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.