U.S. can show emissions cuts on track
Meanwhile, he said, the United States actually has a strong story to tell about domestic emissions. A recent study found the country is on target to meet the 17 percent goal, in part because of the recession and rise of natural gas, but also because of energy efficiency measures imposed by the Obama administration (ClimateWire, Oct. 24).
"This is very important because the harder the line the president takes vis-à-vis China and India, the more political leeway he will have at home to reduce emissions," Bledsoe said.
But he also argued that no international treaty can come together until after the United States prices or caps its own domestic emissions -- and any expectations otherwise are both unrealistic and counterproductive.
"Do we really believe that China and India will take binding targets? Why are we negotiating a treaty that has no chance of passing the U.S. Senate? Why are we wasting time with that? The entire process has this embedded lack of credibility," Bledsoe said. He said U.S. diplomats should "take on the legally binding obsession and say, 'We'll go ahead and negotiate, but we have to be clear and say we don't believe this is the way forward.'"
Stephen Eule, vice president for climate and technology at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agreed with the futility of negotiating a legally binding agreement and said the focus should be on lowering the price of renewable and alternative energy.
"The fundamentals still haven't changed. It's still going to be very difficult to get an agreement," Eule said. "The process is at a point at which I can't see any binding agreement getting out of the U.N. that would get 67 votes in the Senate, so it's still challenging. We had an election here, but they didn't have one in China, they didn't have one in India, they didn't have one in Brazil."
Eule argued that despite the Durban agreement that ostensibly calls for all emitters to become legally bound to cut carbon by 2020, major economies will find a way to wiggle out of that commitment.
"People try to make this more complicated than it really is. The fact is that alternative energy sources are more expensive than traditional energy sources. The key is to lower the price of alternatives," Eule said. "We have to lower our sights and get a little bit more realistic about what's going on in the world. Everyone wants a grand bargain in the international negotiations, but that's still many years away."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500