Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

President Obama's top envoy on climate change today dashed hopes of a climate change deal between China and the U.S. when Mr. Obama visits that country next month.

The two countries account for 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The envoy, Todd Stern, who's in China, said there are still major areas of disagreement. This comes as the countries look ahead to a global climate change conference in December in Copenhagen.

NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Shanghai.

LOUISA LIM: We're pushing them and they're pushing us, Todd Stern said, summing up the mood between Chinese and U.S. climate change negotiators. Stern said there'll be no agreement on climate change during Obama's trip to China next month. The focus will be on clean energy cooperation and aligning Chinese and American positions ahead of Copenhagen.

However, Stern admitted that differences still remain - particularly over U.S. demand for China to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. TODD STERN (Envoy for Climate Change): They absolutely have to cap their emissions, in the sense of having them reduce significantly, as compared to where their trend line is. China could make a reduction twice as ambitious as the U.S. is doing, and that would still involve their emissions of going up somewhere from where they are now.

LIM: But Beijing is resisting U.S. pressure, arguing it's using other measures. It's already announced a goal of improving energy efficiency by 20 percent in the five years to 2010. It's also planting trees over an area the size of California. Cho Fenchi(ph) from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences spells out China's line that emission caps would damage its development.

Ms. CHO FENCHI (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences): We could not limit the amount of food for a child, because a child needs to grow. He needs more than the adult. So, we cannot use the caps.

LIM: This, despite the fact that China is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the International Energy Agency. But China likes to point out that its cumulative emissions are a quarter of America's. Wong Jungwai(ph), also from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Mr. WONG JUNGWAI (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences): This situation is not made by China. It's 100 years ago. So, the developed countries should share more responsibility than China. So, the U.S. could not make this excuse, say China should do most responsibility than U.S.

LIM: That's why China wants the U.S. to make much larger emission cuts than those pledged. Beijing also wants developed countries to contribute a portion of their GDP - between 0.5 to one percent - to developing countries to help adapt a global warming, and its keen for more technology transfers.

But Todd Stern is China is unlikely to get much financial assistance from the U.S.

Mr. STERN: There are various kinds of technology cooperation, technology efforts that could include China. I would not think that there would be large amounts of financial assistance going to China as compared to other developing countries, just because of China's relatively advanced state of development.

LIM: Stern defended U.S. progress, saying President Obama had done more to reduce emissions than anyone in U.S. history. He also noted the U.S. has pledged $80 billion towards clean energy. But young Chinese environmentalists, like Sarah Pang(ph), are disappointed with what they see as a lack of U.S. leadership on the issue.

Ms. SARAH PANG (Environmentalist): (Through translator) They are demanding that we meet their demands, but they're not doing it themselves. I think the U.S. should set an example for the rest of the world.

LIM: In the meantime, China's moving fast. Its goal is to produce 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It's already the world's largest producer of solar panels. It will overtake the U.S. as the top manufacturer of wind turbines this year.

Todd Stern warns the U.S. must take action.

Mr. STERN: The competitive danger that we have with China is what will happen if we don't move aggressively into the world of green tech and clean energy because that's the world of economic development in the 21st century and the Chinese are starting to move there.

LIM: On prospects for a deal in Copenhagen, Stern is hedging his bets. I think there's a deal to be had, he said, but that doesn't mean we're going to get it.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.