China’s Signals on Warming
Two factors are crucial to the success of any global system to reduce greenhouse gases. One is American leadership; the other is China’s full participation. Despite President Bush’s diffidence, there has been mounting pressure for the United States to assume a more aggressive role from mayors, governors, some in Congress and, lately, even the Supreme Court. And now there are some modestly encouraging signs from China.
During a visit to Tokyo last week, China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, announced that his country was prepared to take part in negotiations on a new agreement limiting global warming emissions, to replace Kyoto Protocol provisions that expire in 2012. China is not subject to the accord’s binding emissions targets, but its commitment to talk raises real hope that it may be open to the idea.
Japan and China also agreed to work together to reduce emissions. Both sides have strong economic motives for doing so. Japan, already one of the world’s most energy-efficient countries, is having a hard time further reducing its emissions as required under the Kyoto agreement. It can earn credits to help meet its obligations by investing in clean-energy projects in developing countries like China, which in turn would help China’s economy and give it access to new technologies.
China may be beginning to grasp that climate change poses a danger to itself as well as everyone else. But experts agree that China — which should soon surpass the United States as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide — will never come to grips with the problem until it imposes mandatory limits on greenhouse gases as called for by Kyoto and accepted by most industrialized nations, with the United States a glaring exception.
Such caps would be costly medicine, which China is unlikely to
swallow as long as the United States doesn’t do so as well — thus using
America as a cover for inaction just as Mr. Bush is using China to
excuse his own. The Democrats in Congress could help break that
stalemate, and further encourage China to engage the issue, by
establishing strong and credible emissions limits for this country.