ESA Policy News: Dec. 4


Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp. Read the full policy news here.


The December climate summit commenced today.  Of chief concern to the international community are numbers on the following two matters: 1) Near-term emissions reduction: President Obama recently pledged that the US will reduce emissions “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, on the condition that Congress is able to pass the climate legislation currently underway.  Although a target hinging on congressional action does not put the Administration in as strong a position for the talks, the more cautious approach follows criticism about US participation at the Kyoto summit, where then-President Clinton signed a treaty that was later rejected by Congress.  2) Aid to assist developing countries: One of the most complicated issues facing climate negotiators is deciding how to help poor countries adjust to low-carbon economies and prepare for climate-related disasters such as droughts and flooding.


Following President Obama’s announcement of an emissions reduction target range for the coming decade, China said it would reduce its carbon intensity to 40-45 percent below 2005 levels over the same time period.  This goal will require China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent each year, assuming an annual economic growth rate of 8-9 percent.

China’s target received mixed reactions from the international community.  Critics point to projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which indicate that China simply needs to follow the track it’s already on to achieve the goal.  Others touted the announcement as an important milestone, saying that the IEA’s numbers are based on steps that China has already taken-instituting fuel economy standards stricter than those of the US, for example-as well as assumed investments and regulatory actions in the future. 

There is also some uncertainty about whether China will adhere to the targets it announced.  The numbers, although domestically binding, do not constitute an international agreement.  Since all participating countries will want the Copenhagen talks to appear successful, China’s actions have been interpreted by some as a political exercise.  The international community will therefore look to the summit as an opportunity to determine whether China is willing to negotiate an international agreement. 

Read the full Policy News on the ESA web page.