During the briefing with Doctor Pershing, the media asked him about the US influence on countries and what can be done to motivate countries it does business with to not only join the transition but also play an active role, through foreign and trade policy.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “Let’s take a look at commodities that have significant greenhouse gas emissions. One of them is illegally harvested wood and wood products. If what you can do is you can create mechanisms that create incentives for sustainably yield goods and services, you might get more of the good stuff. And if, at the same time, you create penalties for the import of the illegally harvested and logged space, you might put pressure against the bad stuff. We’d like both. Those are both interesting options. In the United States, under something called the Lacey Act, we have a mechanism that Congress has provided to really ask are these things coming from sustainable yield forests. Other countries have similar programs. China actually has one, the Europeans have one – that’s a mechanism. At the other end, we can actually go in and help people with the development of sustainable yield intensive agricultural systems, which enable managed communities where you can have wood and wood products that are not damaging. There are set aside areas where you can essentially farm forests. But it doesn’t go, therefore, in to the native and large old growth communities which are so central to maintaining global capacity. That kind of a model can work with trade as well as with assistance, and they’re tied up together in some very, very important ways. I think as we go forward, these are going to be more and more common. I think that what we’re doing at the USTR is to think about the various institutions and mechanisms. How do they play out in the World Trade Organization? How do they play out in terms of our own bilateral trade interests? How do they work out bilaterally with key countries both with whom we have deep trade relationships, but also others where the trade is not yet as developed but it might be in the future? And I want to close with that thought, because there’s a certain new trade that’s coming along. We may see a decline in some of the conventional things that have high carbon intensity. We’re going to see a radical increase in things that will be part of the new low-carbon world. That may be things like rare earths and critical minerals that go into renewable energy or into battery technologies. That’s going to change the nature of trade as well, and those are opportunities that we want to be able to seize for ourselves and for the world.”