ILO had a very interesting discussion about climate change policy in chapter 2. The U.S. must consider the perception it has to the international community. Being a model for other countries and hoping that they follow suit in becoming democracies, having better human rights standards, and helping the environment are all things that we hope to influence. How is it that we can tell other countries to help the environment and to slow pollution rates if he fail to sign and ratify the single most influential agreement in that department? The Clinton administration signed the Kyoto protocol but failed to ratify it, a step in the right direction, but not quite enough to avoid hypocrisy. The Bush administration seemed to support the ratification of Kyoto and other emission reduction policies but abandoned everything when the economy was threatened by these policies. This was most definitely a step in the wrong direction but definitely fixable. Obama came into office with a goal to pass policy that reduced emissions and hoped to pass Kyoto. Appointing Steven Chu and focusing on China were two very important things that Obama did and everything looked to be in place to get ground breaking changes through. However, China refused to sign any internationally binding agreements to reduce emissions and cited Annex II as the reason why Kyoto did not apply to their country. This ruined the good vibe at Copenhagen and stalled all progress on the issue.
Bush cited the economy as the reason for scrapping policy change and Obama won’t act without China. A deeper look at this reasoning may reveal that these are actually the same reason for the same decision. China and the U.S. are the biggest polluters and change would be very dramatic and impact-full. Obama is probably shying away from giving reasons like: I am avoiding climate change policy because the economy cannot handle it. However, blaming it on China is a legitimate excuse and also expresses the same message. Without China on board with strictly enforced emission reduction policies the Unites States would be putting its businesses at a huge competitive disadvantage with China and China would massively benefit from avoiding policy change that helps the environment. Also, without China on board, progress by the U.S. and other countries in helping the environment could be erased by China’s lack of cooperation as well as the probable increase in demand for Chinese goods once they are benefited by U.S. policy change that damages its own businesses. Can internationally binding climate change policy pass for the U.S. absent China being on board or will China always be a prerequisite for major change in this area?