Clinton’s $100-billion Copenhagen bombshell leaves China in role of spoiler

Good COP: Hillary breathes new life into a global deal that the Chinese had been saying can’t be done

And today I’d like to announce that, in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries. We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. This will include a significant focus on forestry and adaptation, particularly, again I repeat, for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

That’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Copenhagen with real money (FULL video here, transcript here). NRDC’s Dan Lashof calls this a “breakthrough,” and I certainly agree.

The deal that could come out of Copenhagen was never going to please everyone, particularly because America’s hands are tied, unable to commit to deeper 2020 reductions than Congress is likely to approve, an uber-modest 17% cut from 2005 levels. At the same time, you can’t get to the 2°C ( 3.6°F) target for total warming unless China in particular agrees to peak in total emissions in the 2020–2025 time frame and then start reducing emissions after that — a commitment that goes far beyond their uber-modest carbon goal of cutting carbon intensity 40% to 45% by 2020.

So the bottom line question is — Will the major players accept 3/4 of a loaf now, with an understanding that climate commitments will need to be strengthened in the future accords, just as the world did in its ultimately successful effort to save the ozone layer.

China has emerged in the last 24 hours as the spoiler, the bad COP. As the WashPost reports:

China told participants earlier Wednesday that it cannot envision reaching an immediate, operational accord out of the negotiations here, according to an official involved in the talks. Another source said Chinese officials are now seeking a two-page agreement. The source added that it is unclear what specifics such an agreement might contain, although “you can get a lot into two pages.”

There is plenty of pessimism in the media, see the Guardian’s piece, “Copenhagen conference on the brink of collapse as world leaders arrive at talks: Officials from the three main blocs say they have given up on reaching an agreement.”

Failure would mean, in Clinton’s words, “Rising seas, lost farmland, drought and so much else.” And failure would mean Clinton’s proposal is off the table:

“In the absence of an operational agreement that meets the requirements that I outlined, there will not be that financial agreement, at least from the United States.”

Indeed, Clinton’s proposal is contingent on the Chinese agreeing on international verification of mitigation actions — so-called “measurable, reportable, and verifiable” emission cuts (see “China in Copenhagen, Day 9: The Big Elephant in the Room “” MRV”):

“If there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that is a deal breaker for us.”

The ball would appear to be in China’s court.

CAP’s Kari Manlove helped with this post.