With the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) ongoing in Marrakech, Bill Breed reflects on his COP involvement since its early days, having participated in 13 of the 22 negotiations. Breed always enjoyed the annual meeting because of its focus on systems-based thinking.
“This COP will also be about getting countries to follow up on the transparency obligations and communicate what they are doing now. That is what will be the real tell-tale and confidence builder between countries.” The COP has evolved over the years but continues to serve as the central meeting of parties for global climate change negotiations.
The global community has come a long way from the well-intentioned but ill-fated Kyoto Protocol (a top-down and rigid approach) to the bottom-up, everyone-contributes-what-they-can approach of the Paris Agreement.
Breed’s COP contributions have been through analysis and technical assessment to inform policy direction and decisions. One team Breed was part of was often referred to as the “engine room” by UNFCCC counterparts. With the help of this team, he said, “the negotiating process on reporting and review kept cranking along.”
Key to the development of U.N. transparency processes was the teamwork and professional relationships that formed between experts from various countries and multilateral organizations — all dedicated to making available the most accurate and valuable data and science via national reporting.
Breed noted that the most important aspect of emissions inventory reporting is the underlying economic data for each country, which supports the inventory and the identification of trends. Breed points to early U.S. efforts to establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the Energy Information Administration primarily as means to manage our economy. All these years later, these data sources inform our national emissions inventory and modeling.
One of his career highlights was being recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a lead author for making a significant contribution to its award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
During his youth, Breed was first inspired to study marine ecology by the work of French explorer Jacques Cousteau. He earned a Master’s in marine science from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor’s in biology and marine science from Jacksonville University.
Working for the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office at the Stennis Space Center, he collected and analyzed deep-sea and satellite oceanographic data in the 1980s. He later transitioned to the Department of Energy (DOE) to work on climate impacts and was responsible for analysis on a range of climate and environmental issues. Bill’s last DOE role was as the Director of the Alternative Fuels and Energy Efficiency Analysis Office.
Bill transferred to USAID as the Global Climate Change team leader in 2004 and now manages a staff of 15 specialists that provide technical assistance for program design to USAID Missions, pilot mitigation strategies through clean energy and the land sector, test adaptation methodologies, incorporate climate considerations into development assistance, and demonstrate innovative approaches. The team also represents USAID in interagency policy development and international negotiations.
Breed has always enjoyed hikes and runs on travel, covering hills and trails to coastlines, forests and deserts. One of those long runs was the JFK 50-miler; the stamina gained over a year’s training enabled long days negotiating at the UNGA Special Session “Rio + 5” and the Kyoto COP-3 in 1997.
For those working in climate change today, Breed advises to remain open to new opportunities — whether applied to your own career path or in thinking strategically about projects.
“Be open to opportunity and other people’s thoughts and experiences,” he said. “You soak it all up and it builds, especially in climate change and development; the more points of view and experiences you have, the better outcome you will reach.”