Thursday, 10 December 2009

Copenhagen summit: US 'will not subsidise China on climate change'

Philippe Naughton in Copenhagen

The United States is willing to pay its fair share towards a multibillion-dollar climate change accord, but would not accept American taxes ending up in China as a result, its chief climate negotiator said today.
Todd Stern, the State Department's climate envoy, briefed reporters after flying in to the Copenhagen climate summit where more than 100 world leaders, including President Obama, are due next week to sign an agreement to cap greenhouse gas emissions and limit the effects of global warming.
The conference has been two years in the making but after three days of talking negotiating positions appear to be hardening. Developing nations are eager to get their share of the bounty are rejecting Western demands that they too should set long-term limits to their carbon dioxide emissions.
Officially, the list of developing nations includes China, which overtook the US as the world's biggest polluter two years ago and now has the world's third largest economy. Brazil is also in the developing countries group known as the G77 – which actually has 135 members – even though it will soon leapfrog Britain in the global economic rankings.

The European Union has called for industrialised nations to cut their carbon emissions by 30 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020. But America is promising the equivalent of a 3 per cent cut. China has offered to reduce its carbon intensity – a measure of its industrial efficiency – by up to 45 per cent by the same date, but its total emissions could still soar.
Beijing's chief negotiator, Xie Zienhua, said today that China was willing to play a constructive role at the talks, but wanted the Americans to do more for an agreement. Between them the two countries account for 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
"I do hope that President Obama can bring a concrete contribution to Copenhagen," Mr Xie said,
He said that China could accept a target to halve global emissions by 2050 if developed nations stepped up their mid-term targets and agreed to provide financial help to the developing world to fight climate change.
The last point could prove to be a hurdle in Copenhagen given estimates that America is already in hock to China to the tune of about $1 trillion after running huge trade deficits for years.
Mr Stern gave his support to a "quick start" financing scheme backed by Commonwealth leaders last week that would start with annual funding of $10 billion a year to pay for climate change mitigation schemes in the Third World.
But he did not expect China to be a beneficiary. "China has a dynamic economy which has led to it sitting on $2 trillion of reserves," he said. "I don't envision public funds, certainly from the United States, going to China."
The American negotiator accepted that American emissions had risen significantly since 1990 and said he was conscious that the US had been historically the biggest carbon emitter, but said that Mr Obama's recent proposals would lead to a significant cut in emissions in the longer term.
But he pointed to predictions that 97 per cent of the future rise in emissions would come from developing nations, 50 per cent of it from China, which would soon be emitting far more than the United States.
"The country whose emissions are going up dramatically – really dramatically – is China," he said. "You can't even think about solving this problem without having action from China. Our emissions are pretty much flattening out right now and then they're going down ... It's not a question of morality, just math."
Mr Stern suggested that the financial side of the deal would become clearer on December 18 – echoing a suggestion from the European Commission's top climate negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, that the endgame would be all about money.
Asked earlier how much he expected the deal would cost, Mr Runge-Metzger said: "We are simple officials here. Our ministers are coming at the weekend, followed by their heads of state. Do you think they're going to allow us to announce the figures?"