Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry with Raj Chengappa of India Today

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

New Delhi, India

India Today:  Hello, I’m Raj Chengappa and we are delighted that Mr. John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate,  is speaking exclusively to India Today on his mission to India, a very important mission, Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry:  Thank you.

India Today:  You have met Prime Minister Modi and several key cabinet ministers and discussed your mission, which essentially is to get all nations to cut their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.  How important is India’s role in this?  And what is the response of Prime Minister Modi to your proposals?

Mr. Kerry:  Thank you, Raj.  It’s great to be with you.

India’s role is crucial.  First of all, India is a leading democracy together with the United States; a huge nation, but it’s also a nation known for its humanistic values, for its connection to earth and to responsibility.  India can contribute very significantly because it is as a nation the third largest emitter – we’re the second largest, China’s the first.  So we have a special responsibility.  Between the three of us we have over 50 percent of the world’s emissions.  So even though India’s are smaller, by half, than ours, we all have to do this because no one nation can solve the problem.  Every nation has to be part of the solution.  We’re dependent on each other.

More importantly, India is a great nation of innovation and entrepreneurial activity and research and development and so forth.  We believe that a partnership between the United States and India in an effort to try to accelerate the discovery of the new technologies that we need to deal with climate crisis, an effort to try to bring finance and help to do things that will accelerate Prime Minister Modi’s very aggressive and important commitment of 450 gigawatts of power over the next ten years from renewables, that’s what we need to do.

India Today:  And what was Prime Minister Modi’s response when you put forward the proposal for the net zero?

Mr. Kerry:  He could not have been more enthusiastic and embracing of it.  I think the Prime Minister has set, knows he has set an important goal  and the Prime Minister would like to achieve that goal.  He’s a person of action.  He wants not rhetoric but results.  So we look forward to trying to fill out this partnership and make things happen and that hopefully could be an example to others in the world.

India Today:  The U.S. has been in and out of international climate —

Mr. Kerry:  Mostly in.

India Today:  Okay.  We’re glad you are back in.  You were out of Paris for a while.

What are you all doing to rebuild the confidence?  It’s good that the Biden administration that you represent has been proactive about it, but what do you need to do to rebuild the confidence of nations that this administration is not all talk and will wiggle out of its commitments, but would really act on climate change?

Mr. Kerry:  Well we need to do exactly what President Biden is doing.  The President rejoined Paris within hours of being sworn in.  The President issued executive orders requiring every aspect of his government to factor in climate in all the decisions that we make.  The President has put a very aggressive, significant piece of legislation allocating $2 trillion to building out America’s infrastructure, our energy grid, to transforming vehicles to electric vehicles, building out 500,000 charging stations in our country.  Many, many different things the President is determined to do because it creates jobs but it also has the impact of improving health, reducing pollution, and addressing the climate crisis.

So the United States under President Biden’s leadership is very clear that we need to not talk about it, we need to do.  We need to act.

He will announce our reduction targets at the Summit on April 22nd and we will be very aggressive in our efforts.  And I would simply emphasize to you, President Trump pulled out of the agreement but most of the governors in America stayed in it.  Most of the mayors in America stayed in it.  So even though President Trump without any science, without any real rationale decided to get out of it, the vast majority of Americans stayed in.  So we’ve been doing pretty well.  Not as good as we could have.  And we certainly sent a terrible message in these last four years.  President Biden is determined to have America step up again the way it did with the Obama-Biden administration.  Now it’s the Biden-Harris administration.  And we’re going to make up for these last four years.

India Today:  Several Indian environmental agencies have said that it would be difficult for India to meet its 2050 target unless major technological changes happen in key industries, particularly in steel and cement.  Now these technologies are very expensive.  What will the U.S. do to give us the kind of green technology or the finance that will enable us to move in that direction?

Mr. Kerry:  Well, what you said is true.  We can’t meet our full goals with the current level of technology and we know that and we have to be honest about that.  But we also can chase those new technologies with far more intensity than we are.  We don’t have enough money going to that challenge of these new technologies.  We’re going to try to change that.  We don’t have enough joint effort, countries working together.  That’s why I’m here, because President Biden wants India and the United States to work together to do the research and hopefully break through on some of these technologies.

We’re all in this together.  I think we need an attitude of cooperation, bringing more people to the table.

The UAE is interested in working with us in this endeavor to try to accelerate the possibilities of hydrogen, for instance, as fuel.  The possibilities of storage for battery power and so forth.

I’m convinced we’ll get there at some point.  The challenge for us is will we get there in time?  Will we push the curve?

India Today:  That’s a good point because China, for instance, says it will not meet its targets by 2050, it wants 2060.  You have somewhat of a confrontational relationship with China at the moment, America does, and so does India.  How confident are you of getting China on board on this?

Mr. Kerry:  I’m hopeful.  Not confident at this point.  I’m hopeful.  Because China is a very important player in this.  China has a very big economy, the second largest in the world.  An enormous nation, powerful nation.  And we hope that China will come to the table and lead.  President Xi has talked about leadership, about China’s role in this.  We want to work with China in doing this.  What President Biden has said is, we will have our differences on some issues.  We clearly do.  So does India.  But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the crisis before all of us which requires all of us to respond and that’s the climate crisis.

So we have to set aside these other things.  We can’t be the prisoners of all of these differences.  We must cooperate on climate.  I think it’s possible.

China and the United States cooperated in 2013, 2014, and we were able to announce our joint efforts.  I think that helped significantly to produce Paris.  Now —

India Today:  I want to come to Paris —

Mr. Kerry:  — we need to work to produce Glasgow.

India Today:  I want to come to Paris because there there were a lot of commitments, particularly funding.  There was a $100 billion commitment made by developed nations 2020.  That was well short of target.

What are you going to do to ensure that this funding is available?  And will you start penalizing nations who don’t put their kitty in?

Mr. Kerry:  I think what we need to do is work with nations to all contribute.  President Biden is going to pay the amount that President Obama had promised, which President Trump blocked.   So we will pay our arrearage but we will also, the President will make certain that we are going forward with an additional amount.  So there will be a Biden contribution to this effort and it will be commensurate with what we should be doing with the size of our economy and our nation.

I believe that we will get, I hope, to the $100 billion.  I believe we will.  We’re about 80 or somewhere now.  But more importantly, we’re not going to just do the $100 billion.  That’s not enough money.  We have to come up with trillions of dollars and the only people who can do that are the private sector.  So we’re working with the largest asset managers, Raj.  We’re working with the largest banks.  Not just large.  We’re starting with the large.  We need to get everybody involved to put money on the table for investment.  Not give away.  But investment.  There’s money to be made in the deployment of new energy and there are all kinds of things that we can do to improve people’s lives, create more jobs, have better health, have greater security, all of which will come if we move in the direction of this new energy economy and I think it’s very exciting.

So the President’s Summit on April 22nd.  President Biden has a Summit.  There will be heads of state there and we will try to raise ambition.  We want the world to see what each country will be pledging to try to do things.  And why?  Because 20 countries, the 20 biggest economies, equal 81 percent of all emissions.  So we want this to happen but we also want it to be just.  We want to be thoughtful and considerate of the small nations that are victims of what others have been doing for 150 years or more and we need to now respond with huge speed to fix the mistakes that we’ve made.

We recognize our responsibility.  Now does that mean that we have to do it all?  No, we can’t do it all by ourselves.  Every country still has to be part of the solution.  For instance, small countries as they build out their energy, don’t go to coal.  Go to renewables.  Go to new energy.  Get a gas relationship or there are many other ways to plug your base load, but we need cooperation.

India Today:  We are running out of time and a final question, what is your big message to India and the world with regard to climate change and to save planet Earth?

Mr. Kerry:  My big message is that India can play a critical role.  It is a nation with huge intellectual resource, with great spirit and spiritual resource.  If the people, the citizens of India apply themselves to this it will happen.

The challenge for all of us is how fast?  We have to do this quickly.  We have to be committed.  And India is a critical partner together with the other bigger economies and bigger emitters.  We have to come together to make sure our children and grandchildren and future generations get a planet back that’s in better shape than it is today.  We really need to get to work to make that happen.

India Today:  Thank you, John Kerry.  We wish you all success in your mission.

Mr. Kerry:  Wish us success.

India Today:  We do.  Thank you.

Mr. Kerry:  It’s our mission.

India Today:  Of course.

Mr. Kerry:  Thank you.

India Today:  Thank you very much.

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    The International Joint Commission's (IJC) process for developing and selecting the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Plan 2014 (Plan 2014) was generally consistent with relevant essential elements of risk-informed decision-making. During the 18-year process, IJC took steps to define objectives and performance measures to be used in its decision-making, identify various options, assess uncertainties like climate change, and engage with stakeholders, among other steps. These steps are all essential elements of risk-informed decision making. Plan 2014 Affects Various Users of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Including (from Left to Right) Commercial Navigation, Coastal Development, and Recreational Boating, Including Marinas IJC uses two mechanisms—a communications committee and a strategic communication plan—and a variety of methods—such as its website, social media, and public meetings—to communicate with stakeholders about its implementation of Plan 2014. Nevertheless, 12 of the 14 stakeholders GAO interviewed expressed concerns about IJC's communication. GAO found that IJC's strategic communication plan and related documents partially align with best practices. For example, the communication plan and related documents do not comprehensively identify target audiences or include mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the effectivness of their communication efforts. Updating its strategic communication plan to align with best practices and principles for risk communication could help IJC ensure improved stakeholder communication. Of the 14 stakeholders interviewed, nine expressed concerns about the rules and criteria in Plan 2014 and 10 expressed concerns about its implementation. For example, seven stakeholders told us that they do not believe that the Plan allows IJC to act proactively in anticipation of future water conditions. IJC has taken initial steps to develop an adaptive management process that may help address stakeholder concerns and approved a long-term adaptive management strategy in March 2020. However, the document does not fully incorporate the key elements and essential characteristics of an adaptive management process that could help IJC transparently and effectively assess Plan 2014 and adjust future actions to achieve the plan's objectives. For example, the Plan does not fully incorporate a communication strategy for engaging stakeholders throughout the process or information on how IJC will determine if adjustments to the Plan's rules and criteria are warranted. Water releases from Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River are determined by a set of regulatory rules and criteria called Plan 2014—issued pursuant to IJC's Supplementary Order of Approval and the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. The IJC—a binational commission—developed and issued the Plan and Order with the concurrence of the United States and Canada. The rules affect a variety of users of the waterway, including ecosystems, hydropower, and municipal and industrial water use. After flooding from the lake and river in 2017, GAO was asked to examine the process IJC used to develop and evaluate Plan 2014 and how IJC has addressed stakeholder concerns. This report examines (1) the extent to which IJC's process to develop and select Plan 2014 was consistent with essential elements of risk-informed decision-making, (2) actions IJC has taken to communicate with stakeholders about its implementation of Plan 2014 and stakeholder concerns regarding IJC's communication, and (3) stakeholder concerns about Plan 2014 and the extent to which IJC has developed a process to assess and adjust Plan 2014. GAO reviewed Plan 2014 and other IJC documents, interviewed IJC and federal officials and a nongeneralizable sample of 14 stakeholders, selected for a variety of user interests and stakeholder types. GAO is making three recommendations, including that the U.S. Section of the IJC work with its Canadian counterpart to ensure that the communication plan aligns with best practices and the adaptive management strategy fully incorporates key elements. IJC agreed with our recommendations. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
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  • IRS Reorganization: Planning Addressed Key Reform Practices, but Goals and Measures for the Plan Have Not Been Finalized
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO identified advantages of, challenges related to, and options for improving the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) current organizational structure, based on GAO's review of prior work and interviews with IRS officials and stakeholders. For example, one advantage of the current structure, according to several interviewees, is that IRS's divisions have developed specialized expertise on different types of taxpayers with similar needs, such as small businesses. Several interviewees also believed that addressing some of IRS's challenges may not require significant changes to IRS's organizational structure. GAO and others have identified challenges and options to improve IRS's structure, processes, and operations in the following areas: (1) customer service; (2) communication and coordination within IRS; (3) technology; and (4) strategic human capital management and training. While developing its reorganization plan required by the Taxpayer First Act, IRS addressed or partially addressed all six of the key practices for agency reforms that GAO reviewed (see table below). GAO Assessment of IRS's Reorganization Planning Process against Key Reform Practices Key reform practice Extent addressed Establishing goals and outcomes ◑ Involving employees and key stakeholders ● Using data and evidence ● Addressing fragmentation, overlap, and duplication ◑ Addressing high-risk areas and long-standing management challenges ◑ Leadership focus and attention ● Legend: ● Generally addressed ◑ Partially addressed ○ Not addressed Source: GAO analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information. | GAO-21-18 IRS established a senior-level team—the Taxpayer First Act Office—to lead the reorganization planning, involved employees and key stakeholders, and used multiple sources of data and evidence to inform its planning. Although IRS has developed preliminary goals for the plan, it has not yet finalized and communicated the goals and performance measures for the plan. IRS has also researched potential actions it could take to address long-standing management challenges at IRS, such as those related to areas of fragmentation, overlap, duplication, and high risk that GAO has identified. However, IRS has not yet decided on specific actions to address those areas in its plan. IRS officials told us that they intend to take these additional steps, but COVID-19 delayed the completion of their reorganization plan to December 2020. As a result, it is still unclear whether the reorganization plan will have outcome-oriented goals and performance measures or whether it will identify specific actions to address long-standing management challenges. Taking these steps could help IRS identify and achieve the intended outcomes of the reorganization plan, and identify reforms that can create long-term gains in efficiency and effectiveness. The Taxpayer First Act required that a comprehensive written plan to redesign IRS be submitted to Congress by September 30, 2020. Reforming and reorganizing a federal agency as large and complex as IRS is not an easy task. However, a potential reorganization could provide IRS with an opportunity to address emerging and long-standing challenges. GAO was asked to review IRS's organizational structure and IRS's plans to reform it. This report examines (1) reported advantages of, challenges related to, and options for potentially improving IRS's organizational structure; and (2) the extent to which IRS's reorganization planning process is consistent with selected leading practices. GAO reviewed documents from IRS and other sources; interviewed IRS officials and stakeholders, including three former IRS commissioners; and assessed IRS's reorganization planning process against selected key practices for agency reform efforts developed by GAO. GAO is making three recommendations to IRS as it finalizes its reorganization plan, including that IRS should finalize goals and performance measures, and identify specific actions to address long-standing management challenges. IRS responded that it plans to implement GAO's recommendations when it submits its final reorganization plan to Congress in December 2020. For more information, contact James R. McTigue, Jr. at (202) 512-9110 or mctiguej@gao.gov.
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  • Immigration Detention: Actions Needed to Improve Planning, Documentation, and Oversight of Detention Facility Contracts
    In U.S GAO News
    In fiscal year 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had detention contracts or agreements with 233 facilities, 185 of which it used to hold detainees, as shown below. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Space Acquisition Methods, Fiscal Year 2019 Acquisition method Total facilities Facilities that held detainees Percentage of average daily population held in facility Intergovernmental service agreement 133 108 59 U.S. Marshals Service rider 85 62 17 Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contract 15 15 24 Total 233 185 100 Source: GAO analysis of ICE data. | GAO-21-149 ICE primarily uses intergovernmental service agreements (IGSA) to acquire detention space. Officials said IGSAs offer several benefits over contracts, including fewer requirements for documentation or competition. ICE has a process for obtaining new detention space, but it did not follow this process for most of its recent acquisitions and does not have a strategic approach to using guaranteed minimum payments in its detention contracts and agreements. From fiscal year 2017 through May 11, 2020, ICE entered into 40 contracts and agreements for new detention space. GAO's review of ICE's documentation found that 28 of 40 of these contracts and agreements did not have documentation from ICE field offices showing a need for the space, outreach to local officials, or the basis for ICE's decisions to enter into them, as required by ICE's process. Until ICE consistently uses its process, it will not have reasonable assurance that it is making cost-effective decisions that best meet its operational needs. ICE has increasingly incorporated guaranteed minimum payments into its contracts and agreements, whereby ICE agrees to pay detention facility operators for a fixed number of detention beds regardless of whether it uses them. However, ICE has not taken a strategic approach to these decisions and has spent millions of dollars a month on unused detention space. Planning for detention space needs can be challenging, according to ICE officials, because the agency must respond to factors that are dynamic and difficult to predict. A strategic approach to using guaranteed minimums could help position ICE to balance these factors and make more effective use of federal funds. ICE relies on Contracting Officer's Representatives (COR) to oversee detention contracts and agreements, but the COR's supervisory structure—where field office management, rather than headquarters, oversee COR work and assess COR performance—does not provide sufficient independence for effective oversight. CORs in eight of 12 field offices identified concerns including lacking resources or support, as well as supervisors limiting their ability to use contract enforcement tools and bypassing CORs' oversight responsibilities in contracting matters. Revising its supervisory structure could help ICE ensure that detention contract and agreement terms are enforced. The Department of Homeland Security's ICE detained approximately 48,500 foreign nationals a day, on average, for 72 hours or more in fiscal year 2019. ICE was appropriated about $3.14 billion in fiscal year 2020 to operate the immigration detention system. ICE has three ways of acquiring detention space—IGSAs with state or local government entities; agreements with Department of Justice U.S. Marshals Service to join an existing contract or agreement (known as a “rider”); or contracts. This report examines (1) what data show about the characteristics of contracts and agreements; (2) the extent to which ICE developed and implemented processes and a strategic approach to acquire space; and (3) the extent to which ICE has overseen and enforced contracts and agreements. GAO reviewed documentation of acquisition and oversight efforts at facilities used to hold detainees for 72 hours or more; analyzed ICE data for the last 3 fiscal years—2017 through 2019; conducted site visits to new and long-standing detention facilities; and interviewed ICE officials. GAO is making five recommendations, including that ICE include stakeholder input and document decision-making for new detention space acquisitions; implement a strategic approach to using guaranteed minimums; and revise its supervisory structure for contract oversight. DHS concurred with four recommendations and disagreed with revising its supervisory structure. GAO believes the recommendation remains valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.
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  • Military Spouse Employment: DOD Should Continue Assessing State Licensing Practices and Increase Awareness of Resources
    In U.S GAO News
    According to estimates from Department of Defense (DOD) survey data, roughly one-quarter of military spouses who were in the workforce and in career fields that required credentials (state licenses or certifications) were unemployed in 2017. In that same year, about one-quarter of spouses who were employed in credentialed career fields were working outside their area of expertise, and about one in seven were working part-time due to a lack of full-time opportunities—two potential indicators of underemployment. Employment outcomes for military spouses may also vary due to other factors, including their partner's rank and frequent moves, according to DOD survey data and GAO's literature review. In February 2020, the Defense State Liaison Office, which works on key issues affecting military families, assessed states' use of best practices that help military spouses transfer occupational licenses. For example, the Liaison Office found that 34 states could increase their use of interstate compacts, which allow spouses in certain career fields, such as nursing, to work in multiple states without relicensing (see figure). However, the Liaison Office does not plan to continue these assessments, or assess whether states' efforts are improving spouses' experiences with transferring licenses. As a result, DOD may not have up-to-date information on states' actions that help spouses transfer their licenses and maintain employment. Assessment by the Defense State Liaison Office of Number of States Using Interstate Compacts to Improve Military Spouse Employment DOD and the military services use a range of virtual and in-person outreach to promote awareness of employment resources among military spouses. For example, officials GAO interviewed at installations said they promoted resources through social media and at orientation briefings. Nonetheless, GAO found that inconsistent information sharing across DOD and with external stakeholders who help spouses with employment hindered the effectiveness of outreach. For instance, officials from two services said they do not have methods to regularly exchange outreach best practices or challenges, while officials from another service said they have quarterly staff calls to share lessons learned. Without strategies for sharing information among internal and external stakeholders, DOD may miss opportunities to increase spouses' awareness of available resources, and improve their employment opportunities. There were over 605,000 spouses of active duty servicemembers in the U.S. military as of 2018. These spouses may face conditions associated with the military lifestyle that make it challenging to start or maintain a career, including frequent moves and difficulties transferring occupational licenses. House Armed Services Committee Report 116-120 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review several matters related to military spouse employment. This report examines (1) selected employment outcomes for military spouses, (2) DOD's efforts to evaluate states' licensing policies for spouses, and (3) DOD's outreach efforts to promote awareness of employment resources. GAO reviewed DOD documentation and 2017 survey data (most recent available), relevant literature, and federal laws; interviewed DOD and military services officials and relevant stakeholders; and spoke with staff at six military installations selected based on the numbers of servicemembers, among other factors. GAO is making two recommendations to DOD to continue assessing and reporting on states' efforts to help military spouses transfer occupational licenses, and to establish information sharing strategies on outreach to military spouses about employment resources. DOD concurred with both recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-7215 or curdae@gao.gov.
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