In China, Pelosi Seeks Common Ground on Climate

By Wall Street Journal, Wall Street Journal - May 26, 2009

BEIJING -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the past one of China's sharpest critics, Tuesday promoted common ground with China in the fight to combat global warming.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum in Beijing.

"I think this climate crisis is game changing for the U.S.-China relationship. It is an opportunity we cannot miss," Ms. Pelosi told the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, which brings together experts and businesses from both sides to come up with recommendations on climate-change policy.

Ms. Pelosi, traveling with a delegation of members of Congress including Edward Markey (D., Mass.), the co-author of the carbon-cap bill that has just passed a key House committee, said she would be meeting with Chinese officials to learn more about their position ahead of climate-change talks in Copenhagen in December.

The U.S. has been moving toward passage of a "cap and trade" bill that would for the first time put a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by domestic industries. And President Barack Obama's administration has indicated that it will back efforts in Copenhagen to come up with a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

However, the White House has tied its signing of an international agreement to a commitment by China, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, to "significant, robust" reductions of the greenhouse gas.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democrat Sen. John Kerry, who is in China as well, also stressed the importance of getting U.S.-China agreement on climate change.

"Copenhagen will be defined by what the US and China agree on in the next few weeks," Mr. Kerry told reporters Tuesday. "The fate of Copenhagen will be defined by the positions people take now," he said.

Ms. Pelosi will be meeting Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, according to Ms. Pelosi's office.

Her trip is also important because it comes just before one of the most sensitive dates in China, the 20th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown on the student pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Ms. Pelosi famously unfurled a banner on Tiananmen Square in 1991 to honor the victims of the crackdown, opposed normal trade relations with China in the 1990s and last year urged then-President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, but she has been careful to avoid public criticism of her hosts this time.

In her talk Tuesday, she did link environmental issues to human rights.

"Workers' rights, human rights, people's rights are part of environmental justice. Environmental justice is a principle that must be upheld as we go forward," she said. One of the leading sources of social unrest and protest in China is pollution.

She also praised the role of the evangelical religious community in supporting environmental causes in the U.S. The ruling Communist Party is officially atheist, though the government does allow limited freedom of worship for some official recognized religions.

"One important part of the coalition is the faith-based community, including the evangelicals, because they believe as many of us do, that this planet is God's creation and it is our moral responsibility to preserve it," Ms. Pelosi said.

Finding common ground with China on climate change could be hard – though it will be crucial to passage of a new agreement, analysts say.

Just last week, the Chinese government called for rich countries to commit to reduce greenhouse gasses by 40% below 1990 levels and give as much as 1% of their gross domestic product to help poorer nations develop climate change mitigation technologies. In contrast, developing countries such as China, would have only voluntary obligations.

Both demands are miles away from what the U.S. or Europe would be willing to accept.

Analysts say China's new, more radical demands may be a starting point for negotiations, and there may yet be room for compromise.

Mr. Kerry said if China agreed to measurable, verifiable and reportable goals for greenhouse gas obligations, that could help passage of a treaty. He did not define what those goals would be. China rejects absolute caps on greenhouse gas but some have suggested it may be willing to accept a relative limit.

"What is important is that we can measure what China is doing," he said.

Mr. Kerry is in China to meet with Chinese leaders, including the foreign minister, and academics. The U.S. will be sending its top climate negotiator in the next two weeks, he said.

Mr. Kerry said he was also talking to Chinese officials about North Korea's nuclear test this week, which he called a "reckless choice and also a senseless choice" that has to be dealt with appropriately. He said China's cooperation on North Korea was essential because China is that country's biggest trade partner and neighbor.

Write to Shai Oster at

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