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U.S. and China reach accord on data collection

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009

The United States and China have agreed to cooperate on developing an inventory of China's greenhouse gas emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday, an initiative that appears be a response to criticism of Beijing's data collection.

Several senators whose votes are key to passage of domestic climate legislation, including Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), have questioned whether they will be able to trust any greenhouse gas reductions China reports to the international community. China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases; together they account for roughly 40 percent of the world's output.

The memorandum of cooperation between China's National Development and Reform Commission and the EPA calls on the two countries to collaborate in several areas, including "capacity building for developing greenhouse gas inventories." The two nations have already worked together on monitoring other industrial emissions, such as sulfur dioxide.

"I have to imagine this represents an increased and intensified effort to get China on the path of measuring and reporting its greenhouse gas emissions in a way that's internationally acceptable," said Julian L. Wong, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, said the agreement shows that the question of measuring China's emissions "is now front and center of the U.S.-China conversation, and at a high level. . . . At the end of the day, China's going to be able to put forward commitments that are much more transparent, and much more credible."

However, Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst for energy and environment at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said he had a hard time believing that the Chinese government could produce accurate data when it is still hard "just knowing how many coal miners die every year" there.

Negotiators will gather in Copenhagen next month to try to fashion a political agreement on climate change. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would attend the talks.

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