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Official unhappy with US climate bill
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-30 07:51

The United States set the bar too low and offered the world a poor example when it passed its climate change bill on Friday, according to a senior Chinese climate change official.

Li Gao, a division director with the Climate Change Department of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the US did not live up to international expectations when it approved the document.

Li said the bill's mid-term carbon emission target would probably be seized upon as the new standard by developed countries in the battle against global warming.

And the official told China Daily the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) - disappointing though it is - may still not clear the Senate this fall because it was only approved by 219 votes to 212 in the House of Representatives.

ACESA compels large US companies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide - through a cap-and-trade system - by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050.

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Although the passing of the bill was a "positive step", Li said the mid-term target fell short of international expectations of what industrialized countries needed to do to effectively fight warming.

"The emission target, if converted to a 1990 baseline, is only about 4 percent by 2020," Li said. "This is far away from what China and the Group of 77 developing countries have requested of (developed countries)."

Developing countries have called on industrialized economies to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 to 40 percent of 1990's level by 2020.

"Instead of aiming high, some developed countries will follow suit and push for lower targets," Li said.

The US' mid-term target will also "expand discrepancies" among developed countries at climate change talks because the European Union has proposed a 20 percent reduction on 1990's level, added Yu Hongyuan, an associate professor with the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

Li said he was also concerned about a clause in ACESA that calls for tariffs after 2020 on imports from countries without systems for pricing or limiting carbon dioxide emissions. He said mixing up climate change and trade will only "make the issue more complex" and "damage international cooperative efforts to combat global warming".

US President Barack Obama, who called the bill "an extraordinary first step", also backed away from the provision, saying the US had to be very careful about "sending protectionist signals out."

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