This Bystander is keeping an eye on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to India because it will provide an indication of how China and India are lining up on the climate policy debate. Or at least whether the U.S. is managing to put any daylight between the two countries’ position.
In short, it doesn’t look that she has. She was told flatly by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh that there was no case for mandatory curbs on CO2 emissions. That mirrors Beijing’s rejection of binding cuts, and repeats the position expressed at the G8 summit in Italy earlier this month–a line Beijing and New Delhi are likely to hold at the U.N.’s Copenhagen conference of climate change at the end of this year. Instead, the two countries are pushing energy efficiency–witness the way Beijing has promoted green technologies in its economic stimulus package.
The reluctance to accept greenhouse gas emissions curbs on the part of China, now the world’s largest emitter of such gases, will make it more difficult for the Obama administration in the U.S. to press ahead with its cap-and-trade proposals, already running into domestic political difficulties, which will ease the pressure on China and India to change their tune. It also increases the chances that the U.S. will impose punitive tariffs on imports from other major greenhouse gas emitters. Though it is open whether that would change Beijing’s hard line on emissions, trade sanctions could, perversely enough, become the most effective means of forging international action on global warming.