Thursday, March 18, 2010

How Serious is China About Climate Change?

Many world leaders felt Chinese negotiators, including the Premier, were acting as obstructionists at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP) in December. Now, in an address to the media, Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, says he actually felt snubbed at Copenhagen.

One of the biggest points of contention was that Wen skipped a meeting of the world's top leaders in the waning days of the conference. In his addres, Wen said he was not aware of the meeting and that criticism of China hijacking the proceedings at Copenhagen are absurd. He also said China is committed to the Copenhagen Accord, which it helped craft along with leaders from South Africa, Brazil, India, and the US.

The fact that China recently signed on to the Accord indicates that China is still serious about international climate negotiations. Wen's statements further this position. While developed countries such as the US and England want China to take on similar emissions responsibilities to the rest of the developed world, it might not make the most sense. A recent report indicates that developed countries are outsourcing a large portion of their emissions to developing countries, particularly China.

China has benefited from those emissions through strong economic growth and a better quality of life for it citizens. While China has argument that developed countries should take on a greater burden in mitigating the effects of climate change holds some water, the economic benefits China has realized from accepting the role of the number one place to outsource emissions should not come without consequences.

If Wen's statement is to be taken at face value, then China should take on a greater role at COP16 in Cancun. Reducing carbon intensity, which the Chinese government has proposed, is not enough. China needs to be serious about finding way to reduce actual emissions. Remembering that all parties have the same goal should help the Chinese government find common ground with developed and other emerging economies like India, Brazil, and South Africa in setting up common but differentiated responsibilities.

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