Administration Needs Consistent Message on Climate Treaty Talks

June 3, 2009

Administration Needs Consistent Message on Climate Treaty Talks

Sensenbrenner: China, India Must Know U.S. Won’t Sign if They Don’t

Washington, D.C.– U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., urged members of President Obama’s administration to clarify the United States’ negotiating position on whether an international climate change treaty must require that China, India and other developing nations make mandatory emissions cuts similar to those being asked of the U.S.

Sensenbrenner, the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, was the only Republican to travel with Speaker Nancy Pelosi to China last week for climate change discussions.

In separate letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Sensenbrenner highlighted inconsistencies in recent statements from U.S. officials and asked each to resolve the differences and declare a consistent negotiating position for upcoming climate talks.

The letters focus specifically on comments by Chu, who said in a news story that the U.S. “may accept targets for reducing its greenhouse gases in an international treaty even if China doesn’t” and that “one hopes that in several years China will follow.”  Chu’s comments contradict recent statements made by chief climate negotiator Todd Stern, who told the Senate in April that it was “imperative to negotiate a strong new international agreement that will include significant commitments from all countries.”

“Without participation by developing nations, a global climate treaty will be nothing more than a pipeline to export jobs and manufacturing capacity to China, India and other developing nations. The Chinese must come to the negotiating table with mandatory emission cuts, or there can be no deal on climate change.  Some think that if the U.S. makes cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions, the rest of the world will do the same. But I just returned from China, where I met with the highest levels of their government, and they showed no sign of following the U.S. lead,” Sensenbrenner said.

“The Administration must make it clear to China, India and the rest of the world that the only acceptable climate treaty is one that includes all emitters.  China is calling for steep emission cuts from the West, but isn’t coming to the table with similar commitments. That’s a recipe for weakened competitiveness, diminished manufacturing and more lost jobs.  And it won’t stop emissions from continuing to rise.”

As negotiators meet this week in Bonn, Germany to continue work on a global climate change treaty, Sensenbrenner stressed the importance of a consistent U.S. negotiating message that encourages participation from developing nations. The Bonn talks are part of a series of meetings that will prepare negotiators for December’s U.N. climate change treaty discussions in Copenhagen, Denmark, where delegates will seek to finish drafting a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.

Recently, Chinese officials released a position paper that demanded 40-percent emission reductions from developed nations while offering no specific emission cuts of their own.

“These cuts will have a tremendous impact on the U.S. economy, while China plans to keep on with its business-as-usual growth policies. The U.S. and other developed nations can’t go it alone on climate change,” Sensenbrenner said.

Click here for the letter to Secretary Clinton.

Click here for the letter to Secretary Chu.

June 1, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

The upcoming June 1-12 Bonn Climate Change Talks will provide the first opportunity for the United States and other Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to consider draft U.N. text of a global climate change agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Given the importance of these talks, I had assumed that the Administration had in place its core positions.  I had also assumed that the State Department was, as you stated in your remarks of January 26, 2009, “our nation’s leader when it comes to international efforts on climate change” and that Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern spoke for the Administration of these matters.  However, events of recent days have given me pause, and I am writing to seek clarification.

In his April 22, 2009 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Stern said that it was “imperative to negotiate a strong new international agreement that will include significant commitments from all countries.”  Furthermore, he testified that one “of the principles that guide our thinking and will inform our further refinement of policy positions” is the “need to ensure that the agreement is truly global and includes significant actions by all major economies” for “[t]he simple math of accumulating emissions shows that there is no other way to make the kinds of reductions that science indicates are necessary.”

According to several news reports, however, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu disagrees with Mr. Stern’s position.

According to Bloomberg, Secretary Chu indicated that the United States “may accept targets for reducing its greenhouse gases in an international treaty even if China doesn’t” and quotes him as saying that “one hopes that in several years China will follow.” And the May 27 Financial Times reports that Secretary Chu said that “[t]he US remains determined to lead the world to a new global deal on climate change” and this would be the case “[e]ven if China and other developing countries are reluctant to make commitments at December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.”

Please clarify for the record that the State Department still leads the Administration’s international efforts on climate change.  Please also clarify the position of the United States in the U.N. climate change negotiations that are to result in an agreed outcome in Copenhagen in December.  Specifically, is the United States seeking “a strong new international agreement that will include significant commitments from all countries,” as articulated by Mr. Stern, or a “new global deal on climate change” without commitments by China and other developing countries, as articulated by Secretary Chu?

Please provide clarification of the Administration’s position on these critical matters by June 15, 2009.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
Ranking Republican Member, Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

cc: The Honorable Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
      The Honorable Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

  

June 2, 2009

The Honorable Steven Chu
Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence, SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Mr. Secretary:

According to Bloomberg, you recently indicated that the United States “may accept targets for reducing its greenhouse gases in an international treaty even if China doesn’t.”   Further, on May 27, the Financial Times reported that you said “[t]he US remains determined to lead the world to a new global deal on climate change” and this would be the case “[e]ven if China and other developing countries are reluctant to make commitments at December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.”

These statements directly contradict those by Todd Stern, the Obama Administration’s lead negotiator on climate change.  In his April 22, 2009 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Stern said that it was “imperative to negotiate a strong new international agreement that will include significant commitments from all countries.”  Furthermore, he testified that one “of the principles that guide our thinking and will inform our further refinement of policy positions” is the “need to ensure that the agreement is truly global and includes significant actions by all major economies” for “[t]he simple math of accumulating emissions shows that there is no other way to make the kinds of reductions that science indicates are necessary.”

Your statements would seem to undermine the State Department’s negotiating posture.  In its most recent submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, China argued that the United States should cut its emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, send between .5 and 1% of its Gross Domestic Product to Developing Countries, including China, and relax energy-related intellectual property rights so that China can take advantage of American innovations without paying the patent holders.  In exchange, China is unwilling to agree to a single mandatory reduction.  Instead, they hope to take part in a UN-administered offset program where developed countries pay China for improvements in its efficiency. 

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.  As Todd Stern recognized, it is impossible to reduce global emissions if China’s emissions continue to grow.  Furthermore, China’s proposal would be disastrous to America’s competitiveness.  Handicapping already struggling U.S. manufacturers will lead to a predictable flight of U.S. jobs.

Because emissions are a global problem, it is natural to pursue global solutions.  But an agreement that binds the U.S. without placing restrictions on the world’s largest emitter isn’t an agreement at all.  It’s simply a one-sided commitment that will harm the U.S. economy and allow global emissions to continue to climb. 

I urge you to clarify your statements regarding the U.S. position in international climate talks and emphasize the importance of a truly global agreement. 

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
Ranking Republican Member, Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

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