Statement by Professor Pan Jiahua

A Response to Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI) Statement in Beijing, May 28, 2009.

Pan Jiahua of the Research Centre for Sustainable Development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences responds to statements by Sen. F. James. Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Workers build a highway near a wind farm in China's northwest Gansu province. (AP/Greg Baker)
Workers build a highway near a wind farm in China's northwest Gansu province. (AP/Greg Baker)

Also see: Sensenbrenner Distorts Climate Facts by Andrew Light and Julian L. Wong

I object to the characterization of my comments on the U.S. climate change legislation and the future of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations by Congressman Sensenbrenner in his May 28 press conference in Beijing just prior to his departure from China. The congressman suggested that my recent comments to the Australian press indicated that I was “denigrating” the Waxman-Markey bill and that, if I am a spokesman for the thinking of China on the current international climate negotiations, then my views represent a “significant step backwards.”

First, I am not a spokesman for the Chinese government. I am an academic researcher and my views are my own, independent of the views of the government.

Second, the interviews that I gave to the Australian press do not reflect the full range of my views on the current state of the U.S. or Australia proposals on climate change. I view the Waxman-Markey bill as a positive move forward for the United States, especially after eight years of inaction on climate change.

To see the full impact of this legislation however one should also take into account all the provisions of the bill to see where it will get us in terms of midterm emissions reductions. If it can be demonstrated that the full slate of programs in the legislation can produce potential midterm emissions reductions greater than the 17 percent midterm target—as has been argued by the Center for American Progress—then the U.S. actual contributions to emissions reductions are larger than the simple numeric target. In turn, in order to fully appreciate what China is doing on global warming one must look at the full range of programs we have initiated such as our energy intensity reductions.

In giving a very narrow reading of my views on climate change both from the press and from our personal meeting, and further insinuating that I am a spokesman for the government, Congressman Sensenbrenner has used me as a conduit to raise the specter of an uncooperative China on climate change. The reasons he would do this are clear: to attempt to frighten the American public and halt U.S. progress on solving the problem of global warming. I am convinced that the opposite is true: China is in fact ready and willing to engage with its international partners to help shape a new multilateral climate policy architecture. What is most important is to pass this legislation so that the United States and China can take on further concrete cooperative mitigation actions. Given the extremely high stakes we have to spare our children from the worst impacts of climate change Congressman Sensenbrenner has behaved both improperly and unethically.

Pan Jiahua is professor of economics and executive director of the Research Centre for Sustainable Development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He received his Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 1992.

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