February 5, 2009

Help Us, China. You're Our Only Hope.

It's good to see that the administration and I are on the same page regarding China. I speculated when Secretary of State Clinton tapped Todd Stern as special envoy for climate change it signaled a big push for a making a climate deal with China. Now the NYT reports that Hillary will soon be winging her way to Beijing. But a more intriguing nugget from the article was the release of a new report by Pew and the Asia Society called "A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change." What's the big deal? Check out who helped write it:
It was produced by a committee led by Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics who is now the secretary of energy, and John L. Thornton, a professor at Tsinghua University who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for United States ambassador to China. John P. Holdren, Mr. Obama's choice for science adviser, is another contributor.
Oh, them. Think it'll make it onto the president's desk? Brookings also released a report on the same subject with it's own set of recommendations. There's nothing earth-shattering earth-saving in either report - they both suggest high-level discussions and movement toward concrete goals in order to foster the creation of a global climate framework, i.e. Copenhagen. Certainly, we're a long way from a simple agreement with China to cut emissions. As long as Wen Jiabao, China's Premier, says stuff like this:
"It's difficult for China to take quantified emission reduction quotas at the Copenhagen conference, because this country is still at an early stage of development," he said. "Europe started its industrialization several hundred years ago, but for China, it has only been dozens of years." will hard to accomplish much of anything. I don't, however, think you can take too seriously Wen's request that China be allowed to burn its fair share of fossil fuels to power its industrialization. I'm not a China expert - I don't even play one on this blog. But it doesn't take a senior diplomat to read between those lines.

China's not going to announce any willingness to do anything until and unless we make it worth their while. That doesn't just mean technology transfers and aid (which I imagine it will) but it means that we must first demonstrate an ability to cut emissions by passing our own climate legislation. Still, the confirmation that 1) China is indeed a top US climate priority and 2) senior members of the Obama administration have been working and thinking about this issue for some time suggests we're going about this the right way. Oh, look. And administration that can walk and chew gum at the same time. How refreshing.

Photo by shelisrael1 used under a CC license

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even in their imperfection, electing Obama and his admin was the first step toward sanity in the gridlock. Thank God.

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