Sen. Cantwell (D-WA): U.S.-China climate deal likely at Obama visit, Senate has 50-50 chance of passing climate bill this year United States and China are likely to sign a new bilateral agreement to combat climate change during President Barack Obama’s visit to Beijing in November, Washington senator Maria Cantwell said on Friday.

Cantwell, who is in Beijing to discuss clean energy and intellectual property issues with Chinese officials, said a deal between the world’s two biggest CO2 polluters would also help build global confidence in the efforts to curb global warming.

“If you are producing 40 percent of emissions — which is what China and the United States are together — what a legacy, and what a great relationship you could create by saying that’s what these two great countries stepped up to do,” she told reporters at a briefing.

While not a surprise to CP readers (see “Exclusive: Have China and the U.S. been holding secret talks aimed at a climate deal this fall?“), this Reuters story is another important sign that the Obama’s mid-November visit to China may be a critical milestone in achieving a national and global climate deal.  Indeed, if this agreement has real substance, as I expect it will, then it will boost the chances for Senate passage of the climate and clean energy bill.  And that means a Senate vote should not occur beforehand.

If Obama is serious about solving the climate problem — and will put political muscle behind getting 60 votes to block the inevitable, immoral conservative filibuster — then he should use the momentum of any China agreement to get a Senate vote in early December before the big international climate negotiations:

A month later, leaders gather in the Danish capital of Copenhagen to thrash out the details of a new global climate change compact, but Cantwell said a wide-ranging bilateral agreement between China and the United States would be easier to achieve.

“I’d place higher odds on the ability of the United States and China to reach an agreement than I would on us passing legislation or on having Copenhagen agreed,” she told reporters in a briefing.

She also said there was a “50-50 chance” that the U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, would be passed by the end of the year, but said the legislation needed to be “streamlined” and simplified.

China is concerned that the bill, which has already been passed by the lower house of Congress, will give future U.S. administrations the authority to levy “carbon tariffs” on countries deemed not to have made equivalent efforts to reduce their greenhouse gases.

Cantwell said she was opposed to tariffs, but said however the final bill looked, the crucial part would be “putting a price on carbon” in a way that would create massive economic opportunities for both China and the United States.

She also said she thought China had underestimated the resolve of the United States to “make the transition” to a low-carbon economy.

A 50-50 change is what I’ve been saying, but again, Obama — and only Obama — can increase those odds.  As for the resolve of this country to make the transition to a low-carbon economy, we will find out in the next few months just how resolved we are.

Ironically, this country’s only hope of stopping China from becoming the clean energy giant of the 21st century — leading the world in jobs and exports in low carbon technologies, many of which were invented in this country — is passing the climate and clean energy bill.

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17 Responses to Sen. Cantwell (D-WA): U.S.-China climate deal likely at Obama visit, Senate has 50-50 chance of passing climate bill this year

  1. Jim Bouldin says:

    On the other hand Joe, if China’s viewpoint regarding lack of resolve here is based on the close House vote (which would be utterly reasonable), then the passing of a joint bill by both chambers before the November visit might be the statement they need. Seems to be a very tenuous and critical situation looming here.

    [JR: No, the Senate vote won’t have any impact on what China will agree to — since I’m sure the deal is already cooked. These things don’t happen last minute, at least not in China.]

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Couple Considerations

    Clearly, we need to show bold, responsible, and scientifically informed leadership to address the climate issue.

    No excuses. Leadership is about leading. Responsibility is about being responsible.

    Along those lines, I’d like to point out something for everyone to consider and for our politicians to consider, and I’ll do it in the form of a question, along with some statistics:

    Ask yourselves:

    How can we possibly expect, and credibly encourage, China to commit to changes that will require shifts from oil and gas, and coal, IF we can’t even convince and cause leading U.S.-headquartered companies in the same industries to do so?

    A few statistics that most people probably aren’t aware of and that most people probably don’t compare:

    ExxonMobil employs about 80,000 people, worldwide.

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

    ALL 15 of the significant U.S.-headquartered petroleum production and refining companies, taken together, employ less than 300,000 people, worldwide. This figure includes the two figures mentioned above.

    Now, for comparison:

    Sinopec, the Chinese refining company, employs about 640,000 people according to published estimates.

    China National Petroleum, the Chinese oil and gas production company, employs about 1,600,000 people according to published estimates.

    So, those two companies together employ over 2.2 million people.

    And by the way, the coal industry in China employs about 6.6 million people, according to the most credible estimate I was able to find.

    SO, we should keep this in mind as we figure out how to pass our own legislation and how to “shine light” on our own companies to ask and prompt them to make the necessary shifts: How can we ask and expect China to make changes in their industry that employs over 2.2 million people, IF we can’t even get ExxonMobil (80,000 people) or our top three companies in that industry (175,000 people) to make such changes? How can we ask and expect China to make responsible and big changes in its use of coal, in its industry that involves 6.6 million people, IF we can’t even get our own coal industry to do so?

    By the way, if you wonder how much our companies (in these industries) themselves genuinely “care” about employment – well, I won’t generalize, but just consider ExxonMobil: As ExxonMobil’s sales and profits have soared in recent years (through 2008), they have consistently REDUCED the number of people they employ. So, it would be quite interesting if they ever use an appeal to their own employment figures as part of an argument against addressing the climate problem.

    And also by the way, General Electric (a company that should benefit as we shift to cleaner forms of energy, as MANY other companies will also) alone employs over 320,000 people, according to the most recent full-year statistics I was able to find. That’s FOUR TIMES the number of people employed by ExxonMobil! And, it’s more people than are employed by ALL 15 of the U.S.-headquartered petroleum and gas companies mentioned above, added together.

    These facts get overlooked when the media ignore them, don’t cover them, and don’t compare them. Yet these and other facts tell very important parts of the story.



  3. Rockfish says:

    I don’t see how Obama shaking hands with “bunch of evil Communists” over a climate deal can possibly help his position with the current Congress. He will be hopelessly distracted fighting off another firestorm of town hall rage and will be lucky to pass anything.

    I really wish that it were different, but this country has not demonstrated in any way that it is capable of having a real discussion about hard choices and following through. This China deal, if it happens, will become “Obama made a secret deal with the Commies to ship US jobs to China” and all the appeal to reason and common sense won’t dig him out of that hole.

  4. Raleigh Latham says:

    When it comes to preserving our existence, I think a vast majority of our country will look beyond the media and support any kind of climate action. We just need to target strategic democratic senators.

  5. Robert says:

    President Obama is above the noise and nonsense as seen at the ruckus town-hall meetings. He and we know it is orchestrated and planned by the RNC’s proxies such as the ‘Tea (coolaid) Party’ and now a number of astroturf groups that are often paid, bussed & fed to create THEATER because the media will focus on noise and action long before it will see substance! They can’t stand the truth, so they howl loud like the animals they are, trying to deny you your rights of free speech; that right to listen to others and be heard by others. The press misses the true story behind the noise and the thoughtless rhetoric. Their purpose is mayhem and disruption and should be escorted out and arrested! Adults do not act like juvenile delinquents! Respecting the lawful rights of other is the core of a democracy!

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    “I don’t see how Obama shaking hands with “bunch of evil Communists” over a climate deal can possibly help his position with the current Congress.”

    One of the delayer dodges is that it would be worthless for us to do anything about carbon emissions if the Chinese won’t.

    If Obama can show that China is ready to cooperate then Inhofe and his fellow travelers will have to look for a different rock to jamb into the gears….

  7. Mike D says:

    “They can’t stand the truth, so they howl loud like the animals they are, trying to deny you your rights of free speech; that right to listen to others and be heard by others.”

    You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution. Private citizens cannot deny you your right to free speech. The Constitution does not protect you from other people. It protects you from the government. That’s why the First Amendment begins “Congress shall make no law…”

    So loud yelling, even if very annoying, is quite legal, as long as it does not directly endanger anyone.

  8. Bob Wallace says:

    Lots of jurisdictions have “disturbing the peace” ordinances. One is not allowed to disrupt, say church services, by standing up and shouting through the sermon.

    Those ordinances have held up under court review.

    When you say “Private citizens cannot deny you your right to free speech” that is exactly the issue with the screamers. They are screaming the same stuff over and over in an attempt to prevent others from speaking or being heard.

    Were they not given an opportunity to express themselves then they might have a (non Constitutional) point. But they are free to participate in the open Q&A periods. Their free speech is not be denied.

    They are being admitted into the events which they are disrupting, unlike people on the other side who are frequently prevented from attending “public” events when those gatherings are by pre-selection only and others are sequestered in a pen a long distance from the event.

  9. ecostew says:

    It appears China wants a deal:

    “”China: We want a new international deal
    Speaking on his expectations for December’s UN conference in Copenhagen, Chinese Vice Premier Minister Hui Liangyu confirms short-term improvements in his country’s energy efficiency and forest cover.
    Morten Andersen 04/09/2009 21:15

    China wants a new international deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol agreed at Decembers UN conference in Copenhagen in accordance with the time table agreed in Bali in 2007.

    “We advocate that the Copenhagen conference should strictly follow the mandate of the Bali Road Map, further strengthen the comprehensive, effective implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, and consider in a coordinated manner mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financial support,” Hui Liangyu, Vice Premier Minister, said according to news agency Xinhua as he spoke at the ongoing World Climate Conference in Geneva.””

  10. Mike D says:

    Local jurisdictions have the authority to make disturbing the peace ordinances, just as I can regulate speech in my home. It has nothing to do with the First Amendment because the federal government (Congress) is not involved. My point is that a person cannot be arrested for “denying my First Amendment rights,” as the poster above suggested. A person can deny you the *ability* to hear and speak over them, but not the right, because you have no constitutional right to hear or be heard over them. Just as I cannot whip out the First Amendment if a girl talks too much on a date.

    If local jurisdictions (or venue security, for that matter) want to eject people for disturbing town hall meetings, they can do that. I think most are very reluctant to do so because of how it would look. But it has happened.

  11. Bob Wallace says:

    Mike – are you reading this sentence as a first amendment/free speech issue?

    “Respecting the lawful rights of other is the core of a democracy!”

    I don’t read it that way, but I can see how you might. And perhaps the writer was expressing that idea.

    I read it as all of us having the right to assemble and discuss without being intentionally shut down by others.

    Whether we derive that right from federal, state, or local law doesn’t matter a lot to me.

    And, remember, people are often hauled out of the visitors galleries of Congress for being disruptive. The federal government has some sort of “disturbing the peace” regulations.

    (I do agree that lots of people don’t understand what the First Amendment says and means. I also don’t think the Roberts Court understands what the Second Amendment says and means. ;o)

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Jeff Huggins (2) — Thank you. Interesting insight.

  13. Mike D says:

    “They can’t stand the truth, so they howl loud like the animals they are, trying to deny you your rights of free speech; that right to listen to others and be heard by others… Their purpose is mayhem and disruption and should be escorted out and arrested!”

    That’s what I was referring to.

    People are escorted out of Congress for yelling because they are directly interfering with the business of Congress. This is one of the exceptions the courts have made, along with the speech that could directly cause harm to someone (the ‘fire in the crowded theater’ exception.

  14. Jeff Huggins says:

    David (13), thanks very much for your comment. Be Well.

  15. JoeB says:

    Joe, we really need you to make more calls to action, even stuff like “call your Senator”

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    OK, see what you’re talking about now.

    Yes, I agree it is not a First Amendment right issue.

    But I think the same rules apply/should apply when someone disrupts an event which they did not arrange as when they disrupt Congress. In general they would not be allowed to disrupt a church service, university lecture, concert, funeral, etc.

    I find myself largely in agreement with Robert, I just disagree with him over the particular legal basis for action against those who purposely disrupt the lawful activities of others.