Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Speaking Loudly and Carrying No Stick: The US at the Tianjin Climate Negotiations

The current round of climate negotiations is making little progress on the issue of emissions mitigation, in large part because the US has no credibility to support its call for developing countries to adopt voluntary targets with monitoring requirements. As Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua has observed: "A developed country I won't name hasn't done a job for itself." The full story is here in today's Guardian.

Until Congress enacts climate legislation - something that will not happen until after the 2012 presidential elections at the earliest - or the EPA promulgates legally enforceable regulations that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (which is not well designed for that purpose), the US cannot expect anyone at the international negotiating table to treat it's concerns seriously. Jonathan Pershing, the US negotiator, would be well advised to keep his mouth shut and let the EU take the lead on behalf of developed countries in the negotiations. While EU climate policies are far from perfect, at least they exist. Or, perhaps US interests would be more effectively promoted by a representative from the State of California or another state that has credibly committed to greenhouse gas reductions.

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