Talking on the way to Copenhagen

Returning to the climate, Chinese negotiators were in active meeting mode last week. The Asia-Pacific Partnership met in Shanghai, with representatives from Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Korea and the United States, while a Chinese-EU Workshop on Technology met in the same conference center.

Much media attention was focused on whether there would be a separate U.S.-China bilateral climate agreement, and the rather unsurprising story is that there won’t be. The United States and China actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on climate change and clean energy back in July. I hear there is plenty of activity going on and likely to be new programs and projects announced soon and over the next few months.

With a deal already signed, what were people expecting? Apparently something much closer to the kind of deal we hope to see in Copenhagen, but the Chinese had said all along that they would negotiate multilateral agreements only multilaterally. U.S. Special Envoy Todd Stern now too seems to have thrown cold water on speculation over a bilateral climate agreement.

While a written deal seems unlikely, President Obama and President Hu are fully expected to talk about climate change when Obama visits China in mid-November, and hopefully those discussions will help both sides find agreement in Copenhagen in December. Joint statements are also pretty common from these sorts of summits, although there haven’t been any rumors about what to expect from this Summit.