To understand why former U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern is the 2016 winner of the American Carbon Registry’s Climate Leadership Award, it helps to remember what was happening in 2009, after Copenhagen.
“We had a broken system, an artificial divide between developed and developing countries,” said John Kadyszewski, director of the American Carbon Registry, as he presented Stern with the award. “We had an arcane set of acronyms and processes that led to the belief that the primary purpose was to obfuscate, delay and prevent any action on climate.”
But help was on the way. “Into that dire situation rode Todd Stern,” Kadyszewski said. Stern created an atmosphere of trust where negotiations with China could take place well in advance of the 2014 negotiations with that country, and he led the U.S. delegation into the coalition for higher ambition — “a significant statement within a community of people he had nurtured over a seven-year period of time to believe that in fact the U.S, was serious about taking action,” Kadyszewski said.
These and other actions meant that “we went from a broken process where we couldn’t get more than 15 countries to agree on any particular topic to 186 countries that have submitted their nationally intended emissions reduction programs.”
Stern, in accepting the award, applauded the American Carbon Registry as “doers not just talkers” and said, “You develop the methodologies that make it possible to do carbon market trading with environmental integrity.” He also emphasized the “huge team effort” that led to COP21, in particular the importance President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry places on climate change.
Stern agreed that Paris is a landmark accord — not only because “everybody is in and there’s strong ambition” but also because of what he thinks is “the most important thing, the five-year cycle, the continual upward ratcheting of what countries have agreed to do.”
“Paris has given us a chance,” Stern said. “Paris was a beginning. It doesn’t begin to be an end. It opens the door. It puts a structure in place, because this is a quintessentially global problem, that now allows us to greatly accelerate the transformation from high to low carbon economies. Every tool that we can use to advance that is essential and carbon markets have a very important role to play. I salute ACR for being a leader in this field and am honored to receive this award.”