Fresh Report Explains How International Climate Treaties Benefit China At America’s Expense

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Nick Pope Contributor
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A new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) demonstrates how China takes advantage of international climate treaties at the U.S.’ expense.

The report, titled “Forcing the UN’s Hand on China,” takes aim at China’s designation as a “developing” country in the eyes of the United Nations despite its status as the world’s second-largest economy and leading emitter. That classification gives China more leeway and time to come into compliance with international climate standards, while the U.S., a “developed” country with the largest economy in the world, is tied to more stringent compliance timelines and standards under the same treaties.

“China’s status as a developing nation in U.N. treaties has created an unfair advantage over the U.S. and other developed nations,” said Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow for CEI and the report’s author. “Congress should use the power of the purse to stop the U.S. from being disadvantaged compared to China.” (RELATED: Biden Admin Doubles Down On Climate Cooperation With China As Xi’s Economy Goes On Coal Binge)

The report details the history of China’s “developing” status in terms of U.N. climate agreements, which traces back to the Montreal Protocol of 1987. That agreement was a major move to reduce the prevalence of chemical compounds that purportedly deplete the ozone layer, with China receiving special considerations because the U.N. classified it as a “developing” state, the report reads.

More than 35 years later, that designation has not been updated, according to Lieberman’s report. The Senate ratified a subsequent expansion of the Montreal Protocol, known as the Kigali Amendment, in 2022 despite China being granted more lenient compliance timelines and the ability to access financial aid funded by the U.S. and other “developed” nations.

While Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Dan Sullivan of Alaska successfully passed an amendment to the Kigali Amendment ratification mandating the State Department to request that the U.N. changes China’s status to “developed,” Lieberman contends that the measure is not enough.

“While a welcome first step, Congress needs to affirmatively block the continued implementation of these treaties until the change is made,” he wrote in his report.

The same disadvantages caused by China’s “developing” status hold for the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a U.N. climate agreement focused on greenhouse gas emissions, Lieberman explains in his report.

Moves like the amendment to the Kigali Amendment “alone will not achieve the desired result, given the State Department’s questionable commitment and Chinese intransigence,” Lieberman writes. “It will be many years – if ever – before the U.N. takes action and reclassifies China as a developed nation under any treaty. This is especially true of the UNFCCC, where China can be expected to strenuously defend the significant competitive advantage conferred upon developing nations under it. What is needed now are measures with teeth, ones that disrupt the continued operation of these treaties unless and until China is reclassified.”

The State Department and representatives for the U.N. did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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