Climate Envoy: China, India Remain Stumbling Blocks The point of the climate negotiations is to replace the 1997 Kyoto climate treaty. The U.S. never ratified that treaty, because it doesn't require rapidly industrializing countries such as China to cut emissions. The head of the American negotiating team in Copenhagen, Todd Stern, tells NPR's Richard Harris that China and India's reluctance to make binding commitments remains a stumbling block.
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Climate Envoy: China, India Remain Stumbling Blocks

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Climate Envoy: China, India Remain Stumbling Blocks

Climate Envoy: China, India Remain Stumbling Blocks

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The point of the climate negotiations is to replace the 1997 Kyoto Climate Treaty. The U.S. never ratified that treaty because it doesn't require rapidly industrializing countries to cut emissions, countries such as China and India.

Today, NPR Correspondent Richard Harris sat down in Copenhagen with the head of the American negotiating team. Todd Stern said China and India's reluctance to make binding commitments remains a stumbling block.

Mr. TODD STERN (U.S. Climate Envoy): They have lived in a nice house called Kyoto for quite a number of years. And that house doesn't require them to do anything at all. It imposes obligations on developed countries but not on them. They are now being asked to move into a different place.

But look there is no way they have a sound environmental treaty unless you do that. China today is the biggest emitter in the world of greenhouse gases. They are going to be 60 percent bigger than us by 2020, 80 percent bigger than us by 2030. So, we are the biggest emitters historically. We make no bones about that. We are not saying it's all their fault or anything like that. But you can't begin to solve this problem until you have the major developing countries on board.

RICHARD HARRIS: So, what incentives do they have to join?

Mr. STERN: Well, I think that there is a lot in it for a great many developing countries, in terms of the assistance that can be provided in the way of technology to help develop low-carbon economies, in terms of the kind of - some of the kind of funding that Secretary Clinton talked about today, particularly for poor countries who have to deal with the effects of climate change - floods and draughts and rising sea level and the like. With respect to countries like China and India, look, you know, I think that they need to be part of an international community of major players where they step up and take responsibilities.

HARRIS: How much of this is really about jockeying for position economically, globally?

Mr. STERN: I don't think it's so much jockeying for position, fundamentally, but there is a real jobs and economic development component to this. I think it's terribly important that the United States put the right incentives in place. The U.S. is the most innovative country in world. We need to get our innovators working, develop a whole green tech set of industries and compete.

HARRIS: Do you think you're going to come out of here with an actual deal?

Mr. STERN: I hope that we come out of here with a actual deal. It's important that we do. You know, I think that there has been a lot of time lost - and time that we didn't have in these negotiations - with aggravating procedural wrangling really led by the developing country group, by no means all of them, but enough of them to really tie the process up into knots.

We should have been in place in terms of the negotiating process, you know, at least a couple of days ago, that we didn't get to or haven't gotten to till now. So, I think that people say, where there is a will there is a way and that's true. It's also true that the opposite, you know, where there's - if it's not a will then there's not going to be a way. And I think we're trying to find out right now whether enough countries are ready to really step up and get this done.

HARRIS: Thank you very much.

Mr. STERN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That was U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern speaking with NPR science correspondent Richard Harris in Copenhagen.

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