Waxman-Markey Makes It Easier To Engage China On Climate Negotiations, Not Harder

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"Waxman-Markey Makes It Easier To Engage China On Climate Negotiations, Not Harder"

Our guest blogger is Andrew Light, a Senior Fellow at American Progress specializing in climate, energy, and science policy.

Fuxin, ChinaI and two colleagues at the Center for American Progress put up a column yesterday about how the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act “would achieve more carbon reduction than first meets the eye,” strengthening the chances of a rapprochement with China and Europe in international climate negotiations. Our column was cited the same day in a story in the New York Times by Mike Wines — who never contacted us — on Pelosi’s visit to China:

American officials have already rejected the Chinese proposal as unattainable. The Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning research organization, said in a report published Wednesday that the House legislation was unlikely to win enough Chinese support for the two nations to present a united front at the Copenhagen talks in December.

The point of our column is in fact the opposite. Wines’ article at best takes out of context one of the premises of our arguments and at worst seriously distorts the thesis of our piece. What we argue is that there is a way the US and China can come together at Copenhagen, even with the differing expectations on midterm targets, and that the current House legislation could be sufficient to get us there.

What we call for is, first, counting the complementary efficiency, intensity, and other allied programs, in addition to the actual midterm cap goals in Waxman-Markey, to show the legislation could potentially get us closer to what China and Europe wants from us than at first it may appear.

We use, among other things, recent World Resources Institute data on the bill to demonstrate this. Next we argue that one could use a similar approach (which we call “carbon cap equivalents”) to demonstrate that China is making progress on emissions cuts and further counter the argument that Waxman-Markey should not be adopted because “China won’t do anything.”

Of course, at present there is a gap between China and the US on midterm expectations — they want 40 percent cuts below 1990 levels from us by 2020 as opposed to Waxman-Markey’s 17 percent cuts below 2005 levels by 2020 — but use this only as a premise to set up our argument about a better accounting of what Waxman-Markey could actually get us. We even state explicitly that the gap between Chinese expectations and the Waxman-Markey bill is no reason to believe we are at an impasse for an agreement at Copenhagen.

In short one would be hard pressed to give a more distorted representation of our piece. If the paragraph is supposed to suggest that there is a rift between us and Pelosi on this issue it simply isn’t the case. No one would deny that the numbers are different between Waxman-Markey and what the Chinese now claim that they want. The point is that we’re with the supporters of the bill in seeing a way forward to an agreement with it.

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5/29: The New York Times has retracted the misleading paragraph.

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