Sino-American Entanglement/Misunderstanding over MRV

Since entering the Copenhagen conference, the Sino-American climate confrontation has continuously escalated as a focal point of negotiations. In an interview with this reporter, David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), pointed out that to avoid catastrophic consequences from climate change from occurring, the USA must supply more funding support; China, at the same time, should increase the transparency of its emissions cuts and actually obtain real results.

Doniger noted that the USA has already committed a total of 30 Billion USD of "quick start" aid to developing countries by 2012. After that, if it is promoting negotiations at the Copenhagen meetings, the US needs to commit an even bigger investment, and promise to meet core needs for an even longer period–2015-2020. The US’s proposal should also include commitments to release reports and receive oversight.

Doniger said, the US congress has always had two main demands towards China. The first is that China commits to a solid figure for emissions reductions, and the second is that China allows international oversight of National Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA). China has now already announced an emissions reduction target for carbon intensity, which means the focus of Sino-American entanglement is international oversight and MRV.

On the American side, members of the negotiating delegation, as well as climate pact supporter and Democratic senator John Kerry, all seem to be emphasizing the importance of MRV. But on the Chinese side, unless they would be receiving extra aid as a result, there is no sense of obligation to accept this international oversight. In China’s eyes, this is more of a political problem than a technological one.

In contrast, Doniger emphasized to this reporter that there was a need to clarify a few points related to sharing data and receiving oversight: Neither supervision nor consultation would involve any kind of invasive measures, i.e. inspection of factories. Actually, Senator Kerry clarified during his conversation with reporters, the United States’s demands for oversight and transparency wouldn’t send anyone to go over and conduct inspections, but instead would involve "information exchange and sharing." He said, "Transparency is information being revealed between partners in a relationship." He also commented that the information exchange itself isn’t complicated, saying, "I think it can be done, and it can be done domestically as long as it’s shared, methodology is shared."

However, on both sides of the Sino-American deadlock over oversight, there doesn’t yet seem to be any clear definition of what exactly this oversight will involve. Alex Wang, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) China Environmental Law Program, said that America has no intention of going to China and investigating, and that such a task would be impossible anyways. China, he said, is needlessly worrying about violations of its sovereignty. He thinks that there may be a misunderstanding between the two sides over the definition of oversight.

Because trade measures in American climate legislation are causing some people to worry, increasing the degree of openness will even more greatly impact China’s trade. But Doniger thinks that the situation is actually the opposite. The more China opens up about reaching targets, the less of an impact it might feel, because provisions in American bills state that trade measures cannot attack any country that is doing everything it can to respond to global warming.