U.S. lacks bargaining chips at Cancun climate talks

By Ren Haijun, Liu Lili
0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 2, 2010
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The new political landscape emerging from U.S. midterm elections has almost killed any likelihood that a climate bill could be passed over the next two years and substantially hampered the White House's efforts on the issue.

That means U.S. climate negotiators at the Cancun talks, being held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10, lack the bargaining chips to demand that rapidly developing countries agree to binding emissions cuts.

Cap-and-trade bill in limbo

A year ago, U.S. negotiators headed to Copenhagen touting the success of a House-passed climate bill. But the atmosphere is hard now.

As Republicans took over the House of the Representatives and increased presence in the Senate, the so-called cap-and-trade bill that narrowly passed the House in June 2009, is definitely in limbo.

The bill, now stalled in the Senate, looks more jeopardized on the Capitol Hill where over 100 freshmen Republican lawmakers will be seated as the new Congress convenes in January.

An investigation by progressive blog ThinkProgress has found 50 percent of these new lawmakers deny the existence of manmade climate change, with 86 percent of them opposing any climate change legislation.

Moreover, House Republican leader John Boehner, set to be the next speaker of the lower congressional chamber, has said in public that the climate change theory is "almost comical."

Obama, who made climate change bill a priority of his agenda, is fully aware of the prospect.

"It's doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year, or next year, or the year after," he told a press conference after the midterm elections.

Outside the United States, global climate change negotiations could also feel the chill from the outcome of the midterm elections.

"On the international front, the election results ... will make progress toward international cooperation in the upcoming Cancun meetings, already difficult, even more problematic," Katherine Sierra, senior fellow at Brookings Institution, wrote in a recent article.

Foreign aid in doubt

For the last two years, Washington has dangled the promise of financial help for the poorest countries in climate diplomacy.

In Copenhagen last year, developed countries agreed to the fast start finance commitment, namely to provide funding for developing countries, particularly vulnerable ones approaching 30 billion U.S. dollars over a three-year period from 2010 to 2012. This is the one element of the Copenhagen Accord that the U.S. has treated as unconditional, according to U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern.

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