China Environmental Law

A discussion of China’s environmental and energy laws, regulations, and policies

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An “Optimistic” Feeling?

July 17th, 2009 · No Comments

Back from a wonderful trip to Jiangxi Province.  I’ll try to post some photographs and a write-up later.

Secretaries Chu and Locke have been here this week.  They were touring “Future House USA“ (in the house of the future form apparently follows function, but this structure is depressingly ugly) while I was visiting August 1st Square in Nanchang.

On the climate front it looks like the main accomplishment was the creation of the Clean Energy Joint Research Center.  The Center isn’t generating a lot of buzz in China (the original Xinhua story on it ran to a mere 55 words), and given the rather low level of funding–$15,000,000 from each country (little more than the average Goldman Sachs bonus)–the lack of excitement is understandable.  The initial funding is just seed money, however, and I am sure more money will be allocated when the specific  areas of research are identified.  The Center will focus on “coal and clean buildings and vehicles.”

As we’ve noted before, US-China engagement on climate change is a two-track process.  One track focuses on collaboration between the US on clean energy trade and innovation issues.  The Center fits neatly into this track.  The second track involves trying to reach a agreement on nationally appropriate commitments that will become part of a deal at Copenhagen in December.  Little progress seems to have been made on this second front.

Secretary Chu made the now familiar call for more commitments from China to limit its carbon emissions in a speech at Tsinghua University.  It has been widely reported that this part of his presentation didn’t make it into the Chinese coverage of the event.  What we did get was reiterations of now familiar Chinese position that

“The most important point is to insist on the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ established by the UNFCCC, since it is the guideline of international cooperation to cope with the challenge,” [Foreign Ministry Spokesman] Qin Gang said.

There were also further articles condemning the tariff provisions of the House version of Waxman-Markey.  I asked Secretary Locke about the tariff provision at an AmCham Shanghai/United States China Business Council breakfast this morning.  He said that the Administration did not have a position on specific provisions of the bill, but he expressed the opinion that the consumers of products should have to pay the cost of the carbon required to make the products they consume.  This would seem to be a general endorsement of cross border carbon tax on products produced in non-carbon constrained jurisdictions.

One more high level dialogue between the US and China has come and gone without any demonstrable progress on a deal to take to Copenhagen.  I am having a hard time seeing any public basis for the “optimistic” feeling Secretary Chu expressed about a climate deal in December.  Anyone have any idea what the source of this optimism could be?

Tags: US-China relations · carbon emissions · carbon tax · climate change

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