LINDSAY BECK, Reuters, June 13, 2007
Beijing – The United States hopes the world’s major economies will agree to remove trade barriers on clean energy technologies when they meet alongside the Group of Eight rich nations next month, a senior official said on Friday.
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the World Bank had identified 43 technologies the United States and Europe proposed eliminating tariffs on.
“We think it is one of the most important and immediate signs of seriousness, because climate change is an urgent issue and we can see a very significant increase in the purchases of clean technologies if we eliminate the tariffs,” Connaughton told reporters in Beijing.
Solar panels and wind turbines are among the clean technologies the World Bank identified.
At the July meeting, host Japan is expected to urge G8 nations to agree on a target of slashing greenhouse gases in half by 2050.
The world’s major economies will also hold talks on climate change, aiming to push forward efforts to craft a framework by the end of 2009 to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
The U.N.-led talks in the Danish capital Copenhagen at the end of next year aim to agree on a successor to Kyoto that binds all nations to emissions curbs, depending on their circumstances.
The Kyoto pact, whose first phase expires at the end of 2012, binds only 37 industrialized nations to greenhouse gas cuts between 2008-12.
Connaughton said the World Bank has estimated the elimination of tariffs could result in a 14% increase in the global trade in clean energy technologies.
“That would be a very significant addition to the global uptake in technology transfer of clean technologies,” he said in Beijing, where he is meeting Chinese counterparts to discuss climate change and the G8 talks.
The G8 meeting would also aim to agree means to speed the reduction of greenhouse gases in key industrial sectors, as well as a financing and technology transfer package that would include a new clean technology fund.
Connaughton said an industry-by-industry approach to reducing greenhouse gases was “one of the most effective ways to engage internationally”, indicating U.S. support for a sectoral approach that Japan has strongly backed.
China’s emissions of carbon dioxide are widely considered to have overtaken the United States to make it the world’s top emitter of the main greenhouse gas that scientists say will warm the planet, causing seas to rise, glaciers to melt and trigger more intense storms.
Beijing believes rich countries are responsible for most of the greenhouse gases pumped in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution and they should do more to cut their output and transfer clean technology to poorer nations.
Despite differences, Connaughton said it was important to come to an agreement to ward off a trade sanction-based approach — something he said China and other major developing countries strongly object to.
A U.S. climate bill that was voted down in the Senate earlier this month would have added a carbon tariff on energy-intensive imports from countries such as China by 2020.
The Bush administration opposes such tariffs, but Connaughton said there were bipartisan forces in Congress that would like to see such sanctions.
“There is still a temptation to be protectionist and still a temptation to use trade sanctions as a tool, and that’s not a very productive way forward,” he said. “It’s an understandable tendency in the absence of strong commitments.”