WASHINGTON (AFP) – Access to green technology is becoming a growing stumbling block in global efforts to fight climate change, with US lawmakers bristling at what they see as China's attempt to "steal" US know-how.
China and India have led calls for developed nations to share technology to help them battle global warming as the clock ticks to a December meeting in Copenhagen meant to seal a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The US House of Representatives this month unanimously voted to make it US policy to prevent the Copenhagen treaty from "weakening" US intellectual property rights on a wind, solar and other eco-friendly technologies.
Congressman Rick Larsen, a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party who authored the measure, said the United States was caught between concern both over the climate and its soaring trade deficit with China. "The US can be part of China's solution for the problems that they admittedly have with energy efficiency and emissions. And I think legitimately we want to be part of that solution -- we're the two largest emitters of C02 in the world," Larsen said.
"But we need to couple being part of that solution with making it part of the solution on the trade deficit as well," he said ahead of the measure's approval. Representative Mark Kirk, a Republican who joined Larsen on a recent trip to China, said that climate change was the most contentious issue during talks with Chinese leaders.
Kirk said the Chinese essentially were seeking "the stealing of all intellectual property" related to energy efficiency and climate change. Kirk warned that China's position could change the political dynamics in Washington, where promoters of a bill to force emission cuts say the United States stands to create millions of jobs in a new green economy. "Right now a number of green industries like the climate change bill coming out. But if an international treaty sanctions the theft of their intellectual property, then there will be hardly any green jobs built in the United States," Kirk said.
The United States is the only major industrialized nation to reject the Kyoto Protocol, with former president George W. Bush saying it was unfair by making no demands of fast-growing developing nations such as China and India. Despite a recession, President Barack Obama has vowed to work to halt the planet's warming, which UN scientists warn will threaten severe weather and the extinction of plant and animal species later this century if unchecked.
More than 180 countries promised at a December 2007 meeting in Bali, Indonesia to take part in the next global treaty with a "common but differentiated responsibility" for developed and developing economies. But 12 days of talks this month in Bonn came up with no visible progress, with top Chinese negotiator Li Gao accusing rich nations of reneging on sharing technology and watering down commitments to cut emissions.
"There is an attempt to obliterate the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibility' and to split up the developing countries," Li told China's state Xinhua news agency.
Shyam Saran, India's envoy on climate change, also criticized rich nations, which he said bore the historic responsibility for climate change. India has proposed setting up global "innovation centers" to work on green technology.
A report last month by experts for the UN climate body called for a "balanced" approach, stressing the importance of intellectual property rights but saying all nations needed to accept the terms.
Technology transfer "is certainly a big and important question that might be a roadblock" in global negotiations, said Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace.
The environmental group has called for public and private funds on climate change to be pooled into an independent global body, funded to the tune of at least 140 billion dollars a year. But such funding may prove hard to come by. The European Union, champion of the Kyoto Protocol, has come under fire from environmentalists for declining to put a figure on climate aid, saying it is waiting to see other nations' proposals.
Tags: China, USA, Obama, Kyoto Protocol, EU, Greenpeace, Xinhua, Li Gao, Daniel Kessler, Shyam Saran, Global Development News, US House of Representatives, Copenhagen, Bali, Mark Kirk, Rick Larsen, Intellectual Property, Global Best Practice,