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Global Warming Data from China, Others Are Old & Questionable, GAO Finds

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Joe Barton, (R-Texas), and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) today unveiled a Government Accountability Office report confirming that for major developing nations like China, Brazil and India, most greenhouse emissions reports are outdated and of substandard quality.

"The lack of comparable, high-quality inventories" from these nations is important, GAO noted, "because they represent the largest and fastest growing portion of the world's emissions, and information about their emissions is important to international efforts to address climate change."

Rep. Walden released a statement on the GAO report today:

"It's no surprise that developing nations, including some of the world's biggest carbon emitters, do not have high-quality reporting mechanism that could stand up to independent scientific review," Rep. Walden said. "Before the Obama administration and Speaker Pelosi clamp down on American jobs with new global warming regulations, wouldn't it make sense to make sure we can trust the measuring regimes of other countries? We need to have more cooperation from developing countries like China and India. Americans want to do the right thing for the environment, but we don't need to play by one set of rules while our economic competitors play by another."

The report was requested on Feb. 10, 2009, by Barton, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Walden, then-ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, and later by Burgess, the subcommittee's current ranking member. The lawmakers asked GAO to examine the quality and comparability of nations' reporting about the greenhouse gas emissions. GAO also questions the ability of the United States and other developed nations to monitor the greenhouse gas emissions reductions or efficiency gains promised by China and other major developing countries under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord.

"International global warming agreements require comparable, reliable measurements of greenhouse gases. What the GAO has found, however, is that some nations have not produced high-quality emissions inventories," Barton said. "It's also worrisome that China, Brazil, India and other major developing nations still refuse to match their reporting regimes to those of the developed world even as they rapidly surpass both us and Europe in the amount of greenhouse gases they produce." The latest emissions inventories from Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia cover emissions only to 1994.

GAO found for the most part that the selected developed nations -- Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States -- were generally comparable and of high quality. (The nations' reports nevertheless had some limits because of the lack of independent verification.) However, unlike the developed nations reviewed, the emissions reports from the developing countries reviewed -- Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and South Korea -- are not subject to same reporting standards or to formal reviews, and the United Nations has not attempted to assess whether these reports meet accepted reporting guidelines.

"This report reiterates why the U.S. should not rush to enact energy policies that would disadvantage our own economy before having firm commitments from other nations as to their own emissions plans. Alleged 'global warming' is just that -- a global issue," Burgess said. "To unilaterally tie our own hands -- especially during such economically uncertain times -- would only punish our own industries, while doing nothing to combat global environmental issues. Until we have firm commitments from the other major developing nations that they will get serious about curbing their own emissions, our country's leaders must keep the best interests of Americans in mind, knowing that involvement by other countries is, at best, only wishful thinking at the moment."

Annual greenhouse gas emissions from the selected developing nations reviewed grew by about 5 billion metric tons by 2005, which was about the annual emissions of Canada, Germany, Japan, and Russia in 2005 combined.

Developing nations' reports lacked specific information to determine how emissions were calculated, and have limited incentive to improve their emissions reporting, in part because the nations do not want to make commitments to limit emissions, the GAO noted.

The report also calls into question the ability of the United States and other developed nations to monitor the greenhouse gas emissions reductions or efficiency gains promised by China and other major developing countries under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, agreed to this past December.

For example, the current reporting and review system is not sufficient to monitor China's and India's promise to reduce by up to 45 percent and by up to 25 percent from 2005 levels, respectively, the amount of carbon dioxide per unit of GDP by 2020, or Brazil's, Mexico's, and South Korea's promise to reduce emissions up to 30 percent and more from "business as usual" levels in 2020.

GAO recommends that the secretary of State work with other parties to the United Nations FrameworkConvention on Climate Change to (1) continue encouraging China, India and other developing countries to improve their greenhouse emissions reporting, and (2) to strengthen the quality assurance for reviewing the emissions reports.


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