IEA official: Obama plan gives US leverage in climate talks with China

A top International Energy Agency (IEA) official said the White House global warming plan that includes carbon standards for power plants would help provide the U.S. leverage in climate negotiations with China.

“It shows the U.S. is willing to take action, and China, I think, is willing to take action if the U.S. does. I think it is a very positive step,” said Richard Jones, the IEA’s deputy executive director who was previously a senior State Department diplomat, on Tuesday at an energy and climate forum hosted by The Hill and sponsored by ACC and ICCA.

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China and the U.S. are, respectively, the world’s largest and second-largest greenhouse gas emitters.

Some analysts view creation of mandatory carbon policies in the U.S. as a necessary ingredient to successful international talks on new global warming accords.

Slow-moving United Nations talks are aimed at crafting a sweeping global agreement that would take effect in 2020 that includes binding targets for large emerging economies like China and India, where emissions are soaring.

On the more immediate horizon, climate change is high on the agenda for high-level U.S.-China talks in Washington, D.C., this week through the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Jones said the outcome of the dialogue will be a barometer of the diplomatic impact of the White House climate plan unveiled in late June, noting, “The outcome of the meetings of the Chinese this week will be very instructive on that.”

“I would argue that it can’t help but improve the atmosphere,” Jones said.

China’s national-level planning includes several climate-related policies — the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions provides an overview here — but more far-reaching steps are needed to actually reverse emissions growth.

Jones noted that China’s per capita energy use remains far lower than in the U.S., but is rising.

“If it moves into the category of the U.S., we are all cooked,” he said.

China is heavily reliant on coal as its industrial development continues.

“The good news is that the Chinese are realizing that they are on an unsustainable path,” Jones said.

“I don’t know if they are 100 percent convinced about global warming, but they are more than 100 percent convinced it is not good for the Communist Party of China if their citizens become angry because of the pollution in their cities,” he said.