Climate change exercise set to fail

Lenore Taylor; 14/12/09

The message from the US, Australia and other rich countries is unequivocal. China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and it cannot continue to hide behind the developing nations’ bloc to avoid making clear and checkable promises to reduce its emissions. US special envoy on climate change Todd Stern calls that idea “old think”. And he says the US will not do a deal without the major developing nations (read: China) stepping up. Without the largest and second largest polluters in the world, this exercise will fail. In the first instance, this is not a fight about China’s actual emissions reduction target. Everyone accepts the emerging superpower cannot bring down its emissions in absolute terms, as Western nations are promising. Instead, it has pledged to cut them as a proportion of GDP – resulting in cuts against projected “business as usual” emissions of between 10 and 20 per cent. The fight is about whether these pledges can be made “on a domestic press release”, as Stern put it, or whether they are part of a binding international deal.