CNN’s Anjali Rao talks with Jonathan Lash about the latest developments in the U.S. and China to address global warming.
So this bill is going to have a strong impact on how businesses operate in the U.S. and with other countries. How exactly?
It imposes a cap on overall CO2 emissions in the United States and then reduces that cap over forty years. Every other piece of environmental legislation I’ve worked on has a single endpoint; you put this machine on your smokestack, and you’re done. This says that the whole economy is going to change by 2020, and more by 2030, and more by 2040. It changes everything.
Your organization strongly supports this, but other environmental outfits such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are opposed to it. Let me just read you something, Greenpeace says that “despite Barack Obama’s earlier commitment to the environment, we are now watching him put his full support behind a bill that chooses politics over science, elevates industry interests over national interests.” How do you respond to that?
I think my friends at Greenpeace are just wrong on this one. It is actually a stronger bill than the President promised during his campaign. And as I said, it’s going to completely change the U.S. economy. It’s the first statement of political will from the world’s largest source of global warming emissions. It’s important.
Do you think that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and others like them can be brought around to it?
Well, they want more. We’d all like to see more. It’s an urgent problem. But we have to do something. We don’t have a choice of a better bill. We have this bill or nothing.
You said also that this bill is going to be instrumental in showing the world that the U.S. is really ready to take the lead here, insofar as tackling climate change. You’re obviously in Hong Kong here, on your way to China, which is one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters. What are your hopes for China?
There’s no solution to this problem without the U.S, and there’s no solution without China. China has become an enormous innovator in this field, promoting renewable energy at a pace no one believed as possible five years ago, and has to do more. In the end, the rest of the world needs China and the U.S. to agree to reduce emissions, and to begin to shift to the low carbon economy of tomorrow.
Sounds like you’re optimistic then about what China can contribute here.
I’ve just been stunned at the way that China is consuming policy ideas, and developing new options. I think the possibilities are enormous, but they want to see commitment by the U.S. And vice versa.
Which you think they’ll get that eventually?
I do. I think this is the moment. The political will is there.