Climate change is a global challenge and requires a global solution. Through analysis and dialogue, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions is working with governments and stakeholders to identify practical and effective options for the post-2012 international climate framework. Read more


European Commission's Proposed Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package

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Summary of the Proposal
January 2008
Read the full summary (pdf)

On January 23, 2008, the European Commission proposed a series of EU-wide policies to implement the major energy and climate decisions taken by the European Council in March 2007. The Council decisions included:

• A commitment to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 30% below if other developed countries agree to comparable reductions and economically advanced developing countries contribute according to their respective capabilities and responsibilities.

• A mandatory target to increase renewable energy to 20% of the EU’s overall energy mix by 2020, including a minimum of 10% biofuels in overall fuel consumption.

The new measures proposed by the Commission to achieve these goals across the EU’s 27 Member States will be taken up by the European Parliament and the European Council, with the aim of final adoption by 2009.

Towards an Integrated Multi-Track Climate Framework

Multi-Track Framework Cover

Towards an Integrated Multi-Track Climate Framework

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
December 2007

Daniel Bodansky, University of Georgia School of Law
Elliot Diringer, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Press Release


With the approach of 2012, and the expiration of the initial greenhouse gas targets under the KyotoProtocol, governments are grappling with how best to advance the international climate effort in the years beyond. The central challenge is as clear as it is formidable: fashioning an international framework ensuring that all of the world’s major economies contribute equitably and effectively to the global climate effort. 

One way of characterizing the many different proposals put forward by governments, experts, and advocates is in terms of where they fall along a certain continuum: Towards one end are so-called “bottom-up” approaches, which envision the international effort as an aggregation of nationally defined programs put forward by countries on a strictly voluntary basis. At the other end are “top-down” approaches, in which governments negotiate explicit and binding international commitments that in turn shape and drive national policies.1   

This paper suggests a middle course, one that seeks to introduce “bottom-up” flexibility while retaining the cohesion and reciprocity of “top-down.” We call this an integrated multi-track approach.2 In this approach, all major economies enter into commitments aimed at reducing or moderating their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the type of commitment varies. For example, some countries have binding economy-wide emission targets, as under Kyoto, while others commit to implement national policies such as efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, or measures to reduce deforestation.3 Some, in addition, could participate in sectoral agreements on targets, standards, or other measures addressing emissions from particular sectors.4  

The broad contours of such an approach were outlined in the report of the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, a group of policymakers and stakeholders from 15 countries convened by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.5 In assessing a wide range of post-2012 options, the group concluded that the major economies, given their tremendous diversity, are more apt to engage in the international effort if given latitude to pursue different policy “tracks.” But the dialogue participants also concluded that the collective effort will be stronger if these multiple tracks are brought together in an overarching framework allowing coordination and tradeoffs among countries:  

[A] purely “bottom up” approach might produce only an ad hoc assemblage of disparate initiatives, with little certainty that the overall effort would be sufficiently timely or robust… Expressly linking approaches may allow for a more robust overall effort. In order for governments and for the private sector to undertake and sustain ambitious climate action, they must be confident that their counterparts are contributing their fair share. An integrated agreement could help provide this mutual assurance. By linking and negotiating across tracks, it may be possible to arrive at an arrangement that is at once flexible enough to accommodate different approaches, and reciprocal enough to achieve a higher overall level of effort.6


This paper elaborates on the rationale for an integrated multi-track approach; draws lessons from other multilateral regimes, including those addressing international trade and other transboundary environmental challenges; and identifies key issues in designing a multi-track climate framework. It assesses three models: an “individualized commitments” approach, which affords countries the greatest flexibility; a “parallel agreements” approach, which provides more structure and integration; and an “integrated commitments” approach, in which countries agree to negotiate within given tracks towards a comprehensive package agreement.

The paper concludes that of the three, the “integrated commitments” model is the one most likely to produce a collective level of effort sufficient to meeting the challenge of climate change. While still allowing countries the flexibility of different commitment types, this approach encourages stronger reciprocity and effort by establishing some agreement at the outset on commitment types, and to which countries they will apply, and by requiring that all tracks be agreed as one comprehensive package.  

There was consensus among the Pocantico dialogue participants—and there is now consensus among most, if not all, governments—that the appropriate venue for developing the post-2012 climate framework is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An integrated multi-track post-2012 agreement under the UNFCCC would likely include elements under the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, and, potentially, under new protocols or other instruments. In the present negotiating context, the key to producing such an agreement is a new mandate for negotiations under the Convention—encompassing or linked to ongoing negotiations under Kyoto—with the aim of a comprehensive package of commitments for all major emitting countries.  

See Notes in full report to view references


Dowload the full report (pdf)

Daniel Bodansky
Elliot Diringer

Pew Statement: COP 13 - Bali Roadmap

Statement of Elliot Diringer, Director of International Strategies
Pew Center on Global Climate Change


December 15, 2007


Governments today took a critical step toward an effective global response to climate change. The Bali roadmap leaves open a host of key issues. It doesn’t explicitly nail down the scale of effort needed or the nature of the actions to be negotiated. It puts no one on the hook right now for emission reductions. What’s important, though, is that it lets no one off the hook either. It challenges all governments to confront the tough issues ahead and opens the way for the first time to a comprehensive negotiation of post-2012 commitments.

Two years ago in Montreal, many governments were barely prepared to open an informal “dialogue” on future climate action. Here in Bali, all governments agreed to move past dialogue to negotiations with the very ambitious goal of a new global agreement in 2009. They also implicitly recognized that, in addition to emission targets for developed countries, this agreement will have to allow for other types of commitments for developing countries in order to achieve the broadest possible participation.

With their decisions on adaptation, deforestation, and technology, governments addressed key developing country concerns and laid important groundwork for a post-2012 agreement. Ultimately, these and other elements need to be integrated in a comprehensive package spelling out specific binding commitments for all the major economies. Governments can waste no time if they’re to achieve that between now and 2009.

The critical first step is an unequivocal signal by the United States that it is prepared to negotiate a binding international commitment. Having joined other governments in launching this new U.N. process, the Bush administration must not use its upcoming meeting of major economies to stall or steer countries away from binding commitments. With Congress now well on its way to enacting an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, it’s time for the administration to support mandatory emission limits at home as a foundation for a fair, inclusive, and effective global agreement.

COP 13 and COP/MOP 3 Bali

United Nations Climate Change Conference
COP 13 and COP/MOP 3

Bali, Indonesia
December 3-15, 2007

In tense and chaotic talks that ran a full day longer than planned, delegates to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali remained far apart on fundamental issues but in the end agreed to launch a loosely framed negotiating process with the ambitious goal of achieving a new global climate agreement in 2009.

The annual gathering of governments highlighted both the urgency and the extraordinary difficulty of forging a comprehensive new agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. On one hand, the scientific case for action laid out unambiguously in the latest assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was underscored time and again by scores of high-level speakers including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore. On the other hand, in adopting the so called Bali Roadmap, governments could agree only on the most general parameters for the process going forward, leaving virtually all the key issues to future talks.

At a Bali side event, we released a new report entitled 
Towards an Integrated Multi-Track Climate Framework. The report builds on our Climate Dialogue at Pocantico recommends a post-2012 framework integrating different types of mitigation commitments.

Side Event at COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 

Building on Pocantico: Towards An Integrated Multi-Track Framework
December 12, 2007
Read the report

The Pew Center’s Climate Dialogue at Pocantico recommends a post-2012 framework integrating different types of mitigation commitments. In this side event, the Pew Center released a new report building on the Pocantico recommendations, Towards an Integrated Multi-Track Climate Framework, by Daniel Bodansky, professor of law at the University of Georgia, and Elliot Diringer, the Pew Center’s director of international strategies.

Speakers at the side event included: 

  • Elliot Diringer, Director of International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change 
  • Daniel Bodansky, Professor of Law, University of Georgia
  • Joanna Lewis, Senior International Fellow, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
  • Karsten Sach, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, German Ministry for Environment
  • Shaun Vorster, Special Adviser to the South African Environment Minister

Read a review of the event (pdf) 

COP 13 Summary

Read the Pocantico Report

Press Release: New Report Outlines Options for Negotiating a Post-2012 Climate Agreement

Press Release
December 12, 2007

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, (703) 516-4146

Recommends a Multi-Track Approach to Commitments
for Major Economies

BALI, Indonesia – The Pew Center on Global Climate Change today released a new report outlining options for negotiating a post-2012 climate change agreement and recommending an integrated multi-track approach in which different commitment types are agreed in a single package.

The new report, Towards an Integrated Multi-Track Climate Framework, is coauthored by Daniel Bodansky, Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at the University of Georgia School of Law, and Elliot Diringer, Director of International Strategies at the Pew Center.It was released at a Pew Center side event at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali.

The report builds on the recommendations of the Pew Center’s Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, which brought together 25 senior policymakers and stakeholders from 15 countries.The group’s consensus report recommends engaging all major economies in the post-2012 climate effort through a flexible framework allowing countries to take on different types of commitments (report available at

“The Pocantico dialogue laid out a broad vision of a post-2012 framework, and now we’re looking more closely at how the framework should be structured and negotiated.The key message is that the framework must be both flexible and integrated.While it should allow different commitment types, it will be effective only if these diverse approaches are tightly integrated in a comprehensive package of binding commitments,” said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen.

“As governments in Bali debate the way forward, this report underscores the need for a clear mandate to negotiate commitments for all major economies,” said Claussen.“We need a new process under the Framework Convention, linked to or encompassing the ongoing Kyoto negotiations, leading to a comprehensive agreement with elements under both the Convention and the Protocol.”

Since the release of the Pocantico report in 2005, the Pew Center has produced three papers elaborating specific elements recommended in the dialogue report: Adaptation to Climate Change: International Policy Options; Policy-Based Commitments in a Post-2012 Climate Framework; and International Sectoral Agreements in a Post-2012 Climate Framework. The new report examines how these and other elements are most effectively integrated in a comprehensive framework.

The authors’ analysis draws lessons from other multilateral regimes with “multi-track” characteristics, including the trade regime, Law of the Sea, and agreements on air and marine pollution.In many cases, these regimes were highly flexible initially to encourage broad participation but became more integrated over time to raise the level of effort.In the case of climate change, the authors conclude, the scale and urgency of the challenge will likely require strong integration early on.

The report outlines key variables in designing a multi-track framework, including how commitments are structured and negotiated, and different forms of integration, such as negotiating parameters, common metrics for measuring and comparing effort, rules for entry into force and the evolution of commitments, and systems for reporting, review and compliance.Three alternative approaches are assessed: “individualized commitments,” affording countries the greatest flexibility; “parallel agreements,” providing more structure and integration; and “integrated commitments,” in which countries agree to negotiate within given tracks towards a comprehensive package agreement.

The authors conclude that of the three models, the “integrated commitments” approach is mostly likely to produce a collective level of effort sufficient to meeting the challenge of climate change.While allowing the flexibility of different commitment types, it provides stronger reciprocity and effort, first by establishing agreement at the outset on commitment types, and the countries to which they apply, and second, by requiring that all tracks be agreed as a single package.

The new report, and additional information on global climate change and the Pew Center, are available at

A Business Path to Bali

Full Article (PDF)

by by Truman Semans, Director for Markets and Business Strategy and Andre de Fontaine, Markets and Business Strategy Fellow--Appeared in an Environmental Finance Publications Report, November 2007.

Congressional Testimony of Eileen Claussen - Regarding International Climate Change Negotiations: Restoring U.S. Leadership


Submitted to the United States Senate,
The Foreign Relations Committee

November 13, 2007

Regarding International Climate Change Negotiations: Restoring U.S. Leadership

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to submit written testimony on the need to restore U.S. leadership in the international climate change negotiations. My name is Eileen Claussen, and I am the President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. Forty-five major companies in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), most included in the Fortune 500, work with the Center to educate the public on the risks, challenges and solutions to climate change.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend you, Sen. Lugar, Sen. Kerry, and the other members of this committee for convening this hearing today on the international climate change negotiations. As one who has worked for many years to advance efforts on this and other critical environmental challenges, it is very gratifying to me that the U.S. Congress is at long last engaged in a genuine debate on how – not if, but how – the United States should address global climate change. So far, this debate has focused primarily on questions of domestic climate policy, and we are farther along in that debate than ever. But truly meeting the challenge of climate change will also require global solutions, and these will be possible, I believe, only with strong leadership from the United States. By broadening the scope of debate here in Washington to focus attention on the international dimension of climate change, this hearing will inform constructive U.S. engagement in the upcoming conference in Bali – a conference that hopefully will set the stage for an effective multilateral response to global climate change.

The Bali meeting presents an enormous opportunity for the United States to help move nations toward a fair, effective, comprehensive post-2012 climate agreement, one that serves U.S. interests by ensuring that all major economies are on board. However, producing such an agreement first requires the launch of a new round of negotiations. That must be the key objective in Bali.

In my testimony today, I would like to set the Bali conference in context by highlighting recent international developments addressing climate change, and by outlining the key objectives a post-2012 climate framework must meet, and the form it should take. Finally, I would like to elaborate on the type of decision needed in Bali to start nations on the path toward such an agreement.

Recent international developments addressing climate change

As the United States moves closer to taking comprehensive action on climate change, it is not alone in its efforts. Last week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented legislation to mandate a 60 percent reduction in U.K. carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The European Union—which has established the Emissions Trading Scheme, the largest emissions trading market in the world—has now committed to reduce its emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Several EU member states also have joined with other countries and ten U.S. States in the International Carbon Action Partnership, which will work towards international linkage of greenhouse gas markets. The Australian government has declared its intention to establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system. Canada is developing a regulatory framework that the government projects will reduce emissions 20 percent by 2020. China, Mexico, and Brazil all issued national climate change programs within recent months. China’s policies include an economy-wide goal of reducing energy intensity 20 percent by 2010, ambitious renewable energy targets, and vehicle fuel economy standards more stringent than those here in the United States.

Climate change is figuring much more prominently in international fora as well. The potential security implications of climate change drew the attention of the UN Security Council earlier this year. In June, G8 leaders called for a global agreement on a post-2012 framework under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by 2009, and agreed to “consider seriously…at least a halving of global emissions by 2050.” At the APEC summit in September, leaders agreed on aspirational goals to reduce energy intensity 25% by 2030 and increase forest cover by at least 20 million hectares by 2020. Later that month, more than 150 countries, most represented by heads of state or government, participated in a UN High-Level Event on Climate Change to urge a breakthrough at the Bali conference. This was followed a few days later by the Major Economies Meeting convened here in Washington by President Bush with the goal of forging a consensus contributing to a global agreement under the UNFCCC in 2009.

Key objectives of a post-2012 climate framework

So what form should such an agreement take? The Pew Center’s perspective on the future international framework reflects not only our own detailed analysis but also the collective views of an impressive group of policymakers and stakeholders from around the world. As part of our effort to help build consensus on these issues, we convened the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, whose report was released in late 2005 at an event here in Congress, hosted by Senators Biden and Lugar. The Pocantico group included senior policymakers from Britain, Germany, China, India, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the United States; as well as senior executives from companies in several key sectors, including Alcoa, BP, DuPont, Exelon, Eskom (the largest electric utility in Africa), Rio Tinto, and Toyota. Despite this diverse range of interests and perspectives, the Pocantico group succeeded in reaching consensus on a broad vision of a post-2012 climate framework. This vision begins with a set of key objectives that a post-2012 framework must meet, and I would like to emphasize the two most critical of these objectives.

First, the post-2012 framework must engage all of the world’s major economies. Twenty-five countries account for about 85 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. These same countries also account for about 70 percent of global population and 85 percent of global GDP. Participation of all the major economies is critical not only from an environmental perspective, but from a political perspective as well, as we cannot reasonably expect any of these countries to be willing to undertake a sustained and ambitious effort against climate change without confidence that the others are contributing their fair share. We must agree to proceed together.

At the same time, we must recognize the tremendous diversity among the major economies. This group includes industrialized countries, developing countries, and economies in transition. Their per capita emissions range by a factor of 14 and their per capita incomes by a factor of 18. This leads directly to the second critical objective identified in our Pocantico dialogue: The post-2012 framework must provide flexibility for different national strategies and circumstances. The kinds of policies that effectively address climate change in ways consistent with other national priorities will vary from country to country. If it is to achieve broad participation, the future framework must allow for variation both in the nature of commitments taken by countries and in the timeframes within which these commitments must be fulfilled.

With these key objectives in mind, the Pocantico group then asked: what could be the key elements of a post-2012 framework? The group recommended several policy approaches.

The first of these is targets and trading. This is the approach employed in the Kyoto Protocol, as well as in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative being undertaken by ten states in the northeastern United States. There are very sound reasons why U.S. negotiators insisted so strongly on a market-based architecture for the Kyoto Protocol – and why many of the major climate bills now before Congress adopt the same approach. Emission targets provide a reasonable degree of environmental certainty, while emissions trading harnesses market forces to deliver those reductions at the lowest possible cost.

While targets and trading should remain a core element of the international effort, we must recognize that China, India, and other developing countries are highly unlikely to accept binding economy-wide emission limits any time in the foreseeable future. Economy-wide targets also may be technically impractical for them: to accept a binding target, a country must be able to reliably quantify its current emissions and project its future emissions, a capacity that at present few if any developing countries have.

A future framework, therefore, must allow for other approaches as well. These could include policy-based commitments, under which countries would commit to undertake national policies that will moderate or reduce their emissions without being bound to an economy-wide emissions limit. A country like China, for instance, could commit to strengthen its existing energy efficiency targets, renewable energy goals, and auto fuel economy standards. Tropical forest countries could commit to reduce deforestation. For this to work, the commitments would need to be credible and binding, with mechanisms to ensure close monitoring and compliance. Developed countries also may need to provide incentives for developing countries to adopt and implement stronger policies. One option is policy-based emissions crediting, similar to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, granting countries tradable emission credits for meeting or exceeding their policy commitments.

A third potential element is sectoral agreements, in which governments commit to a set of targets, standards, or other measures to reduce emissions from a given sector, rather than economy-wide. In energy-intensive industries whose goods trade globally, which are the sectors most vulnerable to potential competitiveness impacts from carbon constraints, sectoral agreements can help resolve such concerns by ensuring a more level playing field. Such approaches are being explored by global industry groups in both the aluminum and cement sectors. We believe it is also worth exploring sectoral approaches in other sectors such as power and transportation where competitiveness is less of an issue but where large-scale emission reduction efforts are most urgent.

A fourth potential element is technology cooperation. This could include two types of agreements. The first would provide for joint research and development of “breakthrough” technologies with long investment horizons. Such agreements could build on the Asia Pacific Partnership and other technology initiatives, but commit governments to the higher levels of funding needed to accelerate and better coordinate critical research and development. The second type of agreement could help to provide equitable access to both existing and new technologies by addressing finance, international property rights, and other issues that presently impede the flow of low-carbon technologies to developing countries.

In addition to these approaches to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, a sound international agreement must address adaptation. The top priority within the framework should be addressing the urgent needs of those countries most vulnerable to climate change, with a broader goal of spurring comprehensive efforts to reduce climate vulnerability generally by integrating adaptation across the full range of development activities.

The decision needed in Bali: To begin negotiation

I have described the building blocks of a comprehensive agreement. Precisely how they fit together can be determined only through negotiation. What is needed in Bali is a clear decision by governments to begin that negotiation.

Two years ago, parties to the Kyoto Protocol opened negotiations on post-2012 commitments for those countries that have emission targets under the protocol. In their present form, these negotiations are very unlikely to succeed because those countries are unlikely to commit internationally to stronger action without commitments from the United States and from the major emerging economies. The negotiations must be broadened with the goal of establishing commitments for all the major economies. The best way to accomplish that is to establish a new negotiating process under the Framework Convention, where the United States is party. These new negotiations should either be linked to or encompass those underway under Kyoto, with the aim of producing a comprehensive agreement with elements under both the convention and the protocol. A decision to launch such negotiations must set out a clear process and timeline. Ideally, it also should set clear terms of engagement specifying the types of commitments to be negotiated and for which countries.

At present, while I expect that parties will agree on some type of process in Bali, I am not confident that it will be the type needed to produce a comprehensive and effective set of commitments. Of one thing, however, I am certain – a genuine negotiation will be possible only with the full and committed participation of the United States.

Whether negotiations are launched in Bali or later, one of the most difficult challenges will of course be engaging developing countries. Meeting this challenge requires a firm but balanced approach. To begin with, we must be absolutely clear in our expectation that the major developing countries assume binding commitments in a post-2012 framework. It is true that the United States, the world’s largest economy, is also by far the largest historic contributor to climate change. In establishing mandatory limits on domestic emissions, the United States will have begun to fulfill the commitment it made with other industrialized countries to lead the climate change effort. And having done so, it will then be reasonable to expect that countries like China fulfill their responsibilities as well. China’s emissions have grown 80 percent since 1990 and could rise another 80 percent by 2020. It is essential that these trends be reversed. Realistically, given the greater capacity and historic responsibility of industrialized countries, China, India and other developing countries will require incentives to undertake strong climate efforts. However, in return for these incentives, China and the other major developing countries must assume appropriate commitments that will slow and ultimately reverse the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions.

To summarize, I believe it is incumbent upon the United States to lead both by strong action at home and by actively and constructively reengaging in the international climate effort. Only with strong U.S. participation and leadership can we achieve a fair and effective global response to the critical challenge of climate change. I thank the Committee for the opportunity to present these views.

Statement: International Carbon Action Partnership is Announced

A coalition of 10 U.S. states, nine European Union countries, two Canadian provinces, the European Commission, New Zealand, and Norway have formed the International Carbon Action Partnership to address global warming.

Statement by Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Pew Center Contact: Katie Mandes

November 1, 2007

The creation of the International Carbon Action Partnership underscores the critical importance of cap-and-trade systems and international cooperation in the effort to reduce global emissions. We cannot afford to delay action that’s required to curb the most dangerous impacts of climate change. The International Climate Action Partnership recognizes that carbon markets based on mandatory caps are an environmentally sound and cost-effective response.

Linking existing and emerging emissions trading systems can provide low-cost emissions reductions and accelerate key technological advances. It also can serve as a critical bridge to a truly global climate effort. Ultimately, we need a comprehensive international agreement that binds all major economies but allows different types of mitigation commitments. The International Climate Action Partnership is well-positioned to contribute in a positive and productive manner toward this effort.

See also: International Climate Action Partnership Press Release

China's Strategic Priorities in International Climate Change Negotiations

Winter 2007-08

By Joanna Lewis, Senior International Fellow

Originally appeared in The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2007-08


China's role in an international climate change solution cannot be overstated. Now likely the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China has become the focus of scrutiny as climate change has become ever more important as a global issue. Increased international attention to the issue is reflected in China's domestic policy circles as well, primarily through institutional restructuring aimed at better government coordination on climate-related policy activities. China released its first national climate change plan this year, composed of measures being taken across the economy that may help slow China's greenhouse gas emissions growth.

Yet, China faces substantial challenges in mitigating its increasing contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, which will require a much higher level of effort than what may be achieved by measures already in place. Understanding the nature of these challenges in the Chinese context helps to clarify China's negotiating position in international forums and can provide insights into how the international community might best engage China to address global climate change.1


Competing Priorities

China's climate strategy remains centered on its energy development strategy as driven by its overall economic development goals. Although attention to climate change has recently increased among China's leadership, climate change has not surpassed economic development as a policy priority. The Chinese [End Page 155] leadership has shown the ability to adapt to or resist both internal and external changes and pressures over time.

Yet, the causes of climate change, namely greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and land use, are inherently linked to economic development in the Chinese context. Continued growth in the prosperity of the population is viewed as fundamental to maintaining political stability, and progress to date in this regard has been impressive. China's economic growth over the past two decades, marked by a quadrupling in its gross domestic product (GDP) from 1980 to 2000, has been credited with pulling roughly 50 million people out of poverty.2

The relationship between economic growth and energy utilization matters greatly not only from an emissions perspective, but from an energy security perspective as well. Although China quadrupled its GDP between 1980 and 2000, it did so while merely doubling the amount of energy it consumed over that period, marking a dramatic achievement in energy-intensity gains not paralleled in any other country at a similar stage of industrialization. This allowed China's energy intensity (ratio of energy consumption to GDP) and consequently the emissions intensity (ratio of carbon dioxide [CO2]–equivalent emissions to GDP) of its economy to decline (see figure 1). Without this reduction in the energy intensity of the economy, China would have used more than three times the energy that it did during this period.

Between 2002 and 2005, however, this trend reversed, and energy growth surpassed economic growth for the first time in decades. This reversal has had dramatic emissions implications, with China's greenhouse gas emissions growing very rapidly since 2002. Although official data for 2006 are not yet available, estimates show that emissions from energy use are up 9 percent from the previous year, which would make China the largest emitter on an annual basis, surpassing U.S. emissions that year by 8 percent.3 In 2006, global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use increased by about 2.6 percent, driven by a 4.5 percent increase in global coal consumption, of which China contributed more than 66 percent.4 Currently, China emits 35 percent more CO2 per dollar of output than the United States and 100 percent more than the European Union. China's increase in energy-related emissions in the past few years has been driven primarily by industrial energy use, fueled by an increased percentage of coal in the overall fuel mix. Industry consumes about 70 percent of China's energy, and China's industrial base supplies much of the world. For example, China today produces 35 percent of the world's steel and 28 percent of aluminum, up from 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively, a decade ago.5 [End Page 156]

China relies on coal for more than two-thirds of its energy needs, including approximately 80 percent of its electricity needs. Currently, more coal power plants are installed in China than in the United States and India combined. China's coal power use is expected to more than double by 2030, representing an additional carbon commitment of about 86 billion tons.6 Although China is also expanding its utilization of nuclear power and nonhydroelectric renewables, these sources comprise 2 percent and 0.7 percent of China's electricity generation, respectively, whereas hydroelectricity contributes about 16 percent.7

China's overall economic development statistics reveal that, despite the emergence of modern cities and a growing middle class, China is still largely a developing country. Although rapid economic growth has made China the fourth-largest economy in the world, its GDP per capita is still below the world average. More than one-half of China's population lives in rural areas where GDP per capita lags that of urban areas. The gap between the best available technologies worldwide and what exists in China is still large, although advanced energy technology is increasingly available and in many cases being developed indigenously. China's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are below the world average and almost one-fifth those of the United States. [End Page 157]

All of these factors shape the climate challenge faced by China's leadership. It is increasingly difficult for China to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions growth as investment surges continue in heavy industry. Changing China's emissions trajectory will require either a substantial shift away from coal or massive investments in capturing the CO2 emissions from coal-based energy sources. Simultaneously, China must increase the efficiency with which it uses energy resources to minimize the environmental impacts of meeting the further economic development needs of its population.


Climate Action in China

Although the goal of "building a resource-efficient and environment-friendly society" is prominent in China's current five-year plan, many obstacles must be overcome before achieving it. These challenges shape the way China is approaching climate mitigation at the domestic level, as well as its position in international negotiations.

A look at the Chinese institutions that have been responsible for climate change policy is one way to understand how the government has approached this issue over time. Starting in the 1980s, China treated climate change as a scientific issue and gave the State Meteorological Administration the responsibility of advising the government on policy options in international negotiations surrounding the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As political awareness and sensitivity surrounding climate change increased in the late 1990s, this role shifted to the more powerful State Development and Planning Commission, which has since evolved into the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The move indicated a shift in the relative value given to the issue, as well as perhaps a shift in perspective from a scientific issue to predominantly a development issue.8

The NDRC also serves as the primary energy policy decisionmaking authority in China, and this move may have reflected the clear need for climate priorities to be coordinated better with energy decisions. It is now home to the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change, which oversees climate activities within the NDRC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). Today, the NDRC and the Foreign Ministry are responsible for formulating China's international negotiation positions.

Further institutional change came recently with the release of China's national climate change plan in June 2007, announcing a high-level leading group on climate change chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao and reporting to the State Council. Subsequently, the Foreign Ministry announced that it had also established [End Page 158] a leading group in charge of international work on climate change, headed by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Then in early September, Ambassador Yu Qingtai was appointed to be China's new special representative of the Foreign Ministry for climate change negotiations. The role of this new special representative is to help implement China's domestic action plan to respond to climate change and to demonstrate "the government's active participation in international cooperation on responding to climate change."9

The establishment of these two high-level leading groups and the appointment of a special representative on climate change in 2007 are positive signs that the Chinese leadership is focusing new attention on the issue. It is also apparent that leading Chinese research organizations that often provide analytical input to shape government policy decisions are scaling up their work in this area.10

The government released its first "National Assessment Report on Climate Change" in late 2006, conducted as a collaborative effort among more than 20 government departments and taking four years to complete.11 Structured similarly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, the Chinese assessment consists of three parts: climate change history and trends, impacts and adaptation, and mitigation and socioeconomic evaluation.

Subsequently, China released its much anticipated National Climate Change Program report on June 4, 2007.12 Referred to as China's climate change plan, the report has provided a comprehensive synthesis of the policies that China currently has in place that are serving to moderate its greenhouse gas emissions growth and to help the country adapt to climate impacts. The majority of the policies and programs mentioned in the plan are not climate change policies per se, but policies implemented throughout the economy, particularly in the energy sector, that have the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these policies have been enacted to help the country meet its broader economic development strategies and, if implemented effectively, will also serve as policies to mitigate China's greenhouse gas emissions. Three of these key policy areas are energy efficiency, renewable energy, and industrial policy.


Energy Efficiency

With the hope of achieving energy intensity improvements between 2000 and 2020 similar to what it had done the previous two decades, China has a broad [End Page 159] national goal of quadrupling economic growth while doubling energy consumption.13 Beijing's eleventh five-year plan includes a near-term goal of reducing national energy intensity 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2010. Implementation of such centrally administered government targets has proven challenging, particularly at the local level. In an attempt to improve local accountability, the NDRC is allocating the target among provinces and industrial sectors, and energy efficiency improvement is now among the criteria used to evaluate the job performance of local officials. These elevated implementation efforts appear to be having some impact. Following increases in energy intensity each year from 2003 to 2005, the trend was reversed in 2006, although the intensity decline achieved was short of the goal for that year.14

Supplementary programs have been established to encourage specific actors to help meet this national intensity goal, including a program established in 2006 to improve energy efficiency in China's largest enterprises.15 Another government effort targets the elimination of a number of small, inefficient power plants, totaling around 8 percent of China's generating capacity, by 2010. Similar plant closings are planned across the industrial sector, including inefficient cement, aluminum, ferroalloy, coking, calcium carbide, and steel plants.16

In addition, the 1997 Energy Conservation Law initiated a range of programs to increase energy efficiency in buildings, industry, and consumer goods. China has efficiency standards and labeling programs in place for many key energy-consuming appliances and is adopting energy standards for buildings in regions with high heating and cooling demands. In the transport sector, China's fuel economy standards for its rapidly growing passenger vehicle fleet are more stringent than those in Australia, Canada, and the United States, although less stringent than those in the EU and Japan, and the average fuel economy of new vehicles is projected to reach 36.7 miles per gallon in 2008.17


Renewable Energy

Under the National Renewable Energy Law adopted in 2005, China has set a target of producing 16 percent of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from about 7 percent at present. For the electricity sector, the target is 20 percent of the capacity from renewables by 2020, which will require substantial increases in the use of wind power, biomass power, solar power, and [End Page 160] hydropower. This law offers financial incentives, such as a national fund to foster renewable energy development and discounted lending and tax preferences for renewable energy projects. Although increases in wind power in particular have been impressive in recent years, this energy source is still dwarfed by large-scale hydropower. Hydropower capacity is projected to more than double by 2020, requiring the equivalent of a new dam the size of the Three Gorges Project every two years.

Policies to promote renewable energy also include mandates and incentives to support the development of domestic technologies and industries, for instance, by requiring the use of domestically manufactured components. Spurred by a requirement that newly installed wind turbines contain 70 percent local content, Chinese manufacturers are now producing about 40 percent of the wind turbines being sold in China and 3 percent of the wind turbines being sold globally. Tax and other incentives have targeted the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry, stimulating a sixfold growth in PV production from 2004 to 2005. A recent market study estimates that the Chinese PV industry will dominate the global market within five years; China is currently the third-largest producer of solar PVs for the global market.18


Industrial Policies

The recent surge in energy consumption by heavy industry in China has caused the government to implement measures to discourage growth in energy-intensive industries compared with sectors that are less energy intensive. In November 2006, the Ministry of Finance increased export taxes on energy-intensive industries. This includes a 15 percent export tax on copper, nickel, aluminum, and other metals; a 10 percent tax on steel primary products; and a 5 percent tax on petroleum, coal, and coke. Simultaneously, import tariffs on 26 energy and resource products, including coal, petroleum, aluminum, and other mineral resources, will be cut from their current levels of 3–6 percent to 0–3 percent.19 Whereas the increased export tariffs are meant to discourage relocation of energy-intensive industries to China for export markets, the reduced import tariffs are meant to promote the utilization of energy-intensive products produced elsewhere.


Framing China's Negotiating Position

China's position in the international climate negotiations has rarely deviated from the rest of the developing world, as collectively articulated by the Group of 77 (G-77), a group of 130 (formerly 77) developing countries. Recently, the financial incentives for emissions reductions provided by the Kyoto Protocol's [End Page 161] Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has also helped shape China's views on the international climate regime.


G-77 Solidarity

Developing-country solidarity has been used as a strategy since the early days to influence climate change negotiations, despite the growing economic differentiation and often disparate climate policy interests within the developing world. Aware of their limited weight of acting in isolation, developing countries attempt to build common positions in the framework of the G-77,20 the largest intergovernmental organization of developing states in the United Nations. The G-77 provides a means for these countries to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major issues within the UN system.

China has historically associated itself with the G-77 despite not having the problem of limited weight in acting alone. Rather than acting alone, it can use the G-77 block as protection against being singled out. As the largest developing-country emitter, this concern is certainly rational. Yet, its size allows it to take a leadership role in formulating the positions of the G-77. China has a hand in crafting its position while ensuring that a large contingent of countries will stand at its side when it is presented before the world. The consistent position of the G-77 has been to emphasize the historical responsibility that the industrialized world brings to the climate change problem and the disparity between per capita emissions that persists between the developed and developing world, resisting any commitments to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

In recent years, China's alliance with the G-77 has not waned. In fact, its willingness to step out of the pack has declined even further as its fear of being singled out grows due to increasing economic growth and energy use. In June 2005, then–SEPA director Xie Zhenhua, now a vice minister of the NDRC, stated that he hoped "that some countries would, according to the obligations which are provided for in the Kyoto Protocol, implement in a substantive way their obligations and take up their commitments" and that, "on the Chinese side, the Chinese government would make its own decision after making some assessments of the implementation by other countries."21 In this statement, Xie was signaling that China was waiting to see whether the developed countries would follow through on their UNFCCC obligations to lead them in taking on mitigation commitments. This position was reinforced recently by Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, who said in September that developed countries should "continue to take the lead in reducing emissions after 2012."22

Despite the EU's willingness to commit to post-2012 emissions reduction targets, the absence of international commitments by the United States, the [End Page 162] world's largest industrialized-country emitter, provides the best excuse for China not to have to adopt commitments. Even as China's emissions surpass those of the United States on an annual basis, it will be decades before Chinese emissions surpass U.S. emissions on a cumulative basis, measured as historic contribution of emissions to the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for a century or more, so it is really the buildup of gases over time that is important from a scientific perspective. As previously mentioned, China's per capita greenhouse gas emissions would have to quintuple to equal those of the United States.

Consequently, if the United States were to take on credible international climate change commitments, China would face renewed pressure to revisit its delay tactics. Another key dynamic that could shift in the near term is the G-77 negotiating block. Countries within the G-77 are beginning to diverge somewhat in their positions, which could leave China in a more isolated negotiating position. Some tropical forest countries, including Brazil and a coalition of 32 rain forest countries including Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea, have stated a willingness to take on voluntary avoided-deforestation targets in return for compensation.23 Historically, voluntary international targets of any form have not been part of the G-77 position.


Capitalizing on the Clean Development Mechanism

{C}{C}China has ratified the primary international accords on climate change—the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol—but as a developing country, China has no binding emissions limits under either accord. It is, however, an active participant in the CDM established under the protocol, which grants emissions credits for verified reductions in developing countries, which can be used by developing countries toward meeting their Kyoto targets. The Kyoto Protocol requires developing countries to implement measures to mitigate climate change as is feasible for them, "in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."24

The Chinese government has historically approached the CDM somewhat more cautiously and has taken a more involved role in the project approval process than other developing countries, getting China off to a relatively late start in the carbon market. Although CDM projects became eligible for crediting in 2000 (five years before the Kyoto Protocol entered into force), China did not ratify the treaty until August 2002, its designated national authority [End Page 163] overseeing CDM projects was not established until June 2004, and the State Council did not adopt rules for the management of CDM projects until October 2005.25

China has been consistent in its position that, as a developing country, it will not take on any binding international commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Some of China's hesitance to make international commitments stems from reasonable concerns about energy data quality and transparency. In developing countries, where resource constraints result in limited data quality, inventories of national greenhouse gas emissions are notoriously inexact.26 Having in place a national emissions inventory system will likely be a crucial step in enabling the adoption and enforcement of any binding emissions reduction policies, whether enacted nationally or internationally.

Another reason for China's hesitance stems from broader concerns about the role of international actors in China. China was initially skeptical about the introduction of the Kyoto mechanisms under the UNFCCC, not only viewing the CDM as a way for developed countries to avoid their own responsibilities to reduce emissions but also expressing concern about the potential for foreign exploitation of rights to ownership of emissions credits.27 China has long had protectionist tendencies and resisted foreign involvement in various sectors and activities, particularly industries deemed to have an impact on national economic security.28 Recent examples include reported preferences for locally manufactured products and differential treatment given to foreign competitors in industrial sectors throughout the economy.29

Such policies exist in many sectors, including several in low-carbon energy technology. For example, all wind turbines erected are subject to a 70 percent local content requirement, a policy which discourages the sale of foreign wind turbines not sourced in China.30 Many of these policies are in place to encourage technology transfer in the form of licensing intellectual property rights by foreign companies to Chinese companies. Expectations of such transfers, however, are rarely met without additional incentives. For example, GE transferred its 9FA gas turbine combined-cycle technology to a Chinese company via a majority-owned joint venture, in return for a $900 million contract to sell these turbines in China.31 Despite enduring restrictions on foreign investment and ownership, calls for international technology transfer from Chinese officials are consistent, in and out of the climate and energy context.

China's position toward the CDM has changed dramatically in recent years, however, as China has begun to realize the economic and political benefits [End Page 164] that the CDM could provide. The CDM has become a vehicle for China to help stimulate investment in projects that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to help cover the incremental cost of higher-efficiency or low-carbon technology. Another benefit of China's leadership in the CDM is that it provides a way in which China can be viewed internationally as being proactive on the climate issue. Now the world leader in terms of CDM-induced greenhouse gas reduction credits in the CDM pipeline, China has learned how to use the CDM to its advantage.

Concerns about foreign involvement in Chinese efforts have not waned. These rules governing the CDM in China are viewed as "carefully crafted … to heavily favor Chinese interests and control, and to ensure Chinese 'resources' are protected" and have become a cause for complaint by many potential foreign investors, particularly the stipulation that only majority-owned Chinese enterprises may serve as project owners.32

Despite these restrictions and complaints, China has emerged as the leading CDM host country, with about 1.2 billion tons of CO2-equivalent credits scheduled to be issued by the end of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period in 2012.33 This means that 52 percent of total emissions reductions under the CDM are taking place in China. At a price of $10 per ton, sales of the 1.2 billion tons of reductions currently in the pipeline would represent a total investment in China of about $12 billion.


Options to Advance International Negotiations

A central challenge in addressing global climate change will be arriving at multilateral arrangements that include adequate effort by all major economies to moderate and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The multilateral climate effort to date has relied on a particular form of emissions commitment: economy-wide emissions limits. Such limits for developed countries were voluntary within the UNFCCC and later binding under the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries have historically resisted economy-wide emissions limits, however, and will likely continue to do so in any discussion or negotiation of the post-2012 climate effort. Consequently, there is a need to explore alternative approaches to engage large developing countries, such as China, in real mitigation activities in the forthcoming climate change negotiations.

For China to increase its international commitment to climate change action, its overarching concerns will need to be addressed. These include, because of its reliance on coal, the large incremental cost it faces in moving toward higher-efficiency coal technology and in capturing the emissions from these plants; concerns about energy data quality and transparency that are at the root of its hesitancy to commit to quantifiable targets; and current limitations [End Page 165] on the use of foreign investment and foreign technology to achieve its domestic development goals. Recognizing the unique challenges that China faces in addressing climate change can inform what it will be willing and able to undertake within a multilateral climate agreement. In the Chinese context, it may make sense to examine intensity targets, sectoral agreements, and policy commitments and crediting. Targeted international assistance will also be an important component of any international climate agreement.


Intensity versus Absolute Targets

Developing countries, including China, view absolute greenhouse gas targets, such as those under the Kyoto Protocol, as a cap on their economic growth. Intensity-based targets, whether measured as energy intensity or greenhouse gas intensity, are based on a ratio of the amount of energy or greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output. Because such a target is inherently indexed to the economic growth of a country, meeting this target does not directly require a decrease in economic production to meet it. This type of target is therefore more palatable to developing countries that oppose caps on their economic growth on equity principles. Meeting this target requires countries to understand the core drivers of their emissions within their economy, while incentivizing more efficient energy consumption and eventually decoupling energy use from economic growth.

The main limitation of an intensity-based target is that, although it can lower an emissions growth trajectory below the projected business-as-usual level, it is unlikely to result in an absolute decrease in emissions. Given a constant structural mix, energy intensity declines naturally with economic growth even while absolute energy consumption continues to increase.34 While the intensity of China's carbon emissions (ratio of energy-related CO2 emissions to GDP) declined 67 percent between 1980 and 2000, its absolute emissions increased by 126 percent over this period.35 Yet, if China's emissions intensity had remained fixed where it was in 1980, its emissions would be more than double what they are today.


Sectoral versus National Focus

Uncertainty is associated with all estimates of emissions reduction, particularly in many developing countries in which the accuracy of national greenhouse gas emissions inventories are often constrained by limited capacity for data collection and estimation. The uncertainty associated with national inventories makes it very difficult to implement greenhouse gas reduction commitments that rely on baseline inventories and aggregated annual improvements [End Page 166] at the national level. More exact estimates can be achieved, however, when estimating emissions from a smaller number of sources, such as within a sector where the sources of emissions are known and well documented. Consequently, understanding emissions sources within a particular sector could form the basis for targeted mitigation efforts within that sector, even in the absence of a broader understanding of emissions sources and trends.

Sectoral agreements have been proposed as a way of structuring multilateral commitments to adopt targets or standards around one or more sectors, possibly including developed and developing countries, potentially in concert with other commitment types, such as economy-wide targets. International sectoral agreements could provide a means of coordinating key industrial producers to develop climate change goals and a forum for sharing best practices and technological innovations. Reduction targets or efficiency standards agreed among countries at the sectoral level could target mitigation efforts toward key greenhouse gas–generating activities and help to prevent competitive imbalances, particularly in energy-intensive industries that trade globally.36 China plays an important role in many such industries. Globally, China now accounts for 48 percent of cement production, 49 percent of flat glass production, 35 percent of steel production, and 28 percent of aluminum production.37

A major challenge to implementing sectoral agreements is integrating developing countries, which typically use less efficient technology and thus will bear a higher cost in meeting any sector-wide standards. In addition, if some sectors are targeted for mitigation while others are left unregulated, there may be an incentive for emissions to "leak" from one sector to another to the extent cross-sectoral substitutions are feasible.


Policy Commitments versus Project Activities

Currently, 820 discrete CDM projects have been proposed in China that, if approved and implemented, could amount to 1.2 billion tons of CO2-equivalent emissions reductions by 2012.38 Yet, China's single national target to achieve a 20 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2010 could reduce its emissions by about 1.5 billion tons. Consequently, this policy and others in China, such as those articulated in China's national climate change plan, could form the basis of policy-based commitments made under the UNFCCC. Such commitments could achieve more emissions reductions in the developing world than project-based [End Page 167] crediting mechanisms, such as the CDM, and potentially reduce the transactions costs associated with project-by-project verification. Policy commitments as part of a multilateral climate agreement could allow developing countries to identify ways that emissions mitigation fits or advances national priorities, such as economic growth, energy security, and public health, and would help to achieve broad participation in an international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.39 The stringency of policy-based commitments could evolve over time, perhaps beginning as voluntary actions reported internationally in fulfillment of existing UNFCCC commitments and then be taken as new commitments negotiated as part of a broader post-2012 agreement.40

The World Bank, in developing its Investment Framework for Clean Energy and Development, concluded that an expanded carbon market backed by a global climate policy framework would be a principal source of finance for substantially decarbonizing electricity generation in the developing world.41 In a post-2012 framework that includes new emissions targets for developed countries, the strongest incentive for developing countries to take on policy commitments may then be the prospect of generating marketable emissions credits. Crediting as now structured under the CDM is on a project-by-project basis. If a future framework were to incorporate policy commitments, allowing crediting on the basis of those commitments could channel investment to industry- or sector-wide strategies that could deliver reductions on a far broader scale.42 Yet, policy-based crediting would face the same fundamental issues that arise in project-based crediting: how to establish that actions to be credited are additional, not business as usual, and how to verify actual emissions reductions.43


International Assistance

An important part of any multilateral climate deal will likely include a commitment from developed countries to increase developing country access to advanced technologies and to provide incentives and financial assistance for their mitigation and adaptation activities. China's own climate change plan has clearly identified its priority areas for international collaboration to include cooperation on advanced coal technologies, energy-efficient building technologies, clean vehicle technology, and advanced industrial technologies. China has placed a particularly heavy emphasis on technology transfer in international climate negotiations, most recently proposing the establishment [End Page 168] of a Technology Development and Transfer Board to oversee and implement technology transfer–related activities, as well as a Multilateral Technology Acquisition Fund to support the "development, deployment, diffusion and transfer of technologies to developing countries, through, inter alia, the buying out of intellectual property rights."44

Increased attention to developing these technologies and increased experience deploying them is important not only for China but also for the rest of the world. The United States and China in particular share a common interest in determining a way to continue their reliance on coal while moving toward more efficient coal-combustion and gasification technologies and capturing and storing the emissions from coal power plants. Increased bilateral assistance in this area can complement and even facilitate multilateral climate negotiations.


Engaging China on Climate

China will face increasing international pressure in the coming months to devote more attention to climate change, both due to its emergence as the largest global emitter and as international attention to climate change is elevated by government leaders and heads of state in high-profile forums around the world. A series of such discussions on climate change have already been held in 2007, including the June Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm; the August UN intersessional in Vienna; the September Gleneagles Dialogue in Berlin; the September Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Sydney; and the UN secretary-general's high-level climate summit in New York, preceding the General Assembly in late September, followed later that week by the major economies summit hosted by the U.S. government. This year's meetings culminate in December when ministers and delegates will be joined by stakeholders from around the world for the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 13) and the third Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Bali, Indonesia.

The primary objective of most countries attending the Bali meeting, as has been discussed at these preceding sessions, is to establish a road map for the forthcoming negotiations of the agreement that will follow the Kyoto Protocol, whose current commitment period ends in 2012. Several governments have articulated that, to maintain progress toward meeting needed global emissions reductions and to maintain a steady global carbon market, a decision on a future framework will need to be reached by COP 15, set for 2009 in Copenhagen.45 At the moment, such an agreement hinges on increased engagement from the United States; increased action from the major developing economies, particularly China; and a new climate framework that allows for [End Page 169] different forms of commitments to be taken by different countries. Although it is impossible to predict what a dynamic country such as China will eventually deem to be an acceptable form of international climate action, many of the options discussed above are very likely being explored and evaluated by all of the major economies.

China must play a central role in any global solution to address climate change. Yet, it is also home to 1.3 billion inhabitants that desire the modern energy services and consumption habits enjoyed by much of the developed world. Recent institutional changes and renewed attention to implementing aggressive energy efficiency policies demonstrate the Chinese government's increasing awareness of the problems posed by climate change and its interest in altering China's current energy development trajectory.

Many actors throughout China, in and out of government, have a strong desire to achieve international standards, be they for free trade or intellectual property rights protection, which lend legitimacy to often-strained central government implementation of mandates at the local level. In addition, China's economic development is increasingly dependent on the global integration of its energy system, such that it cannot allow itself to become technologically or institutionally isolated on the climate issue.46 Yet, the government will not likely be able to significantly alter its current energy development trajectory without meaningful international engagement during the next one to two decades, a period during which China's energy infrastructure investment decisions will have direct implications for the future stability of the global climate system.

There is new urgency, as well as opportunity, for each of the major economies to jointly examine and address linkages among their own economic development, their energy security, and their role in global climate change. Effective engagement with Beijing will only be possible if the major emitting developed countries lead by example, and serious U.S. engagement will likely be a precondition to China's engagement in any international climate effort. Meanwhile, understanding the challenges that China faces in reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions in the years ahead, particularly in decarbonizing its energy sector, is the first step to engaging China on climate cooperation.


1. See Joanna I. Lewis, Michael B. Cummings, and Jeffrey Logan, "Understanding the Climate Challenge in China," in Climate Change Science and Policy, eds. Steven H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, and Michael Mastrandrea (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, forthcoming); Joanna Lewis, "China's Climate Change Strategy," China Brief 7, no. 13 (June 2007): 9–13; Joanna Lewis, "Climate Change Mitigation Measures in the People's Republic of China," International Brief, no. 1 (April 2007). [End Page 170]

2. "World Bank Says China Is Poverty Reduction Model," Xinhua, February 25, 2003,

3. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP), "China Now No. 1 in CO2 Emissions; USA in Second Position," June 2007,

4. Ibid.

5. Trevor Houser, "China's Energy Consumption and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation to Address the Effects of China's Energy Use," statement before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, June 14, 2007,

6. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Department of Energy, "International Energy Outlook 2007," May 2007, chap. 5,

7. China Energy Statistical Yearbook 2006 (Beijing: China Statistics Press, 2007); REN21, "Renewables Global Status Report 2006 Update," 2006,

8. Guri Bang, Gorild Heggelund, and Jonas Vevatne, "Shifting Strategies in the Global Climate Negotiations," CICERO Report, no. 2005:08 (November 2005),

9. "Chinese Foreign Ministry Sets Up Climate Change Int'l Working Group," Xinhua, September 5, 2007,

10. "CAS Outlines Strategic Plan for China's Energy Development Over Next 40 Years," Xinhua, September 24, 2007,

11. Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, "National Assessment Report on Climate Change Released," December 31, 2006,

12. Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, "China's National Climate Change Programme," June 2007,; Chris Buckley, "Exclusive: China Preparing National Plan for Climate Change," Reuters, February 6, 2007,; Richard McGregor, "China Delays Climate Change Plan Indefinitely," Financial Times, April 23, 2007,

13. Chinese Development Research Center of the State Council, "Overview of the National Energy Strategy," May 2005, p. 11,

14. "Nation Unlikely to Meet Energy Efficiency Goal," China Daily, December 18, 2006,; "Zhongguo jinnian mei you tichu nian du jieneng mubiao" [China fails to meet this year's energy saving targets],, March 5, 2007,


15. Lynn Price and Xuejun Wang, "Constraining Energy Consumption of China's Largest Industrial Enterprises Through Top-1000 Energy-Consuming Enterprise Program," Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, June 2007,


16. "China to Require Swap of Old Coal Plants for New," Reuters, February 1, 2007,; "China Orders Small Cement Plants to Be Closed." Reuters, March 2, 2007, [End Page 171]; Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby, "China to Shut Old Steel, Power Plants in 2007 – Wen," Reuters, March 5, 2007,


17. An Feng and Amanda Sauer, "Comparison of Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy and GHG Emission Standards Around the World," Pew Center on Global Climate Change, December 2004.


18. "International Solar Energy Trade Mission to China Will Meet With Market Leaders of Chinese PV Industry," Solarplaza, March 7, 2006,


19. Yu Wang, "Tariffs to Reduce Energy Consumption," China Daily, October 31, 2006,


20. Sebastian Oberthur and Hermann E. Ott, The Kyoto Protocol: International Climate Policy for the 21st Century (Berlin: Springer, 1999), p. 24.


21. "China to Watch Others on Climate Change Action," Reuters, June 15, 2005,


22. P. Parameswaran, "Rich Nations Must Honor Climate Change Pledge: Developing Countries," Agence France-Presse, September 25, 2007,


23. See Coalition of Rainforest Nations,; "Reducing Emissions From Deforestation in Developing Countries: Approaches to Stimulate Action," January 30, 2007, (submission of views of 17 parties to the 11th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC]); Department of Environment and Special Affairs, Brazilian Ministry of External Relations, "Brazilian Perspective on Reducing Emissions From Deforestation," February 26, 2007,


24. UNFCCC, art. 3, principle 1,; see "Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," art. 10,


25. Chinese Office of the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change, "Measures for Operation and Management of Clean Development Mechanism Projects in China," November 21, 2005,


26. U.S. General Accounting Office, "Selected Nations' Reports on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Varied in Their Adherence to Standards," GAO-04-98, December 2003,; David G. Streets et al., "Recent Reductions in China's Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Science, November 30, 2001, pp. 1835–1837; Subodh Sharma, Sumana Bhattacharya, and Amit Garg, "Greenhouse Gas Emissions From India: A Perspective," Current Science, February 10, 2006,


27. Bang, Heggelund, and Vevatne, "Shifting Strategies in the Global Climate Negotiations."


28. Chinese Ministry of Commerce, "Measures Governing the Foreign Acquisition of Domestic Enterprises," August 8, 2006,


29. U.S.-China Business Council, "Foreign Investment in China," February 2007, [End Page 172]


30. Joanna I. Lewis and Ryan H. Wiser, "Fostering a Renewable Energy Technology Industry: An International Comparison of Wind Industry Policy Support Mechanisms," Energy Policy 35, no. 3 (March 2007): 1844–1857.


31. GE Energy, "GE Harbin Ship First 9FA Gas Turbine Assembled in China," July 30, 2004, (press release).


32. Tauna Szymanski, "China's Take on Climate Change," Sustainable Development, Ecosystems and Climate Change Committee Newsletter of the American Bar Association 9, no. 1 (May 2006): 2.


33. "UNEP Risoe CDM/JI Pipeline Analysis and Database," September 2007,


34. See Daniel H. Rosen and Trevor Houser, "China Energy: A Guide for the Perplexed," May 2007,


35. EIA, "International Energy Annual 2004,"; G. Marland, T. A. Boden, and R. J. Andres, "Global, Regional, and National Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions," Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, 2007,


36. Daniel Bodansky, "International Sectoral Agreements in a Post-2012 Climate Framework" (working paper, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, May 2007).


37. Rosen and Houser, "China Energy."


38. IEA, "International Energy Outlook 2006," June 2006,; Office of Atmospheric Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Global Anthropogenic Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 1990–2020," June 2006,


39. Harald Winkler et al., "Sustainable Development Policies and Measures: Starting From Development to Tackle Climate Change," in Building on the Kyoto Protocol: Options for Protecting the Climate, ed. Kevin A. Baumert (Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 2002), pp. 61–87,

{C}{C}40. Joanna Lewis and Elliot Diringer, "Policy-Based Commitments in a Post-2012 Climate Framework" (working paper, May 2007).

{C}{C}41. World Bank, "An Investment Framework for Clean Energy and Development: A Progress Report," September 1, 2006,

{C}{C}42. Joseluis Samaniego and Christiana Figueres, "Evolving to a Sector Based Clean Development Mechanism," in Building on the Kyoto Protocol: Options for Protecting the Climate, eds. Kevin A. Baumert et al. (Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute, 2002),; Thomas C. Heller and P. R. Shukla, "Development and Climate: Engaging Developing Countries," in Beyond Kyoto, Advancing the International Effort Against Climate Change, eds. J. E. Aldy et al. (Arlington, Va.: Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2003).

{C}{C}43. See Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board, UNFCCC, "Tool for the Demonstration and Assessment of Additionality," EB 29, February 2007, [End Page 173] {C}{C}

44. Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, UNFCCC, "Development and Transfer of Technologies," FCCC/SBSTA/2006/L.27/Add.1, November 14, 2006,

{C}{C}45. James Kanter, "Before Summit, a Yawning Gap on Climate Change," International Herald Tribune, September 24, 2007,

{C}{C}46. Edward S. Steinfeld, testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on "Climate Change—International Issues, Engaging Developing Countries," March 27, 2007,

by Joanna Lewis, Senior International Fellow— Appeared in The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2007-08
Joanna Lewis
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