Climate: Does the World Need a China-US Deal?

With the Copenhagen climate change conference wrapping up in a couple of days, there may yet be progress on a deal between the U.S. and China, which has been one of the major stumbling blocks so far. From Reuters:

The Dec 7-18 summit is officially due to wrap up a new deal to tackle global warming on Friday, but rifts between rich and poor nations over everything from funding to which draft deal should be on the table, have made for agonizingly slow progress.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to break the deadlock on Thursday with a pledge to help mobilize the $100 billion a year by 2020 to assist poor nations shift to greener growth and adapt to a warmer world.

China’s He, who had previously said finance was China’s top concern at the talks, said the move was positive.

“I think the financial issue is very important. Whatever initiative these countries will announce is a good step,” He told Reuters when asked about the U.S. announcement.

Meanwhile, Opinio Juris, a site focusing on various perspectives on international law, asks, “Does the World Need a China-US Deal?“:

A China-US deal makes sense for both sides. China has already embarked on an ambitious energy efficiency drive, which forms the basis for its recent undertaking to reduce emissions intensity by 45%. China has economic, political and environmental reasons for its actions. China has much to gain from nationwide energy efficiency, and for some technologies (e.g. renewable energy and power stations) a large domestic market will also provide a springboard for exporting this technology. A deal with the US could bring in welcome infusion of additional capital and know how as well as markets for many Chinese technologies. Politically, China can benefit from showing leadership on a major global issue, and from maintaining access to markets in countries with emissions controls; and the Chinese government is alert to adverse impacts of climate change in China and the accompanying threat of social unrest and political destabilization. Environmentalism too has rising affirmative salience in Chinese public and governmental thinking.

From the US perspective, bringing China into an international limitations agreement would reduce leakage of investment and jobs as well as securing climate benefits and meeting the domestic US political demand for action by China as a condition for the US to undertake strong regulatory limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.