US negotiator Eileen Claussen (President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Washington, D.C.) began the US-China negotiation by calling energy and climate the No. 1 national priority over the coming decades, as well as a “centrepiece” of US investment policy. Although the US enacted a cap-and-trade program in 2012 and is now trying to get it off the ground, Claussen acknowledged that more needs to be done. She said the US will commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent (compared to 2005) between 2015 and 2025. The only way to bring down the long-term emissions curve is with near-term action, she said.
If this is the attitude of the US administration in 2015, it would appear that Claussen is right in calling the United States “a different place” in the year 2015. But the sour taste of the George W. Bush administration’s intransigence earlier in the millennium appeared to be lingering on the palate of at least one Chinese negotiator, who expressed surprise at anything resembling a willingness to talk on the part on the United States.
“I was surprised by the attitude of the US,” Lianhong Gu (research scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee) told reporters after the meeting. “They are willing to negotiate. … They are willing to work with China. … I’m very, very happy.”
That said, Gu and the other Chinese negotiators held strong to their position that China will not be bound by specific emissions limits at this stage in its development. He also specified the need to address emissions from manufacturing of goods that are ultimately exported to the West, the so-called “world factory” problem. The US, however, is continuing to push for some kind of firm commitment from China.
“Even understanding that your emissions will grow in absolute terms, we think they should grow as little as possible,” Claussen stressed to her Chinese counterparts.