- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2013

China’s greenhouse gas emissions have escalated in the past decade even as U.S. emissions have dropped, and that has fundamentally changed the balance of power in international negotiations over blame for climate change and who bears the most responsibility for trying to stop it.

When President Obama took office, the U.S. and other major emitters faced calls to establish a $100 billion restitution fund to compensate the rest of the world for problems stemming from climate change.

But with China now leading all countries in greenhouse gas pollution, the Obama administration has abandoned the restitution efforts and instead is demanding that emerging economies take more responsibility.

PHOTOS: China and other heavy polluters contribute little to restitution fund

It’s the latest twist in the decadeslong diplomacy over greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists argue are leading to a gradual warming of the planet, and turns on its head the popular notion that the U.S. and other developed economies caused the problem through decades of industrialization and now must compensate developing markets that have been harmed.

“The remarkable turnaround in the emissions balance does change the dynamics” of the climate change debate, said Paul Bledsoe, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

With more than 12 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as the chief culprit for the throat-choking air pollution in big cities, including Beijing. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
With more than 12 million cars sold in China last year, motor ... more >

For one thing, U.S. officials and other countries are increasingly taking action outside the often-unproductive U.N. climate talks, and instead are using venues such as the Group of 20 summit, where China and other large emerging economies are treated as peers and expected to shoulder their share of the burden for change.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Energy and Environment

‘Time warp’ at the U.N.

China and other industrializing countries aren’t giving up the fight.

At a recent U.N. climate change conference in Poland, emerging economies asked for compensation and insisted on freedom to develop their markets without the tight rules they want to have imposed on developed economies.

Those countries argue that the U.S., Europe and other rich economies were spewing carbon dioxide for decades before China built its first power plant, and thus are culpable for most of the cumulative gases in the atmosphere.

That, too, will change, according to a report compiled by the European Commission, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and the research group Ecofys, which found that cumulative emissions from developing countries will rise from 48 percent of the total in 2010 to 51 percent by the end of the decade.

Todd Stern, the lead U.S. envoy at the conference, called China’s long-standing “you-first” stance on curbing emissions astonishing in light of its overwhelming dominance of the climate change outlook.

“I feel that I’m going into a time warp,” he told participants at the Poland meeting.

Mr. Stern made it clear that any thought of the U.S. contributing $100 billion a year to a fund for the developing world is fanciful.

“The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it,” he said.

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