Kerry: China Poised to Tackle Climate Change
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) has been bouncing around China for the past week, and today he wrapped up his visit with some promising news about Beijing’s commitment to addressing climate change — a problem the United Nations will tackle in a much-anticipated December gathering in Copenhagen. From Kerry’s statement:
In my meetings this week, Chinese leaders assured me that China will play a positive and constructive role in the Copenhagen negotiations. China recognizes the need to address climate change as a critical component of the nation’s economic development and national security strategy. If the United States and China – which together produce almost half of global emissions – can demonstrate concrete progress in the weeks ahead, we will lay the foundation for success at Copenhagen and beyond.
If China’s “demonstration” proves convincing, it could play a significant role as well in congressional efforts to tackle America’s contributions to a warming planet. Congressional Democrats are pushing legislation to reduce U.S. emissions — passing a climate change bill out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month — but it still has a long ways to go to become law. Among the loudest criticisms from congressional and industry opponents has been the argument that cutting domestic emissions without a similar commitment from companies overseas would hobble U.S. businesses with additional costs, thus putting them at a disadvantage against foreign competitors.
Opponents are also quick to point out that China’s emissions surpassed those of the United States a few years ago. Indeed, China pumped out 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration, while the United States spit out 5.9 billion metric tons. Ignored in that line of argument, however, is the slightly significant fact that China has roughly four times the population of the United States. Indeed, U.S. carbon emissions per capita were 19.8 metric tons in 2006, according to EIA, while China emitted 4.6 metric tons per person. Funny that you won’t ever hear opponents of climate change legislation mentioning the latter numbers.