Thursday, November 23, 2006

Exclusive - Pelosi tackles China on climate change

Pelosi wants to "build partnership" with China to tackle issues of climate change

Less than two weeks after becoming the first woman speaker in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is already making representations to China over its environmental policy tvnewswatch can exclusively reveal. In her first letter addressed to President Hu Jintao she proposes a ‘New Shanghai Communiqué”. Pelosi has been a strong critic of China’s human rights record and in her first contact with China’s leader she softens he stance. “Those issues still animate my party. But I'm convinced that we have a better chance of making progress on them if we can first build a partnership to address the urgent issues of energy and climate change,” she says in the opening lines of her letter. She goes onto criticize the US president’s efforts in curbing environmental emissions. “President Bush promised the world when he spurned the Kyoto Protocols that he would offer an alternative. He never did.”
Her ‘New Shanghai Communiqué’ would “defuse the most destabilizing issue of our day: the world's unsustainable appetite for energy.” She praises China’s commitment to a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption for every 1percent of G.D.P. growth by 2010 and points out that President Bush has failed to make the same promises. “I am going to propose that the U.S. as a whole match the 4 percent annual improvement in energy efficiency already undertaken by California. That would mean at least a 25 percent improvement by 2012.”
China has recently set targets for generating 10 percent of its energy fromrenewables, wind, hydro, solar power and biofuels, by 2020. And Pelosi sets out her vision for the same in the US - “I want to require our power grid operators to purchase 20 percent of their energy from environmentally sound renewables by 2020.” She suggests that should these targets be achieved it would it create a “sustainable growth path and set an example that would change the world” and “create less dependence on despotic oil states.” She also wants to “lead an effort to help China invest in factories devoted to clean power technologies.”
Whilst she praises some of China’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Pelosi also throws some criticism at China’s vision of a green future. “Too many of your local officials think green is a luxury you can't afford. You will never break out of your cycle of environmental degradation until those officials understand that pollution is wasted energy and wasted money,” she says in her 700 word letter.
But her approach to helping China overcome some of its environmental concerns may be seen as somewhat patronizing. In her continuing letter she says, “President Hu, we both know that the millions of cars now choking your streets are only the beginning. Your biggest concern is the 800 million Chinese living in the countryside, who need transportation to better their lives but who can't afford even the cheapest car.” The result, “Every year they buy more than 30 million motorcycles and farm vehicles, which have the advantage of being cheap but which use the most rudimentary, polluting motors — blackening your skies.”
Her proposal is to send US engineers “who know how to clean up small engines” and “together with your manufacturers, who know how to mass produce them cheaply, to forge companies that will not only clean up the air in developing countries but make money for both of us.”
Beijing has watched the US mid-term elections with some interest and Nancy Pelosi’s role as the speaker of the House of Representatives with certainly worry some in the Chinese government. She has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government for many years and has herself been involved in scuffles with police during protests in Tiananmen Square. She has also been quoted as saying the US trade relationship with China was “a disaster”. So what will Beijing make of Pelosi’s change of tack. No doubt, as is often seen in Chinese politics, their approach to Pelosi’s comments with be cautious. Even as House speaker she has no real power and it is still a long way off from a possible Democratic victory at the next national election. The Wall Street Journal in its lead article dated 16th November says China may find congress a chillier place following Pelosi’s win. But the debate is now beginning to warm up along with the global environment.

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