Good COP, BAD COP – Mexico 2010

U.S. & China: Power Climate Politics (and Posturing)
by -- December 9th, 2010

Political discourse may provide clout to inaction in the U.S., while China makes a commitment to its people and the world.

Before arriving to COP16, I viewed China and the U.S. as being involved in an endless game of climate politics posturing over their reluctance to declare binding emission cuts targets. In my very wild imagination, I could picture these two nations as two fat diplomats apologetically exchanging niceties: “go ahead, you first,” “no by all means please you go first” “no no no, you go…” After almost a week, this observer believes that while this posturing is very much still here at COP 16.

According to Nabuo Tanaka, head of the International Energy Agency, 50% percent of reductions in GHG emissions must come from China and the U.S. in order to reach the 450 ppm scenario by 2035. Action from these two nations is therefore ultra-critical. Last week, Japan refused to move forward on discussing the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol until the U.S. and China joined in.  The second phase would have to be agreed by next year so there is a chance to implement it by 2013.

Today, the China delegation expressed willingness to make its voluntary targets legally binding (this is a big deal). This reflects a more widespread discussion inside the Moon Palace (where negotiations take place) that the “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle does not mean that emerging & developing nations do not have a role to play in mitigation. In fact, as non-Annex I countries become more confident of their ability to reduce their domestic emissions, these are more likely to put forward commitments that may undermine the intransigence of the U.S. (on emissions cuts) and China (on monitoring, verification and reporting). China’s opening to the notion of legally binding targets was quickly dismissed by the U.S. delegation as more of the same. The posturing continues…

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