[This post comes courtesy of the State Department’s Katherine Musgrove, who is an economic officer in the Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas is having its first ministerial right now in Washington D.C., and you can watch the end of it here
Katherine is ready to field any questions you have about the ECPA and the Ministerial, so ask away in comments.]
In the Western Hemisphere Affairs bureau at the U.S. Department of State, we have been working to advance policies and programs to help create a cleaner, greener space for people throughout the Americas. On April 15 and 16, energy ministers from across the Western Hemisphere, including U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, gathered in Washington D.C. for the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also participated, remarking that “the fundamental purpose of this partnership is to promote sustainable growth that benefits all of our citizens.” I had the honor of being part of the team that organized this important meeting – and was afforded a front row seat on this unique gathering of senior policy makers focused on energy and climate from throughout the hemisphere.
The Ministerial took place just one year after President Obama invited countries to join the U.S. in forming an Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad & Tobago. ECPA brings countries across the Western Hemisphere together to facilitate clean energy development and deployment, advance energy security, and reduce energy poverty. At the Ministerial, Secretary Clinton announced plans to expand ECPA beyond the scope of these energy-based solutions. Now, ECPA will also include efforts on forestry and land use, to address some of the major emission sources in our hemisphere, and adaptation, to assist countries in the region that stand to be hit hardest by climate change.
The Energy and Climate Ministerial helped to achieve just that. Countries came together to share their experiences and invite others to join in their projects. Brazil Is leading an initiative promoting green buildings, energy efficient housing, sustainable transport, and greenhouse gas reductions from solid waste, particularly in low-income communities across the region. Canada invited others to form a heavy oil working group and encouraged the participation of the United States, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico to join. Mexico offered to share best practices in energy efficiency with countries and offered to hold a meeting on energy efficiency this fall ahead of the COP-16 summit this November.
Secretary Clinton also called on countries to join new initiatives that the Department of State launched at the Ministerial. She said “For our part, we believe the United States has a lot to learn, so we come to this partnership with deep respect for the leadership already being shown in the development of clean fuels and the adoption of sustainable technologies”. Secretary Clinton announced six energy and climate initiatives that the United States will launch through this partnership, including:
- Advancing sustainable biomass energy with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Biomass energy is already a significant source of renewable energy in the hemisphere, both in the form of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, and as a source of renewable power. This initiative, led by USDA, will focus on improving the sustainability of biomass energy through agricultural research and exchanges between scientists across the Americas.
- Senior ECPA Fellows: This program is intended to share energy and climate expertise, by making distinguished academic experts available for speaking engagements or consultations with other countries across the hemisphere. To launch this initiative, the U.S. named three Fellows: Dr. Daniel Kammen, a Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Ruth Defries, a Professor of Sustainable Development in Columbia University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, and Dr. Gerry Galloway, a Professor of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Given the considerable scientific expertise that exists within the Hemisphere, Secretary Clinton invited other governments to name ECPA Fellows from their own academic communities and the private sectors.
- Peace Corps Renewable Energy and Climate Change Initiative: The Peace Corps is beginning to train some of its more than 2,000 volunteers in the Americas on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Volunteers will address the challenge of energy poverty by using small grants and local training to build the capacity of rural communities. Volunteers will introduce energy-efficient practices and alternative-energy technologies, including small-scale solar panels, cook stoves, small wind turbines and other energy-efficiency solutions.
The Western Hemisphere is blessed with abundant natural resources. From biofuels and natural gas to hydro and wind power, our continents can achieve a low carbon, clean energy future. As an economic officer at State, it’s incredibly satisfying to help advance critical projects like those associated with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas since they are on track to make real differences in the lives of citizens throughout our hemisphere. It is by working together that we can meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Please visit www.ECPAmericas.org to learn more and discover other ECPA initiatives.