China Defies Obama In Global Warming Talks

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Chinese delegates to the United Nations global warming summit in Peru have rejected a U.S.-led attempt to scrutinize the country’s plans to limit carbon dioxide emissions, despite having promised President Barack Obama to cut emissions in the coming decades.

Bloomberg reports that Chinese delegates sought to “delete provisions in a draft text that would have paved the way for other countries and non-governmental organisations to submit questions about its carbon-reduction plans.”

Top U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said that national plans to fight global warming should be subject to scrutiny from other countries, adding that “the sunshine is intended to prod countries to be as ambitious as possible” in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

A Chinese attempt to block international scrutiny of its vague promise to cut emissions comes just one month after it, along with the Obama administration, promised cuts to domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. said it would cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2030, while the Chinese said only that their emissions would peak by 2030.

China is the world’s largest user of coal and the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. The Obama-China deal was hailed as an “historic” agreement between the two states. White House officials said it was key to hashing out a new climate treaty next year in Paris.

“By making this announcement well in advance of the deadline set out in the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] UNFCCC negotiations, the two leaders demonstrated their commitment to reducing the harmful emissions warming our planet, and urged other world leaders to follow suit in offering strong national targets ahead of next year’s final negotiations in Paris,” wrote White House climate advisers John Podesta and John Holdren.

Republicans, however, argued that the agreement with China was “all pain, no gain” for the U.S. because it commits the country to economically harmful emissions cuts while requiring only vague promises from China.

“In the president’s climate change deal, the United States will be required to more steeply reduce our carbon emissions while China won’t have to reduce anything,”  said Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who will soon chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“It’s hollow and not believable for China to claim it will shift 20 percent of its energy to non-fossil fuels by 2030, and a promise to peak its carbon emissions only allows the world’s largest economy to buy time,” Inhofe said.

Despite the goodwill on climate in November, China has already made things difficult for U.S. hopes of a global climate treaty.

China is using its climate pledge as leverage to get rich countries to spend $100 billion in climate aid to poor countries. Rich countries have already given $10 billion in climate aid, including $3 billion from U.S. taxpayers. But China says this is not enough.

The “$10 billion is just one 10th of that objective,” and “we do not have any clear road map of meeting that target for 2020,” said Su Wei, China’s lead climate negotiator, according to Bloomberg. Su Wei added that global warming aid is “a trust-building process.”

“The significance of the China-U.S. announcement is that there’s a general understanding by the leaders of the two countries that climate change is a real threat,” Su Wei said. “A joint announcement does not necessarily blur the distinction between developed and developing countries. They announced their actions but that was in a different manner.”

Calls for more combined with attempts to block transparency are only adding to the mounting list of problems delegates will face next year when they meet to debate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

“The spirit of constructive cooperation of the U.S.-China agreement seems to have come to a full stop,” Liz Gallagher, senior adviser to the group E3G, told Bloomberg.

“This is exactly the kind of risk that we face when hard lines are taken by parties,” echoed Tasneem Essop, spokeswoman for the World Wildlife Fund International. “It’s early days … so we do hope that parties will soften their lines.”

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