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While the U.S. has pledged binding emissions cuts, China, the world's largest emitter refuses to do so.  (Source: Daily Mail)

China's wild plan claims it will make even bigger cuts in the U.S. -- only it will wait a few years before cutting emissions at all. Its plan is also entirely on a "voluntary" basis.  (Source: CE Journal)
China refuses U.S. request to set definite targets, should U.S. stick to its own plan?

While it is unknown definitively whether manmade greenhouse gases are playing a role in climate change, or exactly what that role may be, many scientists and politicians support early studies which suggest a link between carbon dioxide emissions and a global warming trend.  They want the international community to band together to make drastic cuts to the global CO2budget.  The only problem is that those cuts are far from cheap; rather they may cost trillions of dollars.

The U.S. has already committed to rather stringent emissions cuts.  President Obama has pledged that the U.S. will cut cut 17 percent of its emissions by 2020 (with regards to 2005 levels), 30 percent reduction by 2025, 42 percent by 2030, and 83 percent by 2050.  

Those cuts will have a major impact on the world emissions picture, as the U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases.  However, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China, has been reticent to commit to a solid goal of any kind, saying that it prefers to make "voluntary" commitments.

At Tsinghua University in the Chinese national capitol in Beijing on Wednesday the top U.S. climate negotiator, Todd Stern, was in talks with high level Chinese officials about adopting more binding targets.  

Stern, fresh off an grueling run at Copenhagen, spoke to reporters, stating, "With respect to the issue of transparency, I think it's hugely important and we do put a lot of emphasis on it.  Countries need to be able to see what track the world is on generally, where we are going.  The only way we can do that is if there are clear and transparent measures with respect to the inventories of greenhouse gases, what measures are being put in place by countries and so forth."

The greenhouse gas talks with China are part of a longer series of talks concerning economic cooperation and strategic cooperation, particularly on touchy issues like the recent attack by North Korean on a South Korean vessel.  When it comes to climate the U.S., for all its efforts, may be unable to convince China to adopt a binding resolution.

Beijing's emission plan is rather bizarre, and according to some, impossible.  The nation plans to allow emissions to climb for several more years before dramatically turning the corner, and by 2020 reducing emissions 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels.  So in other words, Beijing thinks it can accomplish what the U.S. is doing 
and far more in a far shorter time frame, on a voluntary basis.

Of course, what the U.S. worries about is that China won't even match the U.S. pledge by the time 2020 rolls around, because there's no binding commitment.  If China misses its target, it's no big deal -- it was voluntary in the first place.  And China has already argued in the past that it should get its chance to grow rampantly and pursue the cheapest path to expansion -- regardless of emissions -- because Western nations already had the chance to do so.  This long-standing rhetoric clashes with the nation's promises, and makes their voluntary nature all the more suspect.

Still, China and the U.S. hope to be closer to seeing eye-to-eye on the climate issue by November, when the next round of UN climate talks are held in Cancun, Mexico.  In the meantime, the U.S. has to consider its own emissions goals and how it plans to meet them.  While the issue of China is concerning to U.S. officials, surely a bigger concern is how to effectively cut the U.S.'s carbon output without doing billions in damage to the nation's economy in the process.

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RE: Not surprising
By theArchMichael on 5/28/2010 11:26:25 AM , Rating: 2
How we encourage companies to upgrade is very important. Under Clinton the EPA required power producers to replace the entire system, i.e. boiler, turbines, generators, etc as a unit. That was prohibitively expensive for most companies so they repaired rather than replace. Under Bush they were allowed to replace one part at a time in smaller, lower cost, pieces. Politicians aside which is really the better method?

Agreed on this point, I think that level granular detail in a mandate can be unfair, even if it is well intentioned.

When "artificially driving up the price on dirty technologies" the end user, you and me, are slammed with egregious price increases that are not necessary.

Yeah, but the way the market exists now, customers are getting slammed anyways. Fossil fuel speculation, etc.. Even in deregulated areas power company's with diverse sources of power generation (nuclear, alternative) will jack up rates based on fossil fuel speculation prices. And that money goes straight in their pocket rather than a general fund.

Wouldn't it be better to put a smaller amount directly towards a long term plan that is viable.

How could one disagree with that, but how? Corporations are entities often entities without conscience and liability that individual human entities have, asking them to voluntarily modernize and make capital investments that will not necessarily show returns, to them, seems absurd, I think.
A good example is American Electric AEP. In around 2001 (I'm not naming any names...) federal pollution guidelines were relaxed and left to the states to decide. (I believe in local governance but this is what happens when EVERYTHING gets politicized). AEP has plants inland in Kentucky, West Virgina, Ohio and maybe a couple of other states. These plants were producing massive amounts of particulate air pollution, which of course generally was heading east towards... the north eastern seaboard, who had much stricter pollution guidelines in place. They were doing this and making really healthy profit margins of like 8%. So a bunch of states including New York, Mass., Maryland, Virginia, couple of others had to sue the company to get them to retrofit their plants. It was a $4.6 billion dollar settlement but it hardly put a dent in their profit margin. My point being that generally a company is not going to voluntarily slow down the gravy train to 'do the right thing'.

When we allow politicians to believe that they have carte blanche to think for us, bad things happen. Politicians who artificially force prices up is one such bad thing. Particularly when the science they are using is terribly flawed but they still use it and proclaim the discussion is over and we must act without further question.

Oversight and standards are necessary, government is, the idea,of representative authority on behalf of the people's will, so the onus is on them to do it, in my opinion. Also, the remaining option is extending carte blanche to corporations who generally have equal or lower moral standing but almost no accountability. Which is why we have the situation like with AEP.

The are few solid facts in science but far too many theories that are treated as if fact.

You're absolutely right, but command decisions have to be made. In this particular case, both arguments I think have some merit. But proponents state that action will provide ancillary benefits even if they are wrong, whereas inaction may incur massive liabilities beyond our ability to manage. And the argument is 'act now because it may already be too late'. So I don't think its wrong to take a stand on a divisive issue and take action if required. One can rarely please everyone... unless your wilt chamberlain, i guess.

Particularly when the science they are using is terribly flawed but they still use it and proclaim the discussion is over and we must act without further question.

But I do agree with you that politicians (of all kinds) almost always seem to f#(k this up somehow. Its like a weakness for a politician to change his mind nowadays. And supporters on both sides follow suit, so there is no real discourse and therefore no iterative development of 'the plan' as new data is discovered, whatever that might be. I think smart or educated people understand this but that generally isn't who the politicians are targeting. They want the fervent zealots who are just as ignorant and inflexible as they, the politicians, appear to us.

What is GW mindset?... like GWU... greater washington... i totally missed that one.

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