U.S. and Chinese Climate Change Negotiators to Meet in Los Angeles

Source: By CORAL DAVENPORT, New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2015

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s top climate change negotiator will meet with his Chinese counterpart in Los Angeles on Tuesday to announce joint actions by cities, states and provinces in both countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The summit meeting follows a historic accord reached in Beijing in November by Mr. Obama and President Xi Jinping, who pledged to enact policies to cut emissions significantly. Mr. Obama said the United States would reduce planet-warming carbon emissions up to 28 percent by 2025, while Mr. Xi vowed that China would halt its emissions growth by 2030.

That announcement by the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters was seen as a breakthrough after decades of deadlock on efforts to forge an effective global accord on climate change. Now Mr. Obama and Mr. Xi are pushing for the completion of such an accord, signed by every nation on earth, at a United Nations summit meeting in Paris this fall.

The meeting this week in Los Angeles is to be attended by Todd Stern, the United States’ senior climate change negotiator, American mayors and governors, Chinese mayors and other municipal leaders and Chinese climate change officials.

White House officials said on Monday that the meeting was intended to demonstrate that both countries were moving forward to meet the terms of their agreement. Last month, Mr. Obama unveiled a sweeping new regulation aimed at forcing heavily polluting power plants to cut emissions, and both the United States and China have submitted details of their national plans to the United Nations.

Brian Deese, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser on climate change, said the additional actions from cities, states and provinces could add momentum to those efforts. The administration also hopes that the announcements will quiet critics who say that any climate deal will hamstring the United States and cede an economic advantage to China.

“Last year was about the U.S. and China making those commitments,” Mr. Deese said. “This year, having made those commitments, needs to be a year of implementation, as our two countries demonstrate commitment to implement those goals with concrete steps.”

The choice of Los Angeles for the meeting is no coincidence. California has by far the most aggressive state-level climate change policy in the country. The state, which has an economy larger than that of all but a handful of countries, has put in place a “cap and trade” system, in which an overall limit is imposed on greenhouse gas pollution, and companies buy and sell permits to pollute.

Other states, including nine in the Northeast, also have cap-and-trade programs, but Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have successfully pushed against a national system. In its submission to the United Nations, the Chinese government noted that it was considering a national cap-and-trade system, and seven Chinese provinces have pilot programs.

On Tuesday, the two nations will announce an arrangement between government entities in China and California to begin working toward devising cap-and-trade programs in China. Several American climate policy experts have said they envision a future in which California’s cap-and-trade market could be linked with China’s regional cap-and-trade markets.

In addition, the leaders of 11 Chinese cities, including Beijing, will announce plans to reach their emissions peak earlier than the national target of 2030. Those cuts alone could be equal to the annual emissions from Brazil or Japan, according to White House officials. Ten cities from China will partner with 10 from California in a separate initiative that aims to reduce air pollution and attract clean-technology industries.

While the United States, China and more than 40 other countries have submitted their plans to cut carbon pollution ahead of the Paris meeting, other major polluters, including India and Brazil, have yet to do so. United Nations officials have told those governments that for the Paris deal to work, the plans must be submitted by October.

In Washington, Republican leaders are skeptical of the deal and are working to block it. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has begun reaching out to other countries to let them know that he is doing everything he can to halt Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, and thus prevent the United States from meeting its United Nations obligation.

Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, is also working to block the deal, saying the United States would be forced to cut its emissions while China’s pollution would continue unabated. Asked this summer about the Chinese government’s efforts to enact a national cap-and-trade program, including the pilot programs that are already in place, Mr. Inhofe replied, “They’re lying.”