US Won't Demand China Commit to Binding Emission Reductions Targets, Envoy Says

china wind turbines photo

Instead, green development commitments will be asked for. Photo: David Schroeter via flickr.

This week saw some public chest puffing and finger pointing by both the United States and China regarding what each thought the other should be doing in regards to climate change commitments. And at the end of the week it looks like all of the tough talk was more for the public in both nations rather than for the negotiators in Bonn. The Guardian reports that the US will not demand that China commit to binding emission reduction targets, but rather commit to improving energy efficiency and greater development of green technologies:

Jonathan Pershing, head of the US delegation in Bonn, said developing nations – seeking to grow their economies and alleviate poverty – would instead be asked to commit to other actions. These include boosting energy efficiency standards and improving the take-up of renewable energy, but would not deliver specific reductions. He said: "We're saying that the actions of developing countries should be binding, not the outcomes of those actions."

Only developed nations, including the US, would be expected to guarantee cuts. The pledge was included in a US blueprint for a climate change deal submitted to the Bonn meeting, which Pershing said was based on the need for the rich nations to cut greenhouse gases 80% by 2050.

Green Tech Transfer is the Path Forward
This demand is in line with what IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said rich nations should focus on in regards to helping poor nations make a transition to green growth, when I interviewed him back in March. At the time Pachauri said that aiding in green technological transfer should be the first order of business, rather than just requiring emission reduction targets.

Without putting words in Pachauri's mouth, I'm not sure he would agree that an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 is speedy enough however.

Poor Nations Want Deeper Emission Cuts Pledges From Rich Nations...
In the past weeks China, India and other developing nations demanded that rich nations cut emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020 and provide aid for climate change adaptation—a not unreasonable demand from a scientific or technological perspective, but one which clearly rich nations find politically unpalatable, this week's announcement by Japan that it would be making a commitment to (only) an effective 8% reduction in emissions.

Earlier in the week I suggested that China really needs to step up to the plate an make a commitment to binding emissions reductions. After all, even though at the personal level China's emissions are quite low, over a billion people, combined with inefficient industry powered by coal, still means the nation is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. That said, a solid commitment that is verifiable to improve energy efficiency of its industry by x amount, and install significant amounts of renewable energy (which it already has done...) and phase out the use of coal (which it hasn't) may be a worthwhile compromise.

...And So Do I
The concern I have which remains, is that even with all of this, we (and I mean that in the sense of a global we) still are not doing enough. The Guardian makes reference how "observers see the 40% demand [by poor nations] as unreasonable" but frankly from an ecological perspective, and from a humanitarian perspective, it's a far better course of action that the slow start approach which has the developed world in its grip.

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