Does That Look Like a Ton to You?

John M. Broder writes for the New York Times,

Negotiators for the United States and China have been trading public accusations in recent days and making little progress in negotiations on the critical issue of treaty compliance.

Chinese negotiators have said little during formal negotiation sessions here, where they have been working in partnership with the developing countries. They have made clear that they do not expect money from the industrial powers to help make the shift to a more energy-efficient economy.

But they will not accept any outside monitors to ensure that they are indeed making the changes that they have promised to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted per unit of economic output.

“I think there’s no doubt that China, when it says 40 to 45 percent reduction in energy intensity, is serious about that,” said Ed Miliband, the British secretary of state for energy and climate change. “The more challenging hurdle is finding a formula for ensuring the outside world that an avoided ton of gas is in fact a ton.”

He Yafei, the Chinese vice foreign minister, said China’s laws would guarantee compliance.

“This is a matter of principle,” even if it scuttles the talks, he said in an interview with The Financial Times.

American officials said that despite nearly a year of negotiations with the Chinese, there were still fundamental problems that may not be fixed here before the meetings end. The United States says it believes that the Chinese emissions target is too low — a top American official called it “disappointing” the day it was announced. Without a stronger emissions commitment and an agreement to international monitoring by China, Congress is unlikely to approve a tough new domestic climate regime for the United States.

“If China or any other country wants to be a full partner in global climate efforts, that country must commit to transparency and review of their emissions-cutting regime,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a co-sponsor of the climate and energy bill that passed the House in June. “Without that commitment, other governments and industries, including those in America, will be hesitant to engage with those countries when they try to partner on global warming.”

And the Chinese refusal to accept verification measures could also lead to calls for punitive tariffs on Chinese goods coming into the United States. The House bill allows for the imposition of tariffs on goods from countries that do not constrain their carbon output. A group of 10 Democratic senators wrote to Mr. Obama two weeks ago warning that the Senate would not ratify any treaty that did not protect American industry from foreign competitors who do not have to meet global warming emissions limits.

read more at the New York Times


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