‘China will sign’ global treaty if U.S. passes climate bill, E.U. leader says

Much of the fate of the U.N. climate treaty talks now rests in the U.S. Senate, according to a leading E.U. official, who says China would “lose its last reason” not to support an international pact if the United States passes a cap-and-trade bill.

“I know for the American Senate it’s absolutely crucial to know that China will sign the treaty,” said Sweden’s environment minister, Andreas Carlgren, whose country currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency. “I understand that. We fully support that. We have the same expectations.”

“The difference is that we [Europeans] have done so many things already, and the Senate is still deciding on cap and trade,” Carlgren said yesterday in an interview at the Swedish embassy. “If the Senate would pass it, there would be no reason for China not to sign up.”

The pressure is building on those swing Senators, as E&E News PM (subs. req’d) makes clear in its reporting tonight.  It is increasingly clear that a handful of senators — maybe 3 to 5 (see “Epic Battle 3: Who are the swing Senators?“) — hold in their hand not just the fate of domestic climate action, but the fate of an international climate deal.

China is pushing hard to become the clean energy leader and is strongly considering major emissions commitments (see “Peaking Duck: Beijing’s Growing Appetite for Climate Action“).  Europe is obviously prepared to make a stronger climate commitment than the United States.  We are the linchpin.

Interestingly, Carlgren makes clear that the Waxman-Markey bill contains elements that make up for its relatively weak 2020 target — so it will be crucial for the Senate to keep those pieces:

Carlgren was recently in China, and said “it seems the Chinese are very serious” about climate change and, while “it is not very easy to turn a tanker around, the first step is that the captain has to understand that he has to make a move.” China understands that, he said, and the efficiency goals it has already set in its five-year plan will reduce emissions.

E.U. and U.S. officials want a firmer commitment, signed into international treaty, that will expand and possibly raise China’s efficiency and renewable commitments until 2020. They are unlikely to ask for hard caps, officials have indicated.

In the ongoing climate treaty talks, the European Union expects more from the United States than its current proposals on midterm emissions targets and adaptation funds for developing nations, Carlgren said.

“We expect much from the United States, certainly more than we saw in President Obama’s first bid for the midterm perspective,” Carlgren said. Establishing a “sufficiently ambitious” target remains a key issue between Europe and the United States, he added.

European negotiators have insisted that comparable steps to reduce climate change be taken on both sides of the Atlantic. (E.U. states are set to trim emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.) However, given that the U.S. 2020 target is unlikely to exceed the limits proposed in the House’s climate bill — which, under rosy projections, would drop emissions by no more than 13 percent below 1990 levels — the bloc is open to broadening its view on what is considered comparable, Carlgren said.

It’s good to see some flexibility by the EU.  The 10% in additional emissions reductions the climate bill gets from a massive investment in new national-accounting based efforts to stop deforestation are certainly one of the best features of Waxman-Markey.

Among other areas, “efforts on financing could also be taken into account,” he said. Also, “if America could really go for a steeper pathway after 2020, that could also be taken into account.”

And indeed the climate bill does in fact make steeper emissions reductions post-2020, hitting a 42% reduction in 2030 and then 83% in 2050.  Again, these our crucial features of the bill that the Senate needs to retain.

The Swedish minister has been flummoxed by some of the debate he has heard over the climate bill as it is set to be discussed next month in the Senate.

There are some crazy calculations going around here in America” and largely distributed by lobbyists, he said. “But we can show that there is no alternative [to cap and trade] that would lower emissions at a lower cost.”

If he’s been flummoxed by the House debate, he is really going to be baffled by the Senate debate.

Are there 60 Senators who understand the stakes, understand that cap-and-trade lowers emissions at the lowest cost, understand that this is the most important vote of their career?  Let’s all keep working as hard as possible to make sure there are.

8 Responses to ‘China will sign’ global treaty if U.S. passes climate bill, E.U. leader says

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Helpful Context: A Few Numbers

    According to available statistics, Sinopec (China’s main refining company) employs about 640,000 people. Sinopec is ranked as the 9th largest company in the world in Fortune’s recent list.

    China National Petroleum (China’s petroleum production company) employs about 1,600,000 people. It’s rated as the 13th largest company in the world by Fortune.

    So, it would appear that China’s main oil and gas companies employ about 2.2 million people in total.

    (I apologize if I’ve described the two companies backwards. I don’t have the descriptions in front of me right now. One of them is production, and the other is refining and etc.)

    FOR COMPARISON, as a rough comparison . . .

    ExxonMobil employs about 80,000 people worldwide.

    The top three U.S.-headquartered oil and gas companies (ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Conoco Phillips) together employ a total of about 175,000 people worldwide.

    All 15 of the petroleum refiners headquartered in the U.S. that are listed employ a TOTAL of about 280,000 people. This includes the earlier figures.

    SO, ASK YOURSELF THIS: If we can’t even get ExxonMobil to become responsible and move (willingly, by regulation, or out of economic necessity) from oil to cleaner energy sources, as well as the other U.S.-headquartered companies, then how can we possibly encourage, ask, and expect China to take responsible actions to make the shift? HOW??

    Remember, China employs over 2 million people in two companies in that industry. ExxonMobil employs only 80,000 people, worldwide. Our entire petroleum refining and production industry employs about 280,000 people, including EM, Chevron, and C-P and twelve other companies.

    Are we going to put the world’s entire progress in this vital area on hold, or stall it entirely, because of the stubbornness, selfishness, and misleading stances of one or two or three companies?

    Let’s get real, people. Let’s shine the light where it needs to be shined.

    C’mon J. Stewart. C’mon Rachel. C’mon New York Times. C’mon anyone and everyone who cares about the climate and future generations. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.



  2. Ken Johnson says:

    “But we can show that there is no alternative [to cap and trade] that would lower emissions at a lower cost.”
    Easier said than done. Proving non-existence is much harder than proving existence.

  3. danl says:

    I understand the angle here, but I think that what’s in the global deal (with respect to NAMAs and China specifically) is more important than China’s signature. China signed up for Kyoto, and absent a change in policy, are too dependent on CDM projects to withdraw from a global deal.

  4. progressive says:

    The Times of India reports that China and India will collaborate to fight western attempts to impose punitive tariffs on their exports if they do not adopt the cap and trade / carbon limits being advocated by the Obama administration and western European governments.

    [JR: That’s why I doubt there will be such efforts.]

    “India and China on Monday agreed to jointly fight any attempt by western nations to link trade with climate change issues and impose trade-related penalties on developing countries failing to meet environmental standards. Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister of state for environment and forest, bluntly asked Chinese officials whether they will stick to New Delhi during the climate talks in Copenhagen next December. India is worried that high-pressure attempts by western nations to get developing countries to deviate from their stand might bear fruit. “The Chinese side has assured me there will be no change in its stand. I think there is total convergence of views between India and China on the issue of climate change,” Ramesh said after meeting Xie Zhen Hua, vice chairman of China’s National Development.”


  5. raleigh Latham says:

    Ah! Tell me please the Senator’s I need to send emails and letters to,
    email me:

  6. apdd says:

    Renewing the energy will be always good…it should be based on perfect Energy Site Assessment…

  7. progressive says:

    In response to my posting re India and China declaring they will not agree to US and western European tariffs to pressure the developing nations to agree to CO2 limits, JR responds “That’s why I doubt there will be such efforts.” But indeed that is exactly what a number of the swing vote Democratic senators from the industrial midwest are insisting on — they are stating that they will not support cap and trade unless we have tariffs against other nations that don’t do the same. This is at the heart of the matter, politically. These guys are the key swing votes in the Senate.

    [JR: You believe everything you read in newspapers and you take all public pronouncements by members of Congress as final unalterable statements of what they will vote for? Must be depressing. It is possible this circle can’t be squared, but I’m told it can be.]