Behind their talks hover threats of retaliation in the form of tariffs or other trade barriers if one nation does not agree to emissions ceilings. There is no chance of forging a meaningful global emissions treaty in Copenhagen in December if the two countries – the world’s largest emitters of the gases linked to climate change — do not reach some sort of truce.
“China may not be the alpha and omega of the international negotiations, but it is close,” according to Todd Stern, the top American climate negotiator. “Certainly no deal will be possible if we don’t find a way forward with China.” Despite optimistic words from the White House and the congress, the United States has yet to enact binding targets on greenhouse-gas emissions. The energy bill now under consideration proposes targets that are far short of what China and other nations say they expect of the United States.
China has started to consider a series of unilateral actions to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, stepping up production of renewable electricity and increasing the efficiency of manufacturing, buildings and vehicles. Still, China insists it will not sacrifice its economy to meet the demands of outsiders.
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