Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol Browner
Press Secretary's Office
10:08 A.M. EST
MR. GIBBS: I will do two quick announcements before we get to one other topic. Normally we do -- as you all know, at the end of the last Friday of every month we have been doing the look-back WAVES requests, before starting the policy at the beginning of the year. So that would normally have been the Friday after Thanksgiving. We instead will, the next couple hours, release the October requests for pre-September 15th WAVES information. So that will come over the threshold in a couple of hours, so nobody was stuck having to do this on Friday.
Q: How many names is it?
MR. GIBBS: Sixteen hundred.
Q: Great. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: The second piece of information -- the President will address the nation on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. from the Military Academy at West Point, on Afghanistan. So that is your second tidbit.
Q: What's going to be the press --
MR. GIBBS: We are just at the very beginning of logistics on that, so we will -- I will make sure that Katie Lillie et al get information out quickly on that.
Third, the President will travel -- as you all know, on December 10th will be in Oslo; December 9th, will stop in Copenhagen, around the climate change conference there.
We have with us today Mike Froman and Carol Browner to walk through the efforts that the President has been undertaking recently, particularly on his trip to China. And Carol can go over some of our domestic efforts as it relates to clean energy and climate change that have happened over the course of the past year -- to walk us through a little of this announcement.
MR. FROMAN: Great. Well, as you -- as we've talked about before, you know the President has helped reestablish American leadership on the climate change issue through a number of actions this year. He relaunched in March the Major Economies Forum, which has met several times -- six times, I believe, plus, at the summit level in L'Aquila, Italy; and have worked through a number of issues related to the U.N. negotiations around mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance; in addition -- with a meeting during the summer, there was a major step forward with a number of provisions of a statement that developing and developed countries agreed to that helped move the ball forward on the Copenhagen negotiations, including developing countries agreeing to take significant mitigation actions and agreeing to a peak here and agreeing to take actions that would create a significant deviation from business as usual.
This fall at Pittsburgh at the G20 summit, again under the President's leadership we agreed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, which has a significant impact on greenhouse gases, somewhere between 10 and 12 percent reduction of global greenhouse gases in 2050, which is, as you know, is about 20 percent of the overall target of a 50 percent reduction. So a significant step forward. And at APEC two weeks ago, the APEC countries embraced that commitment as well, and so it's been further internationalized.
In China, the President made some significant progress with the Chinese leadership on climate change -- it's reflected in the joint statement -- a number of steps forward there, including with regard to full transparency as to the implementation of commitments, a commitment to take significant mitigation actions and to stand behind those commitments.
And yesterday here with Prime Minister Singh, he made further progress with the Indian leadership as well on climate change, also reflected in the joint statement.
Based on all of those developments and on the recent progress he made the decision that it made sense to go to Copenhagen, as Robert said, on the 9th, to give momentum to the negotiations there.
In addition to the President -- and we'll be putting out I guess a release later this morning -- there will be a number of Cabinet officers who will be participating in various parts of the Copenhagen negotiations and making presentations there, and you'll see the details of that in the press release later this morning.
At this point, with two weeks left before Copenhagen, the focus is on how to create an accord that has immediate operational effect and covers all the major areas of the negotiation. It's a comprehensive accord that can get a quick start at dealing with the climate change issues. We're working very closely with Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark, the chairman of the conference, and his team toward that end, and we'll be working with other countries as well to maximize the chances that the negotiations can make progress towards an accord in Copenhagen.
At this point, it's critical that all countries, all major economies come forward with their mitigation actions -- and Carol will have more to say about that -- to maximize the chance of progress in Copenhagen.
MS. BROWNER: Thank you. As you all know, the President believes that the foundation of a successful international agreement has to begin with domestic actions. And in that vein, from the first day in office we have sought to take aggressive actions towards a clean energy economy and to put a cap, or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Recovery Act was the first significant step in that direction, $80 billion in clean energy investments that are rolling out across the country. We have proposed the first-ever greenhouse gas and the toughest fuel economy standards for new cars and trucks. Congress said get to 35 miles per gallon in 2020; we have proposed 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016. We have promulgated rules to promote the development of offshore wind and energy. And the Department of Energy has set aggressive new energy appliance standards and continues to move forward on setting more standards.
Now as the Copenhagen meeting comes into view, and based on the progress that we have made, as Mike spoke to, in the last couple of days and weeks, and in the context of an overall deal in Copenhagen that includes robust mitigation contributions from China and the other emerging economies, the President is prepared to put on the table a U.S. emissions reduction target in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, and ultimately in line with the final U.S. domestic energy and climate legislation.
In light of the President's --
Q: Can you repeat that again? That's a lot of detail.
MS. BROWNER: There's more detail coming. Okay, it's in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, and ultimately in line with the final legislation, U.S. legislation. As you are aware --
Q: By 2020, you would reduce it --
MS. BROWNER: -- 17 percent.
Q: So that's the Waxman-Markey level?
MS. BROWNER: It is. What we're saying is in the range of 17 percent. Waxman-Markey, as you all are aware, passed 17 percent. The debate is not completed yet in the Senate. When the debate is fully completed then we will adjust accordingly.
Let me give you the rest of the numbers so you see the whole thing, okay? I know they're just dying to -- (laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Here comes a lot of numbers.
MS. BROWNER: A lot. I'll read really slow. (Laughter.)
In light of the President's goal to reduce emissions 83 percent by 2050, the expected pathway set forth in pending legislation would entail a 30 percent reduction below 2005 levels in 2025, and a 42 percent reduction below 2005 levels in 2030.
MR. FROMAN: There will be a test on this. (Laughter.)
MS. BROWNER: Yes, let me do that again.
Q: One more time.
MR. GIBBS: The poor guys trying to find the symbol function on their BlackBerry. (Laughter.)
MS. BROWNER: You have to go to the second set of symbol functions to do that. (Laughter.)
Okay, we'll do it again. In light of the President's goal to reduce emissions 83 percent by 2050 -- okay, 83 by 2050 -- the expected pathway set forth in pending legislation would entail a 30 percent reduction below '05 levels by 2025.
Both the Senate and the House bills include interim measurements. They're slightly different, but they're fairly similar. So it would entail a 30 percent reduction below '05 levels in 2025, and a 42 percent reduction below '05 levels in 2030. Everybody got it?
Q: The 83 percent is also measured against 2005?
MS. BROWNER: Yes.
Q: That's the G20 part adopted in L'Aquila, right?
Q: Your larger point is that the House and Senate ranges are similar to what the President --
MS. BROWNER: Right, the interim is out to 2050. Obviously the House's is completed at 17 percent. The Senate is still debating. But when you look at the bills, what the House did and what's been in discussion in the Senate -- those interim measurements out to 2050. In 2050 they're the same, and then in between they're fairly close.
Q: Could you just repeat that one more time, Carol?
MS. BROWNER: The whole thing? Okay.
MR. EARNEST: We'll have paper on it
MS. BROWNER: Eighty-three percent by 2050, which entails a 30 percent reduction below '05 levels in 2025 -- it's all '05 -- I'll make it simple for you guys. It's all the baseline, okay? So the 83/2050 --
Q: That's 30 percent reduction --
MS. BROWNER: -- 30 percent in 2025, and 42 percent in 2030.
Q: And are those figures that he will propose, that you will propose in Copenhagen, that the U.S. will do? Is that correct?
MS. BROWNER: And again, on the 17 percent, just to be clear, it's in the range of 17 percent and we will obviously make adjustments when we complete the domestic legislative work.
Let me just finish. Obviously we now hope that other major economies are going to put forth ambitious actions of their own. We think those will be a necessary component of any accord in Copenhagen. As I said at the beginning, we believe this is a very serious step. We believe that we need to complete the domestic legislative agenda here. We have been working hard to do that. We've already concluded work in the House, and we will continue to work in the Senate.
Q: What countries are you looking to that hopefully will commit as much as the U.S. is?
MR. FROMAN: Well, I think all major economies will need to make submissions as to what they're prepared to do for there to be an accord.
Q: Is this the starting point of the negotiations, or is this the max that this administration is willing to do, since obviously a lot of these other countries are coming forward with 1990 baselines that are going to be much more dramatic reductions?
MR. FROMAN: This is the U.S. position on what we will be submitting in Copenhagen as to our commitment. And as the President has always said, we want to make sure our international commitments very much follow in line with our domestic legislation.
Q: Are these mitigation efforts the result of China and India?
MR. FROMAN: I'm sorry?
Q: The decision to announce this, is it a result of mitigation efforts by both China and India?
MR. FROMAN: It was based on that long list of actions that have been taken over the last nine months that have led to this point, but including over the last two weeks constructive discussions and progress we felt was made with them over climate change, and it's reflected in the joint statements both in Beijing and here yesterday.
MS. BROWNER: And I think as well as the progress we've made on domestic legislation.
Q: Should we interpret this as a prod to the Senate to get going on this early next year?
MS. BROWNER: Well, we've had we think very good conversations with the Senate. As you're aware, two committees have now acted. Others are preparing to act. I think the fact that you have a bipartisan group of senators -- Senator Kerry, Senator Graham, Senator Lieberman -- all announcing that they are working together, working with their partners, to craft leadership legislation is obviously something we find extremely encouraging.
Q: Did you guys have consultations with any of the members of the -- of Congress before announcing these numbers?
MS. BROWNER: We're in -- I mean, we talk to members virtually every day about a whole list of things.
Q: But, I mean, you told them about -- that these numbers were what you guys were putting on the table?
MR. FROMAN: We've been in close consultations.
Q: Will the President do anything else besides this address? Will there be bilaterals, multilaterals?
MR. FROMAN: We are -- there's no schedule yet established. We're working with the Danes to ensure that his visit there, his time there is maximally productive and gives maximum momentum to the ongoing negotiations.
Q: Is this overnight in Oslo?
MR. GIBBS: I don't think we have the itinerary yet. Well, the 9th here and the 10th in Oslo. I haven't the slightest idea where we're spending the night.
Q: The 9th here?
MR. GIBBS: In Copenhagen -- sorry.
Q: It will be just during the day, then, right? I mean, there's not an overnight in Copenhagen -- or we don't know?
MR. GIBBS: We haven't picked a hotel yet. We were focused on the target.
Q: Mike, on the 9th, will there be a number of other world leaders there? Because it's a long summit and obviously there's going to be times when most of the leaders --
MR. FROMAN: We're talking with the Danes, again, about how that day might be structured. So we -- at this point we don't know what -- who else will be there or what the program will be at this point.
Q: Have you got any kind of ballgame estimate of what the economic impact of these targets would be?
MS. BROWNER: Well, as you know, the Waxman-Markey bill was scored by CBO prior to final passage, and for the average family of four, full implementation of the bill I think was about $173 a year.
Q: In 20 --
MS. BROWNER: What was the year for the score in the CBO? Do you remember?
MS. ZICHAL: I believe it's 2020.
MS. BROWNER: In 2020.
Q: What's your reaction to the British e-mails that have come out recently?
MS. BROWNER: I've read them. I don't know that I have a reaction.
Q: The Copenhagen talks are going from December 8th to the -- or 7th to the 20th -- 18th, something around that. And 65 heads of state will be attending at the end. Will the fact that Obama does not plan to be there make any agreement politically binding -- or a political agreement at that point less legitimate?
MR. FROMAN: I think the President going to Copenhagen will give positive momentum to the negotiations, and we think will enhance the prospects for success.
Q: Who will go then at the end?
MS. BROWNER: We're releasing it today -- we have a whole delegation of Cabinet members and other top officials who will be in attendance throughout the conference.
Q: Will Al Gore go?
MS. BROWNER: I don't know. You'd have to ask him.
Q: Okay. But not as part of the delegation?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know where he's spending the night, either. (Laughter.)
MS. BROWNER: The U.S. delegation is made up of Cabinet members and senior White House officials, and we're releasing that list today. Are we releasing when they'll be there, the main --
MR. FROMAN: Yes.
MS. BROWNER: Yes, they're coming at various different times throughout the two weeks, so you'll see all of that. I think we have, what, six or seven Cabinet members going.
Q: I hate to back you up on this, but those e-mails -- I know they're controversial, but they're actually feeding the run-up to Copenhagen. You might have read them, but you know basically the gist of them, which is being used by opponents of this deal to say that the whole thing is made up. But you have to have more than just "I don't have any reaction."
MS. BROWNER: Well, first of all, we've all seen bits and pieces, we haven't seen the full e-mails. But I think more importantly there has been for a very long time a very small group of people who continue to say this isn't a real problem, that we don't need to do anything. On the other hand, we have 2,500 of the world's foremost scientists who are in absolute agreement that this is a real problem and that we need to do something and we need to do something as soon as possible.
What am I going to do, side with the couple of naysayers out there, or the 2,500 scientists? I'm sticking with the 2,500 scientists. I mean, these people have been studying this issue for a very, very long time, and agree that the problem is real.
Q: On Afghanistan?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: Can we expect the President to outline an exit strategy in his speech? And do you still want to engage the so-called moderate Taliban elements in this new strategy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't want to get, again, far ahead of what the President will talk about on Tuesday. I will say that throughout this process, the President has repeatedly pushed and prodded not simply for, as I've said, how are we going to get a certain number of troops in, but what is their strategy -- what has to be implemented ultimately to get them out. We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan. We're not going to be there another eight or nine years -- which is why the -- a lot of the focus in these meetings has been on training for the Afghan security forces comprised of the army and the police; how do you ramp up this training as you are securing different areas that will ultimately be transferred back to the Afghans so that when that transfer occurs there is a security force that can keep the security gains that have been made. That is imperative -- that is imperative in this strategy. In terms of --
Q: Has the President actually made up his mind on troop levels?
MR. GIBBS: He's not told me a final decision.
Hold on, hold on, let me address the second part of the question. In terms of reintegration, I would point you to any number of statements that General Petraeus, Central Command, has made about efforts that are needed to reach out to elements throughout the population in Afghanistan.
Q: Is the President going to ask his allies for more troops? Because yesterday he seemed to emphasize the global fight against terrorism.
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, first of all, there is a robust international force presently in Afghanistan. This is not one country or one region of the world's problem alone. And I anticipate that the national security team and the President will begin to talk to our allies about different parts of his decision as well as contributions that could be coming forward from them. I think you've heard or seen the NATO Secretary General talk about this as well.
Q: Is this what the President meant about finishing the job, ramping up security operations by Afghanistan? Is there a Taliban or al Qaeda component of finishing the job?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I'm going to let the President outline the fullness of his strategy and all of the components to it. Our training of security forces is obviously one that is ongoing.
Q: Robert, there's a report that the President on Tuesday will be meeting with 31 members of Congress who he previously met with in regard to Afghanistan. Is that correct? And could you give us an idea of kind of the rollout, you know, the role of Cabinet members, et cetera?
MR. GIBBS: Well, some of this obviously is still being finalized. I anticipate the President will meet with members of Congress, just like he will talk to allies and others about the decision that he's made. He did a similar meeting -- did a similar set of meetings earlier in the year around earlier decisions on Afghanistan and Iraq. So I don't know -- I have not seen a final list of who the members will be, but I do anticipate that he'll certainly brief members of Congress.
Q: Before the speech?
MR. GIBBS: Before the speech, yes.
Q: Robert, can you --
MR. GIBBS: Hold on, hold on. Let me just -- the second part of your question, in terms of -- I do not -- I have not seen a finalized schedule for testimony. I anticipate -- again, we've all watched this in -- happen a few times, particularly in Iraq, and I anticipate some -- the relevant committees will invite and testimony will occur. I don't have a schedule on that.
Q: But just to be clear, Robert, on Tuesday the President will meet with members of Congress?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. Tuesday he will meet with members of Congress in the White House prior to traveling to West Point to deliver the speech.
Q: Robert, do you have any reaction to Speaker Pelosi's comments? And more broadly, can you talk --
MR. GIBBS: What are -- I didn't hear --
Q: Just that there's going to be, I think, unrest in the Democratic Caucus over this decision on Afghanistan. And more broadly, can you talk a little bit about what --
MR. GIBBS: Let me give the -- let me let the President announce his decision before we -- I don't want to play the Jeopardy version of "unrest."
Q: Okay, but more broadly, can you talk a little bit about what you think the challenges are, in particular with the sort of communicating and convincing members of the President's own party on Capitol Hill, and more broadly in the country, on this?
MR. GIBBS: I think this probably speaks for everybody in the country regardless of where you are in the political spectrum. And this is what the President will do Tuesday.
Again, we've been here -- we've been in -- we're in the 9th year of efforts in Afghanistan, right? The American people are going to want to know why we're here. They're going to want to know what our interests are. The President will want to walk through his decision-making process and give people a sense of the importance of our efforts, but reiterate for them that this is not -- this is not -- the President does not see this as an open-ended engagement. Our time there will be limited, and I think that's important for people to understand.
Q: Will he give a time frame? Will he give a timeline?
MR. GIBBS: I want you guys to have something to write on Tuesday.
Q: We'll find something.
MR. GIBBS: I don't doubt that. (Laughter.)
Q: You say you're not going to be there for another eight or 10 years -- does that make sense -- I mean, the time --
MR. GIBBS: Again, you should thank Mark for following up on his question. No -- again, I don't want to get ahead of, again, what exactly the President is going to say. Again, I would simply reiterate throughout these meetings you've heard the President say this: We're not going to be there forever. We are -- it is unsustainable to think that, for any number of reasons: for the impact that it has on the thousands of men and women that serve, on the overall health of our force, on the sheer cost in monetary terms of what this means. That's why the President has taken the time to meet with the national security team in order to get a strategy that gets this right, so that this can ultimately be handed off, and the responsibility for security of the Afghan country can rest and lie with the Afghans.
Q: Will he meet with McChrystal before he announces it?
MR. GIBBS: Pardon me?
Q: Will he meet with General McChrystal in person before he announces --
MR. GIBBS: We may have more on that later today.
Q: Robert, speaking of the cost, will the President actually in any degree explain to the American people how much it will cost, how much it will be -- how will it be paid for?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, guys, it's a billion dollars -- it's a million dollars a troop for a year. It's -- 10,000 troops is $10 billion. That's in addition to what we already spend in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That also does not include training, and it doesn't include the maintenance of -- the maintaining of a security force. It's very, very, very expensive.
Q: So there will be a supplemental?
MR. GIBBS: I'm going to let the President make a decision before we go get the budget for the decision to implement what he does. So let's -- again, I don't know what you guys would do on Tuesday if I just blurted it all out here.
Q: Robert, just a question -- so does the President lay that out to the American people? Will he say --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I just laid it out for you.
Q: I know, but I mean in that speech, will he actually say this is very, very, very expensive --
MR. GIBBS: If Ben could show me that paragraph in his speech, I would have a better answer. I think the President has throughout this process talked about the cost in terms of American lives and in terms of the cost to our Treasury, and I think he'll continue to talk about it.
Q: Robert, will the President be --
Q: -- satisfied at this stage that his new effort will be received --
MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry?
Q: Does he feel fully satisfied at this stage that this new effort wouldn't be seen as --
MR. GIBBS: Will not be seen?
Q: Will not be seen --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, another thing that we've spent a lot of time working through is, with civilian and defense, is -- and as the President has said and as the President has told Karzai -- there has to be a new chapter in Afghan governance. And that is something the President will talk about on Tuesday.
Q: And will it be cadets, military personnel?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: Cadet -- both?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: Robert, have you lined up television coverage yet? Do we know that this is going to be carried by the networks?
MR. GIBBS: I don't want to speak for the networks, but we have -- we talked to them yesterday.
Q: If the President is reelected, are you basically saying the President --
MR. GIBBS: Thank you. Have a good Thanksgiving. (Laughter.)
END 10:37 A.M. EST
Robert Gibbs, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol Browner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/287110