About the Author: Christina Hawkins serves in the Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
In the Americas, we are committed to working together as a region to promote the use of clean energy and mitigate the effects of climate change. In April 2009, President Obama announced the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. One year on, ECPA is alive and thriving. Through ECPA, the United States is working with countries throughout the hemisphere in an innovative, collaborative, and flexible partnership to create a greener environment for future generations.
On April 6, 2010, more than 200 people gathered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to learn more about ECPA initiatives since President Obama first launched the partnership in Trinidad and Tobago. The diverse audience included corporate representatives, students, regional journalists, local think-tanks, energy advocacy groups and various other members of civil society. The panel of speakers was equally as diverse and inclusive.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary David Sandalow opened with an overview of the Partnership and outlined briefly the initiatives DOE is supporting under ECPA, some of which bring in technical expertise from U.S. energy labs such as the National Renewable Energy Lab. Secretary of State's Coordinator for International Energy Affairs David Goldwyn followed by explaining why ECPA matters to both the U.S. and participating countries and why it is unique. Likening ECPA to the Facebook community, Goldwyn enthusiastically remarked on the flexibility of the framework where countries can pick and choose which initiatives to lead or support. No longer are policies or projects following a “one-size fits all” blanket format, but rather sub-regional projects under ECPA can reflect specific sub-regional needs and aspirations. He also stressed how important the Hemisphere is to global energy security.
Representatives from six regional countries then outlined their own country's leadership and support of ECPA initiatives (Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Mexico). Canada outlined its proposal for a clean heavy oil initiative under ECPA, observing that it could be an area of interest for oil producers such as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela. Brazil cited its initiative on sustainable urban development, noting that urban areas are expected to comprise 70% of the total global population by 2050. Brazil also said ECPA allows for a "broad exchange of experiences and is an innovative avenue for cooperation." Colombia is proposing to lead an electricity interconnection initiative under ECPA, and announced that it has already organized two meetings including representatives from the Andean region, Chile and Panama. Mexico explained that it was particularly interested in working with other countries in the areas of windpower and in energy efficiency, and the official said ECPA's "pragmatic and flexible approach is the way to go."
To wrap up the individual contributions of each country panelist, Inter-American Development Bank representative Leandro Alves and Organization of American States representative Mark Lambrides spoke to the multilateral underpinnings of ECPA. One of the most important elements of ECPA is its lack of a secretariat or official bureaucracy to slow down forward progression on ideas and initiatives.
As demonstrated by the multitude of work that has already been accomplished after just one year of ECPA, we are indeed seeing a hemisphere in transition towards sustainability and prosperity. Furthermore, this hemispheric transition is taking place under a partnership framework based on mutual respect and collaboration.
I encourage you to learn more about ECPA by checking out the official website, www.ecpamericas.org, and watching for updates on new initiatives announced during the April 15-16, 2010 ECPA Ministerial. You can see the full webcast of the CSIS event here.