The visit of secretary of state Hillary Clinton to Beijing has profoundly changed the climate on climate change, writes environmental lawyer Charles McElwee, one day after the visit on his weblog. He quotes Clinton:
Now, historically, as you know, the United States had the largest carbon footprint. But in the last year, China has surpassed us, and that is because of your growth. And I laugh with some of your officials. The United States, and certainly the Obama administration, we want China to grow. We want the Chinese people to have a very good standard of living. What we hope is that you won’t make the same mistakes we made, because I don’t think either China or the world can afford that.
And McElwee’s take on this:
The cooperation stuff is great; the more cooperation the better. There needs to be a second track, however, that is getting down to the brass tacks with China about the commitments the US and China will make at Copenhagen. There were some hints that these discussions have begun or will begin soon. At a online chat yesterday moderated by Tsinghua University Professor Qi Ye, Clinton said that “we hope to work together in the lead-up to Copenhagen at the end of this year, with a new climate treaty.”…
Time is of the essence. Certainly the issue of climate change has been raised to a top agenda item on the US-China discussion list. Perhaps it is seems ungrateful to express any concern at this point, but I just hope there is sustained engagement on the commitment issue. If the commitment track negotiations are put on the same footing as the “cooperation” track, then they will proceed at the glacial SED pace. We don’t have much time left.