US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu was in China yesterday to discuss climate change with governmental officials. The New York Times reports that he raised the rhetoric somewhat in the persistent disagreement between the two countries on how the world should respond to climate change.
According to the Times, Chu emphasized that China and other developing nations could make the problem of climate change “much worse” with their emissions while acknowledging the West’s historical role. He also presented a set of powerpoint slides [.pdf] emphasizing all the problems that can befall China in the absence of any action on climate change
Chu was accompanied by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke who took a similar theme. In a speech to business leaders, Locke said: “Fifty years from now, we do not want the world to lay the blame for environmental catastrophe at the feet of China.”
China’s position is that their per-capita emissions are quite small, they have not emitted nearly as much historically as the West and that the persistence of “old” greenhouse gases is part of the current problem, and that the West is better equipped financially to make large reductions.
Thus, having Chu and Locke lecture the Chinese on their own emissions is unlikely going to be received well.
The two countries did agree on some partnership programs to increase efficiency and develop clean energy technology.
It’s difficult to speculate on the effect that these types of speeches will have on international negotiations, but more positive dialogue coming from US and China officials would make for a more optimistic outcome in Copenhagen later this year.
It should be noted that Chu told a group of reporters after meeting with Chinese officials that he feels optimistic about Copenhagen.