Horse Trading and Climate Change

Although cuts in CO2 emissions and agreement on funding and finance are necessary goals, the geopolitical reality is that climate change cannot be decoupled from trade or discussions on exchange rates, the IMF, reform of the UN, and so on. Indeed, we won’t see meaningful action on climate change until it is agreed within this broader framework.

AMSTERDAM – When the panda smiles, the world applauds. Or so it seemed after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent speech at the United Nations. Judging by the way much of the media reported his words, it seemed as if China had actually made an important announcement on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

It hadn’t. All President Hu really said was that China would now “endeavour” to curb its carbon emissions by a “notable” margin. But how does one measure “endeavour” or “notable”? As someone with close links to the Chinese administration told me when pressed: “What was said was actually pretty meaningless.”

Indeed, there were no specific targets and, as any China watcher knows, the “greening” of the government is old news. Official Chinese policy in recent years has been to make GDP growth greener. But not at the expense of growth itself – and China plans to grow pretty fast.

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