China Environmental Law

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

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Waiting Game

January 7th, 2010 · No Comments

Here’s a little game we can play while we wait for “sign up” day on January 31, 2010.  What do you think China will submit for inclusion on Appendix II of the Copenhagen Accords?

The Accord provides 1 any Annex I party who so chooses can list on Appendix I its “Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020″ including the relevant “base year.”  Non-Annex 1 Parties, which still includes China, who choose to participate may list on Appendix II their “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (NAMAs).  Earlier drafts of Appendix II included a column marked “Action/Target,” but “target” was dropped in the final version.

“Quantified economy-wide emissions targets” and NAMAs are, of course, well established concepts under the UNFCCC and perfectly illustrate the gaping divide between what is required of developed and what is required of developing countries. 2  China’s announced target of a 40-45% reduction in its carbon intensity per unit of GDP by 2020 (over the 2005 level) is more in the nature of a quantified economy-wide emissions targets than a NAMA.  A Chinese NAMA would be something along the lines of “we will close X MW of small, inefficient coal-fired electric generation capacity by 2015.”

There is always the possibility that China won’t list anything, but I think that is highly unlikely.  My own guess is that they will list their carbon intensity goal, but I wouldn’t place a lot of money on that bet.  If they do, I think that will be a good sign that China is starting to acknowledge some erosion in the sharp developed/developing country divide of the existing international climate change framework.  If China only lists a series of actions (without any quantified carbon reduction targets or impacts), then they are signaling that they are going to fight tooth and nail to persevere the existing binary distinction.

There is a BASIC meeting scheduled for the third week in January when I suspect this issue will be hashed out among this new climate bloc consisting of Brazil, South Africa, India and China.  In the meantime, what do you think will happen?

I’m working on more thoughtful reactions to the Copenhagen Accord for both the China Economic Review and Harvard Asia Quarterly.  When those are published I’ll let you know.

  1. “Demands,” requires,” mandates,” “invites” — who knows what the correct word is given the  nature of a document that will “become operational immediately” and reads like a contract, yet remains “non-binding.”
  2. How significantly this divide was bridged in the Copenhagen Accord is a matter of some contention.

Tags: Copenhagen · US-China relations · climate change · miscellany

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