U.S. Envoy for Climate Change: Carbon Emissions 'Very Linked' to 'Economic Growth'

By Nicholas Ballasy | December 20, 2010 | 7:52 AM EST

(CNSNews.com) - Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State said the “movement” of carbon emissions is “very linked” to the movement of “economic growth,” adding that the U.S. will not be able to get China to have a “below zero reduction in emissions” while their economy is growing at 10 percent.

“Our position on China is that China needs to make significant reductions in its emissions but for China or other developing countries at this stage those are going to be relative reductions. Those are going to be reductions against the so-called business as usual path that they would be on so given, when countries, whether its China or India or others are growing at you know, 6, 8, 10% you can't slam the brakes on completely and say you’ve got a be making absolute reductions tomorrow,” he told reporters on Dec. 14 at a briefing on his recent trip to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Cancun, Mexico.

“It just couldn't work because don't forget; while the critical direction that we need to move on is to separate growth from the path of emissions so that growth goes up but emissions can still go down because you’ve got so much of your energy coming from low carbon sources and so forth,” he said.

Stern continued, “At this stage in life, the movement of emissions is very much – is very linked to the movement of economic growth so you're not going to get a Chinese economy growing at 10% to have a below zero reduction in emissions but what you can have is a very significant reduction against what they would otherwise be doing and so that is the focus and that has been our focus consistently.”

Stern was also asked to comment on climate statistics cited in a BBC News interview by Professor Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University. Jones said there has been no statistically significant global warming since 1995.

United States climate change envoy Todd Stern speaks at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday Dec 9, 2009. (AP Photo)

“I’m not a scientist so I’m not going to comment and I’m not familiar with exactly what he said,” Stern responded. “I think that if you look at the warming that has been recorded on a steady basis for over the last 20 years or so you will see very significant rise in temperatures over time and I think if you look at the last 20 years, you have something like the 15 or 18 warmest years in history having happened during that period.”

He continued, “So, I think there’s a very, very broad consensus of scientists who see a marked warming trend and again, a very large percentage of scientists who study in this area who attribute that to human activity.”