From: Richard Harris, NPR
Published July 10, 2009 08:10 AM

Climate Talks End With Meager Promises

International climate talks held in Italy this week ended with little progress. The rich industrial nations wouldn't promise to cut back their emissions in the near term. And China, India and the rest of the developing world wouldn't commit to cutting their emissions, ever.

All nations of the world need to act to reduce the risk of a climate catastrophe. But so far, there's much more posturing than action.


China argues that the United States and other rich nations put most of the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so they need to act first and most aggressively. They demand that those nations slash their carbon dioxide emissions by a staggering 40 percent — in just 10 years.

"Well, it's obviously a totally unrealistic position, and it is not just the Chinese, it is the developing countries in general," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, who was once a diplomat. She regards this demand as little more than an over-the-top bargaining tactic.

"I think, honestly, that doesn't work, and it does create a backlash, because people think that they're just not serious."

But, Claussen says, China actually is serious about climate change. The government believes it's a real risk. But the country also feels it can't wean itself from cheap fossil fuels just yet. Ken Lieberthal of the Brookings Institution says China is still struggling to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

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