U.S. Environmental and Conservation Priorities


MODERATOR:  Good day, and welcome to the Overseas Press Middle’s digital briefing with the Bureau of Oceans and Worldwide Environmental and Scientific Affairs on the Division of State.  Our distinguished briefer at the moment is Assistant Secretary Monica Medina, who serves because the assistant secretary of the bureau.  My title is Daphne Stavropoulos and I’ll be your moderator. 

Earlier than we get began with the briefing, let’s go over a number of logistics.  This briefing is on the report.  Will probably be recorded and made out there to members after its conclusion.  Participation on this briefing implies your consent to being recorded.  We’ll publish a video and the transcript on our web site as quickly as is feasible.  If the Zoom session fails or disconnects, please rejoin and dial in utilizing the cellphone quantity offered within the registration hyperlink. 


So let’s start.  I’d wish to welcome and introduce our distinguished briefer at the moment, Monica Medina.  She serves because the assistant secretary for Oceans and Worldwide Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and she or he was confirmed for this place and got here into workplace on September twenty eighth of 2021.  

Beforehand she was an adjunct professor at Georgetown College’s College of Overseas Service.  She was additionally a senior affiliate on the Stephenson Ocean Safety Venture on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research and co-founder and writer of Our Each day Planet, an e-newsletter on conservation and the atmosphere.   

I’m happy to welcome her.  She is going to make some remarks and supply an replace on U.S. environmental priorities and her conferences throughout the Excessive-Degree Week of the UN Common Meeting.  She may even focus on U.S. aims within the coming months, together with combating plastic air pollution and nature crimes, preventing the local weather disaster, and reversing biodiversity loss.  


After her opening remarks, I’ll return and open the ground for questions.  And with that, it’s a pleasure to show the ground over to her.  Thanks for becoming a member of us. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA:  Thanks.  Good afternoon, everybody.  I’m Monica Medina, the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Worldwide Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and I’m happy to present you an replace at the moment on our U.S. environmental and conservation priorities.   


Our message is straightforward:  It’s time for all nations to step up and present up for nature, for the planet, and for our youngsters and grandchildren and their future.  Yesterday, america stepped up and we confirmed up for our planet in a landmark, completely historic second.  We’re thrilled that the U.S. Senate voted to ratify the Kigali Modification to the Montreal Protocol.  We’ve now joined 137 different nations in agreeing to section down international manufacturing and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, super-polluting chemical substances which are a whole bunch of hundreds of instances extra highly effective than carbon dioxide.  World implementation of this treaty ought to keep away from as a lot as a half a level Celsius of warming by the tip of this century, which is an incredible step ahead in tackling the local weather disaster. 

This is a crucial instance of america’ return to the worldwide stage as a frontrunner in preventing local weather change, lowering air pollution, and making strides in the direction of leaving our youngsters and grandchildren a more healthy planet than the one now we have at the moment.  And this monumental resolution will not be solely supported by the U.S. Authorities however by all the U.S. enterprise group.  It supported the Kigali Modification as a result of it’s good for U.S. companies, it’s good for U.S. competitiveness, and it’s good for the atmosphere and the planet. 


This week on the 77th UN Common Meeting, now we have centered on adapting to and mitigating the results of local weather change, supporting a worldwide purpose of conserving no less than 30 p.c of the land and waters on the planet by 2030, and uniting the world to lowering rising ranges of air pollution.  We addressed these points via a number of completely different occasions.  A group of North and South Atlantic nations have agreed that challenges to an open and sustainable Atlantic Ocean are greatest tackled collectively.  I joined Secretary Blinken and several other different Atlantic coastal governments to discover cooperation on environmental, financial, and maritime safety points. 

I additionally joined the American Chemistry Council for a dialogue on how you can obtain ambition and motion on ending international plastic air pollution, with a concentrate on the total life cycle of plastics.   

And I additionally participated within the launch of the Excessive Ambition Enterprise Coalition, calling for a profitable international settlement to finish plastic air pollution.  I participated within the launch of a plastics disclosure and reporting initiative to assist firms perceive and share their plastic footprints.   

I additionally joined NGOs, the Alliance of Small Island States, and the governments – the Authorities of Antigua and Barbuda, and different leaders from all world wide to current coverage approaches to fight plastic air pollution that may be scaled up as potential options.  These coverage approaches might be thought-about as a part of a global, legally binding instrument to handle plastic polution that we’re engaged on proper now. 

I spoke at a session with the Inexperienced Local weather Fund to focus on a brand new era of co-investment platforms aiming to mix a number of sources of private and non-private finance to scale up local weather investments in varied sectors.   

Earlier this yr, america joined the Excessive Ambition Coalition for Nature and Individuals in assist of the purpose to preserve or shield no less than 30 p.c of the worldwide ocean.  And this week, I joined a lot of my fellow ministers at an occasion to name on all nations to step up and present up for biodiversity on the Conference on Organic Variety’s Convention of the Events, which can happen in Montreal in December of this yr. 

I met with Pacific Island leaders who’re a part of the Local2030 Islands Community to advance island priorities and management.  This partnership was first introduced final yr in Glasgow at COP26 with a $9 million U.S. dedication with a concentrate on implementation and motion on clear vitality and local weather resilience.   

And eventually, to realize success on our most vital and pressing priorities, america has constantly advocated for sturdy, multistakeholder engagement, together with from civil society organizations and environmental defenders.  The menace in opposition to environmental defenders working to fight the local weather disaster or handle air pollution are extreme and severe.  America desires to make sure that the area for environmental defenders to behave and communicate up and lend their voices to those vital points is preserved and expanded. 

As you may inform, it’s been an extremely busy week right here in New York, however these subsequent few months will form the longer term well being of the planet for generations to return.  I’m so inspired by the momentum right here at dwelling within the U.S. and throughout the globe to maneuver from ambition to motion.  We stand at a crossroads with regards to conserving our planet, to confronting a local weather disaster and a air pollution disaster and a nature disaster abruptly.   

We all know the local weather disaster is an issue and its ripple results are being felt in all places, together with via extra excessive climate akin to what we simply noticed in Japan, Alaska, and naturally right here within the U.S. in Puerto Rico.  It’s inflicting ocean acidification and lack of land as a result of sea degree rise.  It’s inflicting international meals insecurity due to excessive warmth or water shortages or floods.  After which there’s a ensuing lack of nature and wildlife.  As we communicate, negotiations are underway to handle and shield the ocean, to revive biodiversity, to sort out the plastic air pollution disaster and start in earnest the onerous work of implementing the Paris Local weather Settlement.  It’s a busy time. 

Simply take into account what’s to return over the following a number of months.  Subsequent week, President Biden will welcome Pacific Island leaders to Washington for a two-day summit to additional strengthen this vital bond and advance conservation, sustainable growth, regional cooperation, meals safety, local weather resilience, and far more.   

In late October, we’ll be in Hobart, Australia, for the assembly of the Conference on the Conservation of Atlantic – I’m sorry – Antarctic Marine Dwelling Assets, also referred to as CCAMLR, which is contemplating proposals to ascertain extra Marine Protected Areas on this very fragile a part of the world.  If the world is to succeed in the purpose of conserving no less than 30 p.c of the worldwide ocean, then Arctic Marine Protected Areas are important. 

In early November, after all, the world will come collectively in Egypt for COP27 as we proceed to take the motion we have to hold international temperature rise beneath 1.5 levels Celsius.  In late November, negotiations will start on the first-ever World Settlement to Fight Plastic Air pollution and people negotiations will happen in Montevideo, Uruguay.   

And in December, we’ll be in Montreal for the ultimate session of the Conference on Organic Variety’s negotiation of a World Biodiversity Framework for the approaching decade, together with the purpose to preserve or shield no less than 30 p.c of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. 

And early subsequent yr, we’ll be again in New York to finish the negotiation of an settlement for the conservation and sustainable use of the excessive seas, an enormous expanse of ocean that covers half the planet.   

And this isn’t the entire listing, however you may see why the approaching months characterize such a vital second.  If we fail to satisfy this second, we all know that we’ll see extra air pollution, we’ll see rising temperatures and flooding and sea degree rise, lack of biodiversity, larger environmental injustice, and larger insecurity and strife all throughout the planet.   

However there’s one other approach – a path forward that results in a greater future the place we reside sustainably, wherein now we have a constructive relationship with nature.  Below President Biden’s management on local weather, on nature, biodiversity, and air pollution, we’re selecting that higher path.  On his first day in workplace, President Biden re-entered america into the Paris Settlement.  And with the latest passage of the Inflation Discount Act and different efforts deliberate and underway, we will and we are going to meet our local weather targets.  There are answers to the opposite challenges throughout us too, and america Authorities is working to make sure we act on all of them to impress a broad group of stakeholders who will assist us.   

We joined the Excessive-Degree Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Financial system and are strengthening our partnerships with Pacific Islands.  Together with Canada and the UK, we launched a coalition to fight unlawful, unregulated, and unreported fishing – a worldwide downside that hurts fishermen and the oceans alike.  President Biden signed a Nationwide Safety Memorandum that additional tackles this downside. 

Earlier this yr, the worldwide group took an vital step in the direction of ending subsidies that promote dangerous fishing practices everywhere in the world, and on the seventh Our Ocean Convention we generated greater than $16 billion in new commitments to create protected areas, promote sustainable fishing, cut back air pollution, decarbonizing the transport trade, and extra.  A historic decision on the UN Setting Meeting launched the two-year negotiation course of to finish the scourge of plastic air pollution that chokes our streets, our rivers, our lakes, and our seashores.  The listing goes on and on. 

Throughout america and the world, we see indigenous leaders and communities on the forefront of conservation.  A number of indigenous-led ocean conservation initiatives are underway from Georgia to California, Alaska to Hawaii, and as far-off because the Northern Marianas.  This mirrors the rising significance of and respect for indigenous conservation and indigenous data across the globe to preserve and sustainably handle the pure world.  

A clear and wholesome atmosphere will not be a luxurious.  It is very important the well being, well-being, and safety of all individuals.  That’s the reason america was proud to vote in favor of the United Nations decision supporting a proper to a clear, wholesome, and sustainable atmosphere.  The query now’s:  Will we hold this up?  Can we proceed to satisfy this second?  Will we transfer from ambition to motion?  Will we seize this once-in-a-lifetime alternative to maneuver down a extra sustainable path that values and conserves nature?   

I firmly imagine that we’ll, and america has stepped up its management at this significant second.  The planet wants us, and we’re prepared proper now and sooner or later to do our half.  

Thanks so very a lot for being with us at the moment.  And with that, I’m pleased to take your questions.   

MODERATOR:  Effectively, thanks a lot for these opening remarks.  To ask a query, please elevate your digital hand and watch for me to name on you.  When referred to as on, unmute your self and as a courtesy to our briefer, please allow each your video and allow your audio.  

And the primary query will go to Pearl Matibe.  Pearl, go forward.  

QUESTION:  Thanks very a lot in your availability at the moment.  Pearl Matibe, Energy FM, South Africa.  I’m not in a position to put my video on; I’m at a special convention – somewhat little bit of battle right here with the entire Common Meeting.   

So to ask my query, I simply wish to give some context.  Africa is dwelling to the second-largest rainforest, and it’s bounded by no less than – quite a few oceans, our bodies of water.  And for those who check out, for instance, South Africa, for instance, South Africa alone has a shoreline of virtually 3,000 kilometers.  Namibia, virtually 1,500.  Mozambique, virtually 2,400 – truly greater than 2,400 kilometers’ value of shoreline.  In order you discuss conservation, I wish to learn the way do you thread within the political-economy aspect of the conservation coverage?  As a result of governments will be unable to successfully cut back what the planet wants alone with out the pursuits of enormous companies.   

So within the commodity chain of issues, the place and the way are you factoring massive companies’ pursuits in what finally ends up hurting the planet?  As a result of they nonetheless wish to make their earnings.  You’ve obtained massive exploration proper there in Mozambique.  And but, after which how do you deliver these African nations alongside?  You possibly can see proper now in DRC there’s this query, which Secretary Blinken was already addressing when he was out in Africa on his go to, about how the president there’s already auctioning off blocks of this rainforest. 

So political-economy query; how are you going to realize what it’s you propose to realize?  How are you going to operationalize it?  Thanks.  

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA:  Thanks a lot for that query.  It’s a wonderful one.  I believe there are a few details to make right here.  First, we all know that the atmosphere and the economic system work nicely collectively.  And I believe the main focus that we hope to deliver to the African continent, to the COP, COP27, is one on adaptation and sustainable, nature-based options to local weather.  We all know that these nations wish to be options nations, and we wish to assist them.   

We additionally know that they’re considerably resource-dependent for meals.  We’d like – we all know we have to assist them with water provide and conserving water provides, with build up storm resilience on their coastlines.  We all know we have to assist them shield their meals provide within the ocean from IUU fishing.  And we hope to do all of that via quite a few completely different mechanisms – each via the issues that we’re doing within the local weather context, and we’ll be saying a lot of these on the COP and past that, and likewise within the context of a few of these new partnerships that we’re creating just like the Atlantic partnership that we’re starting to speak with Atlantic nations about, together with a number of African nations.  Namibia, Ghana, Senegal I imagine are just some.   

So we’re working onerous to try this outreach.  As you talked about, the Secretary of State was in Africa just lately and that was an important go to the place we introduced a brand new Africa coverage for the State Division, for the U.S. Authorities.   

I may even look – I might additionally have you ever take a look at the work we’re doing within the space of plastic air pollution, which I do know is a large downside on the African continent and the place African nations have stepped up and led – African nations like Rwanda that has been a frontrunner within the plastic negotiations to this point, and Kenya that has had some actually groundbreaking home regulation that has helped different nations see a strategy to eliminating plastic air pollution of their borders.  

So in that specific negotiation, we’re working intently with enterprise, with governments, with NGOs, with state and native governments, with communities to strive to determine how you can deliver a holistic resolution to the plastic air pollution downside, one which’s a life cycle of plastics resolution.  And we’re getting loads of actually good funding by – innovation by these companies, however as nicely by simply their dedication to sticking with us within the negotiations in order that we will create a worldwide settlement that’s the excessive commonplace for eliminating plastic air pollution.  We hope we will get to an settlement the place we are going to eradicate plastic air pollution by 2040 everywhere in the world.   

So I hope that that’s a path ahead that may assist us see that we will work throughout trade, authorities, and nonprofit organizations, group organizations to deliver actual options to individuals the place they reside. 

MODERATOR:  Thanks a lot.  It seems to be like Pearl has a follow-up, if we will flip again to Pearl.  Pearl, go forward.  

QUESTION:  Thanks a lot, Daphne.  So thanks for the – your response on that.  If I can simply perhaps contact on the difficulty that you simply talked about about plastics, are you growing any counternarrative to critics who may criticize Western nations at the moment that – on plastics?  Sure, we agree plastics are the difficulty, however then there could also be this colonial pondering from 100 years in the past {that a} sure thought was delivered to the continent that the difficulty of plastics got here from elsewhere and now, clearly, is an issue.  I’m simply questioning, are you ready for counternarratives from these naysayers?   

After which I simply wish to ask concerning the elephant inhabitants on the continent.  So you already know that in the mean time – I don’t know what the casual inhabitants numbers are, however they’re in all probability possible nicely over 400,000 – I don’t know if it’s fairly half 1,000,000 – elephants on the continent, huge nations within – in southern Africa, or Botswana and Zimbabwe, actually, who at the moment are – possible obtained an overpopulation of elephants.  What are the dialog, key conversations there now when it comes to how – I don’t know – I’m not an environmental ethicist, however on how people and nonhumans – in different phrases, animals – can then combine in your conservation efforts and the way you’re addressing these nations?  So do you’ve a priority concerning the elephant populations?   Thanks.   

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA:  After all.  Okay, so let’s begin with plastic.  Plastic – I perceive that that could be the best way that it appears, however plastic air pollution is a really latest phenomenon.  And in loads of nations, there’s a necessity for plastic water bottles with a purpose to get them potable water.  We have to repair that; we have to change that by enhancing water methods in nations everywhere in the world.  And we want, in all places, to enhance our recycling charges, and that’s an issue everywhere in the planet.  And I do see loads of progress in nations like Rwanda and Kenya which have taken sturdy steps, so it’s potential for governments to try this, and we within the U.S. are taking a look at what they’re doing to see how we will enhance our personal methods.  

So I believe this is a matter the place the world has to work collectively.  We’re all hooked on plastic, a technique or one other, and we have to break that cycle of dependancy.  And I believe that we will, given a worldwide settlement round the necessity to do it.  So I’m very optimistic.  And I believe the innovation will come from everywhere in the world, and so options can be discovered everywhere in the world.  There’s nobody measurement suits all right here, and we’re going to wish the perfect of all of that, and we’re going to attract on the perfect of all of that with a purpose to remedy this downside.   

Now, elephant populations.  It’s attention-grabbing, I had – I used to be at an occasion simply yesterday with the minister of atmosphere, the truth is, for Gabon.  And he remarked that they’re seeing elephant populations growing in Gabon as a result of elephant poaching is definitely happening.  After China stopped taking poached ivory, elephant ivory, minimize off their ivory markets, he noticed a dramatic lower in poaching, which meant a rise within the elephant populations.  It’s not for us to inform a rustic how you can handle their populations, however I do suppose you’ve hit on an vital problem, which is managing conflicts or the interactions between people and the pure atmosphere.   

And we see that that might be an growing downside in our future.  Zoonotic spillover is a large problem, and so we have to be sure that we’re deconflicting as a lot as potential animal populations and human encroachment on these populations.  And I believe locations just like the Conservation on – the CBD, the Conservation Organic Variety, COP is one place the place we will have a few of these essential conversations about conservation, about animals and people and how you can preserve that 30 p.c that we desperately want with a purpose to hold the planet wholesome, based on all of the scientific consultants. 

MODERATOR:  Thanks a lot.  Subsequent week President Biden and his administration are internet hosting the Pacific Island leaders in Washington.  What are you hoping to realize subsequent week, and why is the U.S. relationship with the Pacific Island nations so vital?   

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA:  Thanks for that query.  I’m very excited.  I’m very a lot wanting ahead to this summit subsequent week in Washington with Pacific Island leaders as a result of, to begin with, the U.S. is a Pacific nation itself, and these island nations have lengthy been our good mates and companions within the area.  And we stay up for deepening that partnership now.  These island nations have been on the forefront of the local weather disaster.  We all know that they’re struggling to beat the COVID disaster.  So it’s a extremely vital time for the U.S. to develop our work within the Pacific and to develop {our relationships} with these essential nations.  Thanks. 

MODERATOR:  We’re out of time.  I wish to be respectful of your schedule, Assistant Secretary Medina.  Thanks for becoming a member of us.  Because of the journalists who logged on and are viewing within the livestream and on our YouTube channel.   

As we speak’s briefing was on the report.  We’ll publish a transcript on our web site on the conclusion of this briefing as quickly because it’s out there. Thanks very a lot and good day. 

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