U.S. has to lead the fight for a clean, green world
www.chinaview.cn 2009-07-30 13:17:10   Print

   BEIJING, July 30 --  Much of what happens at the Copenhagen climate change conference in December depends on the U.S. and China. Their active collaboration will not only raise the odds of securing a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, but also could provide a meaningful way to arrest rising global temperatures.

    Yet climate talks between the two countries present contrasting pictures, one discouraging, the other hopeful.

    The two countries' negotiators remain deadlocked with their polarized stances. The developed countries - particularly the U.S.- still refuse to take responsibility for the greenhouse gases (GHGs) they have emitted throughout history. This has become a major sticking point at talks because their emissions are a lot more than that of the developing world.

    On the other hand, billions of dollars in "green" stimulus packages have triggered a global race to create new energy technologies. The U.S. seems to be leading the way in six key clean-tech areas: building efficiency, battery technology, solar, carbon capture and storage, smart grids, and electric vehicles.

    These efforts are mirrored in China's initiatives in fields such as new low-energy vehicles, diode lighting, innovative energy efficiency technologies and alternative energy sources like solar, wind, bio-gas and synthetic fuels. Both the countries are determined to find collaborative ways to restructure their energy mixes with new, low-carbon energy technologies.

    Given the stakes, it is understandable why the U.S. and China are holding their climate-change cards close to their chests. Both are emerging from a period in which they used the other as an excuse for relative inaction, but have now started exploring ways to genuinely cut GHG emissions.

    The nature of the two countries' bilateral ties will dictate how the low-carbon economic "pie" will get carved up, and thus how fast the global economy can be transformed.

    The responsibility for this transformation lies squarely with China and the U.S., not only because they are the world's big GHG emitters, but also because only they have the capacity to invest enough in clean-tech research and development, provide a large enough labor force, and support a large enough change in global policy. So the future of the world's climate rests not just on their shoulders individually, but on their ability to work together.

    Climate change is China's toughest challenge in international relations since end of the Cold War. China has reportedly become the largest GHG emitter, and the pace of its future emissions is expected to exceed forecasts. But it is still a developing country, though huge, which needs more rapid economic growth to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and provide better living standards for hundreds of millions more. The challenge for China therefore is balancing its need for growth with protection of the environment.

    The global economic crisis has complicated matters further for China. Even though parts of the developed as well as developing world are looking toward China for leadership, the country's leaders say such a global role is beyond their capability.

    But despite all the odds China has come a long way from the days of when the Kyoto Protocol was signed. Like many other developing countries, China was more or less dragged into that process.

    But its views have evolved since. And perhaps the greatest manifestation of that change came in December 2007, when it, along with other developing countries, signed the Bali Roadmap, agreeing to work jointly on a new global deal in Copenhagen by 2009.

    Ever since, China has been an active and constructive participant in global talks, discussing, for example, what it has been doing to cut GHG emissions per unit of GDP.

    The international community's response to the changes has been largely positive. Even US climate envoy Todd Stern has praised China's efforts to fight climate change. But again that should not mean a Sino-US agreement is in the offing.

    According to the Kyoto Protocol, what China, as a developing country, and the U.S., as a developed country, are required to do is completely different. Unlike China, the U.S. must commit to absolute limits on GHG emissions. So China would like to see the US take the lead in honoring commitments, instead of using it as an excuse for inaction.

    Since it has emitted only one-fifth of GHGs compared with the US, China insists that it has the moral right to resist calls to take the lead in cutting emissions.

    With less than five months remaining before the Copenhagen conference, China is expected to deliver its commitment to the Bali Action Plan. It will, of course, be a far lower commitment than that expected from the European Union or the US.

    If the U.S. is serious about reaching a constructive outcome in Copenhagen, it must set radical and practical targets, take responsibility for its historical GHG emissions, and commit itself to supporting developing countries' efforts through capacity building, technology transfer and financial aid. Only then will the developing world see the U.S. as truly willing to assume its role as a global leader in the fight against climate change.

    (Source: China Daily)

Editor: Pan Yanan
Related Stories
Home World
  Back to Top