Monday, 08 June 2009

U.S. Seeks Global Warming Deal with China

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One of the signature issues of the Obama administration will be the hammering out of a replacement for the failed Kyoto accord on global warming. Talks brokered by the United Nations aimed at replacing Kyoto are scheduled to begin in Copenhagen in just 6 months, but, according to the New York Times, there is one major sticking point: China.

Along with the United States, China is one of the world's two largest emitters of so-called greenhouse gases. And, so far, an inability to get China to agree on a global warming policy stands as one of the only roadblocks preventing the Obama administration from entering the Copenhagen talks with a legitimate chance to broker a new deal on emissions.

To attempt to break the impasse, the Times reports that a "senior American team arrived in Beijing on Sunday" for climate talks with the Chinese government. According to the Times, they arrived amidst a standoff that "was taking on the trappings of cold-war arms control negotiations, with gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions replacing megatons of nuclear might as a looming risk for people across the globe."

Like the Times, Democrats have been eager to dramatize the talks. "This is going to be one of the most complex diplomatic negotiations in the history of the world,” Democratic Rep Edward J. Markey (MA) said.

The hyperbole peddled by the Times and Markey aside, Obama administration officials understand that their plan to take the lead at Copenhagen is threatened if the Chinese balk. "Certainly no deal will be possible if we don't find a way forward with China," said Todd D. Stern, the top American negotiator at the three day talks in Beijing.

While the Obama administration portrays its interest in fighting global warming as concern over the environment, the Chinese likely view the negotiations as a means of gaining an economic advantage over their chief economic rival. The more the U.S. is wiling to shackle private enterprise and production capacity in order to fight the questionable notion of climate change, the better off Chinese industry will be.

Indeed, according to the Times, "China says the United States should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020." That kind of cut would almost certainly be the death knell for American manufacturing. Meanwhile "Beijing insists it will not sacrifice China’s economy to meet the demands of outsiders, particularly those in the developed world."

China's likely adherence to principles of realpolitik in climate negotiations will in all likelihood win the day economically against the climate ideology-driven Obama administration. After all, the Chinese already have the credulous Nancy Pelosi on board.

Commenting on her trip to China in May, Pelosi said of the Chinese: "They told us if we’re not going to do something, they’re not going to do anything. Some of the people we talked to there said we should do more. I think we should do more, too." And, with Pelosi and the Obama administration in charge, "doing more" is almost a certainty.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. suffocates under climate related regulation, China will be laughing all the way to the bank.

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