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Yep, Totally Getting a Handle on Climate Change Here

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Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Suboptimal, not overly surprising:

For the past two years, the United States and the European Union have been working toward a deal that would encourage trade in steel and aluminum made in more environmentally friendly ways to combat climate change.

But longstanding differences on the way governments should treat trade and regulation have cropped up, preventing the allies from coming to a compromise. With an Oct. 31 deadline to reach a deal approaching, the United States has significantly narrowed its ambition for the pact, at least in its initial iteration.

The outcome has been deeply disappointing for American negotiators, including Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative in charge of the talks, according to people familiar with the negotiations. In speeches last year, Ms. Tai described the potential deal as “historic” and “a paradigm-shifting model” that would reduce carbon produced by heavy industries, while also limiting unfair trade competition from countries like China, which has been pumping out cheap steel that is not manufactured in an environmentally friendly way.

U.S. negotiators had envisioned setting up a club of nations committed to cleaner production, initially with Europe and later with other countries, that together would act to block dirtier steel, aluminum and other products from their markets. Steel and aluminum production is incredibly carbon intensive, with the industries together accounting for about a 10th of global carbon emissions. But Europeans raised a variety of objections to the approach, including that it violated global trade rules for treating countries fairly.

Now, the Biden administration is trying to salvage the talks by pushing for a narrower deal in the coming weeks. The more limited U.S. proposal currently includes an immediate agreement for countries to take steps to combat a flood of dirtier steel from countries like China, as well as a commitment to keep negotiating in the coming years for a framework that would discourage trade in products made with more carbon emissions, the people familiar with the negotiations said.

I am of course sympathetic to the complexities of international trade and the need to treat other countries fairly. But if you want to deal with climate change, things such as repressing the dirtiest steel is such a fundamental basic thing and if we can’t do that, we really can’t do much of anything of value. Even the expansion of clean energy that we can produce domestically doesn’t mean much if we don’t actually suppress the amount of dirty energy being used. Otherwise, we are still dumping emissions into the air while producing more electricity.

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