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What’s behind China’s climate plan?

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Tess Vigeland: Today in New York we got something of a preview of the upcoming climate change talks in Copenhagen. Chinese President Hu Jintao gave a much-anticipated speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. And he promised what he called a “notable” tamp-down on carbon emissions throughout the Middle Kingdom. Notable but with no numbers attached.

Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports on what today’s remarks signal for the global climate change summit in December.

ALISA ROTH: Hu Jintao has four steps for how China will make itself more eco-friendly. He promises China will cut carbon emissions, though he doesn’t say by how much. It’ll plant more trees. Use more non-fossil fuels. And develop a greener economy.

Adele Morris works on climate issues at the Brookings Institution.

ADELE MORRIS: China is sincerely most focused on developing its economy.

She says Hu’s goals all make economic sense. Energy-efficient manufacturing saves money. And reforestation could help stop some of the flooding China sees regularly.

But with all that focus on economic growth, she says China may not be ready to put a limit on carbon emissions.

MORRIS: It’s going to be hard for them to find a formulation of a commitment that they can live with.

Some people say that’s because China’s waiting to hear how far the U.S. is willing to go. We’re the world’s other big offender on carbon emissions.

Eileen Claussen is president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. She says Hu wants help.

EILEEN CLAUSSEN: And then there’s an issue of finance and what kinds of arrangements and dollars the developed world is willing to put on the table for the developing world. And then there’s the question of what the major emitting developing countries are willing to sign on to in a binding international agreement.

It’s a question the United States, at least, is still trying to sort out. The U.S. is still negotiating its domestic policies. And until that happens, it’ll be hard to make international promises.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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