7:40 P.M. PDT
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. And good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. For those on the East Coast, appreciate joining so late. And apologies for that scheduling, but really appreciate you tuning in.
Before I turn it over to my colleagues, I just wanted to remind everyone of the ground rules. As noted, this call is on background, attributable to a “senior administration official.” And we will lift the embargo tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, 5:00 a.m. Pacific.
I will kick it over to my colleagues who will provide brief remarks, and then we will take your questions at the end of the call.
And with that, I’ll kick it over to [senior administration official].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you so much. And thank you all for joining us this evening. Pretty excited to be here, so let’s get to it.
Tomorrow, President Biden will affirm the U.S. commitment to building an enduring hemispheric partnership to address climate change, create jobs, and advance energy security. So I’d like to take a quick moment to share a few of the initiatives that will be shared tomorrow.
First, we will take steps to strengthen the clean energy economy in the Americas by committing to promoting trade and investment in clean energy and encouraging regional collaboration through the Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean, or so-called RELAC.
Tomorrow, we look forward to welcoming five new countries that announced they will work together, joining 15 countries that were already members of RELAC, to achieve the collective target of 70 percent installed capacity for renewable energy generation in the region’s electricity sector by 2030.
And in recognition of the critical role that regulatory and policy frameworks play in achieving these goals, we are also announcing our intent to provide funding support for technical cooperation through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and to work with regional development banks, private financial institutions, and other partners to mobilize additional resources. We will also look to mobilize financial support to countries to achieve our climate objectives.
In response to a collective commitment from four regional development banks to make as much as $50 billion available over the next five years to support ambitious climate action, the U.S. is enhancing coordination with these institutions to mobilize additional financing from the private sector and other sources.
And in recognition that forests and other critical ecosystems can provide as much as one-third of global climate mitigation by 2030, by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and by enhancing the carbon sequestered from the atmosphere through forest restoration, the U.S. will announce its intent to provide support to Brazil, Colombia, and Peru through an initiative called Amazonia Connect.
Amazonia Connect is an initiative that will contribute to the President’s plan to conserve global forests, critical carbon sinks that he launched at COP26 last year. And this plan is focused around reducing carbon emissions from these critical carbon sinks. And in particular, the Amazonia Connect will be focused around reducing commodity-driven deforestation and associated greenhouse gases from the agricultural supply chains, while conserving biodiversity, improving livelihoods, and enhancing climate resilience.
Our hemisphere is facing devastating impacts and costs of climate change. And these actions, and those that my colleagues will speak about next, will help us and our partners tackle the climate crisis while harnessing the opportunity for countries in the region to create good-paying jobs, grow clean energy economies, and build resilient communities.
So, now I’ll pass it off to [senior administration official].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official. Thanks, everybody, for joining. So, [senior administration official] just gave you a good laydown of the overall administration approach on climate and energy, and I’d like to zero in more specifically on something we’re going to launch for the Caribbean, that the Vice President will launch in her meeting tomorrow on climate and energy.
The Vice President, tomorrow, will meet with Caribbean leaders here in Los Angeles. She’ll be meeting with all of the heads of delegation of the countries from CARICOM, plus the Dominican Republic, as well as the CARICOM Secretary General, Dr. Barnett. This is a group that the Vice President met with already. She convened them virtually on April 29th to discuss a range of topics, and one of which — one of the focuses of the meeting was the climate crisis.
As part of that meeting, the Vice President began discussions among this group on specific areas where we can partner when it comes to clean energy transition and climate resilience. These were issues raised by the CARICOM leaders and Dominican Republic as of particular importance to them. She heard directly from them on their concerns and priorities. And what she told them is that we intended to respond by launching new initiatives to be responsive to those concerns and priorities.
And since that time — you know, the past six weeks or so — our teams have been in close touch with the countries of the region and our experts within the U.S. government developing the specifics of a plan. And as the President said in his remarks at the Inaugural Ceremony earlier today, the Vice President will officially launch the U.S. Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis, or PACC 2030.
There are two core points of emphasis in this initiative. One is to strengthen energy security. Most of the members of the Caribbean are particularly dependent on energy imports. We all know that energy prices have been high, and this is a strain on their economies in the wake of the COVID crisis, which was already a strain. And so, one of the core pillars of this initiative is to strengthen their energy security.
And the second is to promote climate adaptation and resilience. Again, these are countries particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis, whether it’s rising sea levels or mega storms that affect them even more than many others.
And this initiative includes fresh commitments and, importantly, an integration of all of our programs in the region. It’s a new framework by which we will elevate our cooperation with the Caribbean nations on these issues.
Let me just summarize the core elements of the initiative. And you’ll get, I think tomorrow, a factsheet that goes into much more detail on this. But there are really three key components to keep in mind, and it’s important to think about how they interrelate with each other. And those are supporting development finance, supporting project development, and supporting capacity building in the countries of the region.
The first on development finance we know is a top priority for Caribbean countries. Even when there are projects, they need financing for these projects. And we’re going to work in a number of ways to facilitate financing, to unlock finance that’s been blocked. These will include our development finance corporation’s financing, or increased financing for climate and clean energy projects in underserved Caribbean countries, and increased collaboration between various parts of our government, including DFC, with other multilateral development banks, including the Caribbean Development Bank, to unblock infrastructure financing.
And those are just some examples of how we’re going to work to facilitate access to the financing they need.
Second is identifying and supporting clean energy and climate projects. We will assist with project development and facilitate investments in those projects, helping identify projects through a series of roadshows, reverse trade missions to the Caribbean; in other words, connecting CEOs and companies and American technologies — because, by the way, this provides opportunities for American businesses — with Caribbean government officials to build a pipeline of projects. And the initiative even includes a sort of taskforce set up at the State Department that will bring into one place our efforts to identify and support projects.
I’d underscore here that this — you’ve seen this type of approach led by the Vice President in her work here at the summit, in the run-up to the summit, and over the past year, in terms of public-private partnerships and the efforts she’s been leading in northern Central America in the Call to Action, which is another example of just how the Vice President believes we can be most effective when the government works with the private sector and civil society. And that is — that approach is a part of this initiative as well, where we bring the assets of the government to bear with the private sector.
And then finally, the initiative provides support for capacity building. To help build the pipeline of projects, we know that we also have to help the countries on the ground with everything from conducting feasibility studies, to addressing regulatory issues, to execution and implementation of the projects once they are underway. And we will put resources behind training people and governments on how to adapt and strengthen their overall resilience.
Throughout all of this work, we will deepen our cooperation more broadly with Caribbean governments. You’ve seen the Vice President focus on this through, as I mentioned, the multilateral meeting she had in April, but also some bilateral meetings, and then obviously, this in-person meeting that she’s doing here at the summit.
We’re committed to the region, committed to strengthening our partnership with the Caribbean. And the Vice President has committed to host an annual meeting with these leaders so that we can stay engaged and follow up on the commitments that we’re making here, including the launch of PACC 2030 tomorrow.
Thanks very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, [senior administration official]. Moderator, we’ll now open it up for Q&A.
Q Hi. I have a question about the clean energy goal and adding more countries to that. Can you say what countries are going to be contributing more towards the clean energy goals and what new steps are going to be taken to help countries reach that goal?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great. Thank you so much for that question. So, the countries are Barbados, Jamaica, and Guyana are announcing their intent to join RELAC, and Argentina and Brazil are announcing that they’re going to support the collaboration through the RELAC platform. So, those are the five countries that are collectively coming together to work through the RELAC platform towards the 70 percent renewable energy goal of the initiative and the partnership around RELAC.
In terms of the question of what are we doing in the region to help support the deployment of clean energy as part of a key element of energy security for the region while also meeting our global climate objectives and goals, especially those enshrined within the Paris Agreement, there are several different tracks that are underway.
[Senior administration official] mentioned the Partnership for the Caribbean, the PACC initiative — PACC 2030 — Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis for the U.S and Caribbean. That’s just one element of what we can be doing for the region, because that includes project development, technical assistance, access to financing.
Then you also have the technical cooperation around regulatory and policy frameworks with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These are areas we work with countries on the technical assistance to help them achieve these targets through transmission and solar deployment and renewables, as well.
And then there’s the areas around investing in the human capital. And this is through the higher education institutions and ways to provide the workforce support for the skills that are needed for the clean energy economy to support this. And that is what we sought — what we announced — we’re going to be announcing through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Climate Initiative, and that the other key piece to this is really making sure the workforce is matching where the finance and the projects are going.
Q Hi, thank you. One, how much money are we talking about will be available for Caribbean countries? And, two, Caribbean countries have long complained that they’ve been locked out of concessional financing because they’re considered middle income. So, when you talk about underserved countries, does this apply to countries currently considered middle income in the Caribbean region that you will help with development and financing access?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, thanks for those questions. We’re not putting a dollar figure on what this initiative is doing. I described some of the ways in which we are going to work to provide additional finance, both from the U.S. government itself and through working with multilateral development banks. But that’s going to be a process, and we couldn’t, at this point, put a dollar figure on it.
The other thing I want to really stress there is: To make this work, it’s not just financing. Obviously, financing is necessary, but what’s unique and important about this initiative is the way that it pulls together these necessary pillars, not just financing, but helping them identify projects — and I described some of the ways in which we’re going to do that — and then have the capacity to implement them once discovered.
So, that will be a product of this initiative rather than some dollar figure that we’re announcing from the start.
It does also include, and thank you for raising, the important issue of middle- and high-income countries, which has been one of the obstacles to financing of projects in the region. And we are going to work to promote concessional financing, even to countries that, by some standards, are considered high or middle income.
And we’re going to be particularly focused on providing assistance when they are affected by hurricanes or other natural disasters, which doesn’t change the way they’re categorized by these multilateral institutions. They can still sometimes be considered high income, but they don’t have access to the financing they need, even though their economies have been significantly set back.
So, both in terms of responding to economic setbacks like that, but also, more generally, working to ensure the flow of financing, even when they’re considered high- and middle-income countries.
Q Thank you.
Q Yes, thank you. Thank you for that. Is there any prediction that the United States will promote conversation about the (inaudible) to combat illegal loggers and miners in the Amazon forest, especially in Brazil?
We remember that the British journalist, Dom Phillips, and (inaudible), Bruno Araújo, are still missing after they received threats from illegal loggers and also miners in the Amazon forest in Brazil. And that forest is essential for the climate instability in the continent.
So, the question is if the United States is going to demand actions and also answers about what is happening there. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you for that question. Combating illegal deforestation and focusing on promoting deforestation-free supply chains are a key part of our climate action agenda. Obviously, we are keen to invest in tropical forests as a drive towards a net zero world. And part of that is not only halting deforestation globally, particularly illegal logging and illegal deforestation, but also restoring forests and other ecosystems that are critical to reaching the net zero emissions world by 2050.
What the President is doing on this space is that he’s recognizing the necessity to mobilize funding from global governments, as well as the private sector, and to invest significant scale of resources to protect these forests, to invest in new ways of economic opportunities for those that are operating in and around these forests, so that we don’t promote illegal logging and that we don’t create incentives to go after illegal logging.
We’re trying to look at some positive, proactive agendas in the region as well, as part of our hemispheric agenda. So, these are areas where we want to support efforts like the LEAF Coalition that the President announced last year. It’s a public-private partnership aimed at mobilizing finance to reduce emissions from deforestation.
And in particular to Brazil, as you’ve asked, one of the things that we’ve done through the LEAF Coalition is entered into a memorandum of understanding with nine Brazilian states to — that make up — (inaudible) make up a legal payment system for verified emission reductions in deforestation and associated emissions.
And this effort is aiming to mobilize at least a billion dollars to incentivize tropical and subtropical countries to reduce their emissions by being able to pay for these verified emission reductions that need high-integrity, high-environmental, and social standards.
So, being able to leverage our investment in combatting deforestation to raise up the environmental and social and governance safeguards, that really can help stem illegal and destructive behavior that comes with a whole variety of even more destructive behavior.
And so, one of the things that I noted in my comments, as an example of some of this effort, is this Amazonia Connect initiative, which is really targeting around some of these supply chains, again, through training, incentivizing farmers to profit from protecting the environment, and to really combat the illegality that’s in the area, but also to promote a legal mechanism, as well as to promote ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while conserving important biodiversity and livelihoods, while also enhancing climate resilience.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, [senior administration official]. And with that, we will wrap tonight’s call.
Just as a friendly reminder that this is currently under embargo for 8:00 a.m. Eastern, 5:00 a.m. Pacific, and we should be sending an embargo factsheet shortly.
8:00 P.M. PDT