China and U.S. Narrow Gap in Climate Talks

In the year since the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, both China and the U.S. have softened their positions and are now more likely to reach agreement at the ongoing Cancun talks. From the New York Times:

The verification issue, which cuts deeply on matters of national sovereignty and international trust, was a major factor in the torpedoing of last year’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen. But in the intervening year, China has significantly softened its position and the United States has moderated its insistence on the issue.

The reduced friction between the two nations has greatly improved the mood here, and envoys from both countries expressed guarded optimism this week that a deal could be reached by the end of the conference on Friday.

“There’s an agreement to be had — I’m quite sure of that,” Todd Stern, the chief American climate change negotiator said on Monday, although he added, “I’m not sure we’re going to get it.”

Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate envoy, also signaled a willingness to sign an accord here, as long as it met Chinese objectives on financial aid to developing countries, transfer of low-emissions technology to poor nations and a continuing of discussions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. He pointedly did not raise verification or transparency issues as a barrier to the negotiations.