Congressional Commission Urges Greater Cooperation with and Scrutiny of China and Climate

The new Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report devotes a section to climate change (see pages 27-30). While the report expresses concern about the quality of Chinese enforcement, it also notes the significant progress China has made, especially in reducing sulfur pollution (a critical air pollutant). It also makes a number of concrete suggestions for how to support improvements in China, including increased cooperation in the areas of policy making, measurement and reporting, regulations and civil society involvement.

Many of the suggestions are already being taken on board:

  • The very week this report came out there were U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specialists in Beijing to assist the Chinese in developing their national inventories of greenhouse gases, a key tool for measuring and tracking GHG emissions.
  • WRI has been actively working with Chinese partners on the use of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol in measuring emissions in industry (where most of China’s emissions are). Among the many groups supporting this effort are EPA, USAID and the State Department.
  • NRDC Senior Attorney Alex Wang has been working on environmental enforcement in Beijing for a number of years with teams of partners, both Chinese and American. Check out his blog here.

The report suggests Chinese NGOs participate internationally, and indeed Chinese NGOs are an ever-growing presence at international environmental conferences. Not only are the Chinese branches of international groups like Greenpeace quite active, but local organizations like the Global Environmental Institute are making policy recommendations, as well.

I was disappointed that the report didn’t go further in emphasizing the importance of collaboration for a global low carbon transformation that both countries need. It urges the establishment of oversight mechanisms under the new U.S.-China Climate MOU, signed July 28, but it will be just as important to see the actual projects, developing new technologies and new policy approaches, be put into action. Hopefully, we’ll see some of those announced when President Obama visits China mid-November. We at WRI are working in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon capture and storage and new technology development. Take a look at our ChinaFAQs experts, who are working in all those areas and many more, including urban planning, building efficiency, and transportation.

At the same time as civil society involvement in climate change is blossoming, the report rightly pointed out that there are a lot of impediments for local Chinese NGOs. In fact, when I just went on one NGO website, the “legal status” page was “under construction.” I assume that means it is a work in progress. Most local NGOs are constantly negotiating their status. Often they can do really good work, but it does make their daily activities more cumbersome and uncertain than one would wish.