BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE
The German ambassador Tuesday called for an "energy revolution" as he opened a joint German-U.S. project his government calls a "trans-Atlantic climate bridge" to encourage government and private cooperation to produce cleaner power.
"We are facing enormous economic challenges," Ambassador Klaus Scharioth told energy experts at his residence. "During these difficult times; it is critical that we take the long view on energy and climate change."
He noted the challenges of trying to meet air quality goals set out in the Kyoto climate treaty during the global financial crisis.
"First, we need an energy revolution that involves both the public and private sector and decision-makers at all levels," Mr. Scharioth said. "Second, we need more cooperation."
That is the reason for the "climate bridge."
"I believe that by working together, Germans and Americans can be a powerful engine for trans-Atlantic and also global climate cooperation," he said.
Mr. Scharioth noted that many of his guests already show the success of U.S.-German cooperation on energy projects.
"First Solar, the largest manufacturer of thin-film solar cells in the world, is an excellent example of a U.S. company thriving in Germany, thanks to the country's favorable framework for renewable energies," he said, introducing the firm's chief executive officer, Michael Ahearn.
Guests included: L. Preston Bryant Jr., Virginia's secretary for natural resources; Kathleen McGinty, former secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection and the acting secretary, John Hanger; Claudia Wormann of the Federation of German Industries; and Eicke Weber, director of Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.
Mr. Bryant recently led a delegation to Hamburg to study Germany's efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Pennsylvania and Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia region have established partnerships in the energy sector.
Mr. Scharioth added that Germany has already met its goal under the Kyoto treaty of reducing its carbon emissions to 22 percent below the levels emitted in 1990. Critics, however, say Germany achieved much of its target by closing old, coal-fired energy plants in East Germany.
"A green economy can generate growth, create jobs, ensure energy security and prevent our climate from deteriorating further," the ambassador said.
A former Czech ambassador to the United States on Tuesday stood up for the European Union amid criticism over the Czech Republic's dedication to the EU.
Alexandr Vondra, now the deputy prime minister, noted that the Czech government is committed to the 27-nation union the Czech Republic joined four years ago, despite the feelings of Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who refuses to fly the EU flag over the presidential Prague Castle.
Under its parliamentary system, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is head of government, while Mr. Klaus holds the more ceremonial position as head of state. The prime minister will represent the nation when the Czech Republic assumes the rotating EU presidency in January.
"European policy is the domain of the government," Mr. Vondra said in response to criticism from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the EU presidency. "There was, there is and there will be the European flag" flying over parliament and the government offices, he added. Mr. Vondra was ambassador in Washington from March 1997 to July 2001.
Mr. Sarkozy on Tuesday said he is "sometimes a little astonished" by Mr. Klaus' criticism of the EU.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.