8 and 10) On the diplomatic side, his department had been actively pursuing the administration’s developing-country strategic goals, which included persuading governments to take on greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, tackling the major challenge of establishing dialogues with “major emitters,” most notably India, China and Mexico, and including environmental protection as a key component in all discussions of energy development. Richardson could record some success with the major emitters: he signed a Clean Energy statement with Indian Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh that hopefully would lead to more cooperative discussions; DOE continued to work with China on energy efficiency and renewable energy through a consultative mechanism and technical exchanges; and the high-level working group on sustainable energy with Mexico had reduced that nation’s resistance to climate change discussions. Richardson had also hosted regional conferences for Energy Ministers from the Americas, Africa, and APEC which produced unanimously endorsed clean energy commitments. On the domestic front, Richardson continued to push the Comprehensive Electricity Competition Act with Congress, though the chances for legislation in 2000 were low. DOE also reached important milestones in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles program with the Big Three automakers to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles. However, as his closing remarks warn, the disappointing congressional response to the administration’s budget requests meant it would be difficult to sustain current levels of climate change activity, much less support needed expansions.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-07-21
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

Ballentine’s update focuses on the normal range of scientific studies, press coverage, congressional and diplomatic activities, with perhaps the most interesting being his report on the trip he made the previous week, along with Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, to Beijing to carry out the high-level dialogue that Vice President Gore and Premier Zhu had called for nearly a year earlier. This initiative was likely one result of the meeting Gore and Zhu had, as discussed in the April 3, 1999, memorandum above. Having already suffered two postponements, the meeting “predictably” produced no major breakthroughs, but Loy and Ballentine had secured some primary goals. They explained to the Chinese the importance the U.S. placed on developing-country action and expressed U.S. willingness to work with Beijing to start a new international dialogue on this issue that would promote economic growth, including consideration of new U.S.-China bilateral cooperation to increase exports of U.S. clean energy technologies. The Chinese reaction was “less than positive,” as they felt the U.S. was not nearly as generous as other countries, notably Japan, with direct assistance and financial terms to promote greater use of U.S. technologies. Another obstacle was U.S. trade sanctions on China. Still, Ballentine believed the visit was productive and had advanced China’s understanding of the U.S. approach that would tie developing country participation to economic benefits.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-08-04
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

This report illustrates the complex balancing act the administration faced in pursuing its climate change treaty goals, in this case with respect to the technical issue of how to handle carbon “sinks” as one of the tools to reduce GHG emissions. Following an interagency process that included the NSC, NEC, CEA, OVP, CEQ, OSTP, and other bodies, the U.S. this week had submitted a long-awaited submission to the UNFCC that reflected a consensus on two critical points. First, the U.S. would back a definition of “reforestation” that would not create “perverse” incentives to log forests before the Kyoto commitments came into force. Environmentalists and many in the global community had expected the U.S. to take a hard line on this issue, leaving open the possibility of a push for a broader definition. Second, the U.S. submission made clear that, despite this support for a narrower definition, the administration still held that other sink activities should play a major role in tackling climate change. Though a broad inclusion of sink activities could help the U.S. meet fully half of its Kyoto GHG targets, the U.S. submission demonstrated its willingness to limit the credit for carbon sinks available during the first compliance period, 2008-2012. The goal of the balanced approach embodied in the U.S. submission was to address environmental concerns and retain a significant role for sinks, which would lower compliance costs. The rest of the memorandum summarizes press coverage of the U.S. position on sinks, a new NOAA analysis of the rise in surface temperature of ocean waters in the tropical Northern Hemisphere, and announcements by General Motors and Ford about increasing automotive fuel economy.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-10-06
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

As the presidential elections loomed, the Clinton administration continued to struggle to advance its climate change policies in the face of domestic and international opposition. Over the past week, U.S. climate negotiators had held four separate ministerial meetings in Europe, with the EU, African ministers, other G-7 ministers, and their Umbrella Group allies to set the stage for the COP-6 negotiations at the Hague in November. A key issue with the EU was striking a balance between the need for environmentally sound rules and securing a Kyoto Protocol that was both inexpensive and feasible. The Europeans’ perennial concern was that the U.S. push to take full advantage of flexibility mechanisms and sinks would undermine the need for it to take strong domestic action. The G-77, with the “very aggressive” leadership of Nigeria, continued to threaten to block agreement at COP-6 if their demands were not met; these included the developed nations providing them with new financial resources and technology transfers, as well as compensation to oil-producing nations for any reduced demand for their output. In a bit of understatement, Ballentine concludes that “Clearly, seeking commitments for any additional developing country actions to fight climate change at COP-6 remains enormously challenging.” On the domestic front, the administration faced new legal challenges to its climate change policies. On October 3, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Representatives Joseph Knollenger (R-MI) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), and several conservative interest groups filed a lawsuit against Clinton and his science adviser, Neal Lane, seeking to prevent publication of the National Assessment of the potential consequences of climate change for the U.S. This assessment was required under congressional mandate and had been prepared under the aegis of the National Science and Technology Council of the OSTP and was the product of three years of work. This was somewhat offset by the success in securing increases in budget appropriations for a range of climate-related programs.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-11-10
Source: Clinton Library FOIA

 

The upcoming COP-6 climate conference provided the Clinton administration with its last chance to press its goals. Given the unsettled nature of the just-completed 2000 presidential election which would turn on the recount of Florida votes, it was highly possible that a Bush administration, likely with very different goals, would come into office in January 2001. In this memorandum, Clinton’s top Oval Office national security, economic, and environmental advisers lay out four areas in the U.S. negotiating position at the conference on which the president needed to make decisions. Leading the list was the always contentious issue of developing-country participation, on which the U.S. remained isolated in the negotiations; the issue of these nations taking on binding commitments to reduce their GHG emissions was not even on the agenda. One option would be to insist on putting the issue on the agenda or commit to future dialogue, but the State Department did not foresee a realistic possibility of any breakthroughs on the matter at the COP. Instead, the consensus among Clinton’s advisers was to enter the COP ready to make a deal on other key topics, such as emissions trading, Clean Development Mechanisms, and sinks, presenting this as a significant step towards designing a strong and effective treaty, though sidestepping the developing nation issue. This approach would, however, leave the U.S. with no clear path to securing this participation and thus leave the Protocol open to continued attack for failing to meet the Byrd/Hagel resolution requirements.

Similar cross-cutting considerations surrounded other questions at the COP that required presidential attention. For example, there was strong support for an agreement for industrialized nations to make new financial commitments to help fund technology transfers and capacity-building activities in the developing world. The U.S. had met its existing obligations to providing funding through bilateral and multilateral programs established under the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. Washington had also resisted making additional commitments absent significant developing-country emissions actions and because the current proposal included a tax on emissions trading. That provision, according to the administration, would unfairly burden U.S. plans to use the tool and was universally opposed by business. To avoid becoming isolated on this issue as well, Clinton’s advisers recommended a two-part strategy under which the U.S. would agree only to non-legally binding “political” commitments to increase such funding; and would offer a new proposal for substantial additional resource commitments under the Protocol, but only in a more equitable form than a tax on trading and only in exchange for new developing-nation actions. The U.S. positions on sinks and creating a price cap on emissions trading likewise involved balancing complex political, economic, and financial issues as steps to address U.S domestic concerns about costs risked isolating the United States.

 

 
document thumbnail
2000-12-21
Source: Department of State FOIA

 

This lengthy cable provides a post-mortem on the recent COP-6 climate conference, held on November 13-25, and by extension on the Clinton’s administration’s efforts over the past three years to implement the Kyoto Protocol. As the cable’s subject line sums it up, the clock had run out on these efforts and a slew of unresolved questions would confront the incoming Bush administration when the negotiations resumed in 2001. The cable provides a detailed report on the complex negotiations surrounding each of the key issues and bears close reading. COP-6 was intended to complete work on the two-year Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA), which was agreed to at the COP-4 conference in November 1998 and involved setting rules for the Kyoto Protocol. This goal fell prey to a number of factors, including the huge volume of text to review, the tremendous range of issues under negotiation, limited time, and miscalculations by the conference leadership. [These obstacles prevented even broader agreement on the key political areas needed to provide guidance for future talks under the COP-6 aegis, which had been suspended, not concluded. There had been hope on the last night of the meeting that agreement had been reached between members of the Umbrella Group, which included the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, and the EU on some of the most contentious issues, including sinks and compliance. But in the meeting’s “waning hours” the EU had rejected the deal, which in any case would have also required acceptance by the G-77 and China. On this and other issues, the U.S. had played a key leadership role, pushing for compromises and, through the “forceful persistence” of Under Secretary Loy, kept the talks going when other delegations and the COP-6 president wanted “to call it quits.” The EU, G-77, and China were especially criticized for failing to respond to U.S. efforts to reach compromises on such critical matters as new proposals to fund Protocol-related activities tied to developing-country commitments on reducing GHG emissions. The cable also warns the U.S. will need to deal with continued OPEC pressure to force developed countries to provide “compensation” for the purported adverse impact on OPEC oil revenues by steps to reduce emissions. One interesting positive note on this front, though, was that Iran, for the most part, had played a “far more constructive and moderating role” in the climate talks than Saudi Arabia, a role which could grow after Iran assumed the chair of the G-77/China group in 2001.