China & US Held Secret Climate Change Talks As Early as 2007

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The international debate over what sort of post-Kyoto climate change agreement emerges often gets characterized as having China and the United States continually butting heads over who's going to go first and actually commit to reducing emissions significant amounts. There's also the impression (borne out by action, no doubt about that...) that the Bush administration couldn't care less about climate change. Well, The Guardian is reporting that since 2007 China and the US have been engaging in secret talks to hammer out these differences:Interestingly the talks involved John Holdren who is now science advisor to President Obama, as well as other people who now occupy positions within his administration. Here's how the meetings initially played out:

The first communications, in the autumn of 2007, were initiated by the Chinese. Xie Zhenhua, the vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's central economic planning body, made the first move by expressing interest in a co-operative effort on carbon capture and storage and other technologies with the US.

The first face-to-face meeting, held over two days at a luxury hotel at the Great Wall of China in July 2008, got off to a tentative start with Xie falling back on China's stated policy positions. "It was sort of like pushing a tape recorder," said Chandler, "[but after a short while] he just cut it off and said we need to get beyond this."

The two sides began discussing ways to break through the impasse, including the possibility that China would agree to voluntary – but verifiable – reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. China has rejected the possibility of cuts as it sees that as a risk to its continued economic growth, deemed essential to lift millions out of poverty and advance national status.

Taiya Smith, an adviser on China to Bush's treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, who was at the first of the two sessions, said: "The thing that came out of it that was priceless was the recognition on both sides that what China was doing to [reduce] the effects of climate change were not very well known," she said. "After these discussions was a real public campaign by the Chinese government to try to make people aware of what they were doing. We started to see the Chinese take a different tone which was that 'we are active and engaged in trying to solve the problem'."

Nothing firm came out the meetings—though a memorandum of understanding between the two nations concerning levels of reductions needed and technology transfer was discussed—it goes to show that at least to some degree the public posturing by both nations hid greater concern about climate change and the need for bilateral cooperation.

More: The Guardian - China and US held secret talks on climate change deal
photo: Seth Werkheiser via flickr
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