Eric Postel is assistant administrator the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment

Eric Postel is assistant administrator the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment

I’m here in Warsaw at the 19th so-called “Conference of the Parties” – basically every nation is represented plus all kinds of interested NGOs and private sector companies to work on global climate change issues. USAID participates robustly for three reasons.

First, we come to assist our Department of State colleagues in the negotiations. These COP meetings are very big. To accommodate everybody, COP19 is being held inside Poland’s national soccer stadium. On five levels. Every concourse is filled with temporarily-built meeting rooms, booths, press facilities, work stations, etc. Most skyboxes have been converted to offices.

The playing field has been covered over with enormous tents serving as temporary meeting halls for the plenary sessions. At any one time there are dozens of meetings negotiating different aspects of climate change initiatives. To cover them all, the State Department asks other U.S. Government climate change experts, including USAID experts, to join in the effort.

Second, we are here to learn more about how nations are facing climate change so that we are better able to fulfill our development mission. The COP represents a very efficient way of interacting with many other governments and members of civil society to learn about their successes, failures, concerns, and future plans. For example, a session on Fast Start Finance (FSF) was held today. Nine of the developed countries that collectively committed to providing $30 billion in public finance to developing countries for climate action between 2010 and 2012, including the United States, spoke about lessons learned during the period.

19th "Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland. Photo credit: USAID

19th “Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland. Photo credit: USAID

The good news is we all met our commitments: from Liechtenstein’s $700,000 to the United States’ $7.4 billion. The interesting part was to hear each country talk about lessons learned. I was struck by the parallels between climate assistance and “Aid for Trade” in WTO meetings I have attended. Aid for Trade discussions have evolved over the years, moving beyond inputs like dollars spent, and starting to grapple with outcomes, aid effectiveness, and private sector engagement. I can already see climate finance headed in the same direction.

These lessons will help us improve our programs at USAID. Today’s discussion gave me fresh insight into one of the challenges USAID is facing in continuing to develop good outcome measures for our adaptation work with developing countries. With workable adaption metrics, the global community could be in a position to shift the conversation from inputs to outcomes — a place we surely want to be.

Third, USAID staff come to climate talks to tell the rest of the world about the good results we are getting with the effective deployment of limited U.S. resources. Telling our story is important – so the rest of the world knows the U.S. is engaged in these issues as a good global citizen. For example, I will moderate a panel tomorrow that focuses on projects working to conserve the planet’s precious forests. A Colombian panelist will talk about a project, funded in part by USAID, working with 29 autonomous communities – Afro-Colombian Councils and Indigenous Reserves – to conserve more than 1 million hectares in the Colombian Pacific, one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world. Another effort we will discuss is the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) – a new public-private partnership committed to addressing the global drivers of deforestation by reducing tropical deforestation associated with commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp. TFA 2020 has already attracted six major new partners – the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, World Resources Institute, Conservation International, and IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative. These partners have joined the United States and the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of more than 400 companies with over $3 trillion in annual sales. TFA 2020 shows how far we have already come and where we are headed.

So, there are lots of reasons to be here representing the United States and lots to get done.