US climate diplomat says emissions deal in nations’ ‘core interest’

But he also called for nations to take a “deeper look” at core interests, one that recognizes that pursuing them will come at a cost.

“The fact that moving to clean energy may have a cost in the short run cannot be taken as an excuse not to act. Some actions can be taken at low or even no cost. Others will have some cost up front but will pay off over time, particularly when the full cost of fuel choices — in terms of pollution, health impacts and energy security — is taken into account,” Stern said.

“And even when the benefit of action is farther down the road, it can be every bit as crucial to growth and development. After all, the projected damage of climate change — damage already visible in the storms, floods, droughts, fires, dying coral reefs and rising sea levels we see all around us — will surely threaten the core interests of all countries,” his prepared remarks state.

The goal of United Nations-run global climate talks is reaching an international accord in 2015 that comes into force in 2020.

Negotiators face a tough slog to reach a deal that, unlike the Kyoto accords (which the U.S. never joined), imposes requirements on developing nations including China and India, as well as developed countries.

Stern, in the wide-ranging remarks, also said flexibility is key.

“Some prefer the model of top-down, negotiated targets and timetables, but in an agreement with over 190 parties, it is hard to imagine how such a negotiation could succeed,” Stern said.

He noted that as part of various nations’ commitments, “we should agree that different metrics for measuring action are perfectly appropriate.”

“Such metrics might involve, among others, absolute emission reductions; reduction in carbon intensity; or statistics tracking the rate of growth of a clean energy economy, such as the percentage penetration of clean energy alternatives in a country’s energy mix or the decrease in an economy’s energy intensity,” Stern said in the speech.

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