The tracking has gotten so intense that Jonathan Pershing has fled the country.

More accurately, Pershing left to participate in bilateral talks with the Chinese government in Beijing, my offers to suggest good restaurants rebuffed.

Along with Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change, and a number of others, the team will be confronting one of the major stumbling blocks left for Copenhagen.

The US is demanding binding emission limits for China. This is because:

1. Real progress in curbing global emissions requires ensuring that China, the world’s largest emitter in absolute terms (but of course not per-capita), comes within any new framework.

2. Congress doesn’t like the political implications of the US making commitments that aren’t mirrored by China, so for the administration to get something through congress, they’ve got to push China for binding targets, among other things.

China, in return, is demanding ambitious targets out of the US. They’d also like money from the US like other developing countries, but that’s of dubious likelihood.

While Jonathan is out of the country, Trigg Talley is leading the delegation.

Trigg Talley, delegation leader during Pershing's absence

Trigg Talley, delegation leader during Pershing's absence

Major issues for the US to deal with:

1. Most NGOs consider amount of money the US is offering for adaptation for developing countries totally inadequate. Word on the street is that the administration really thinks they can get away with this negligible sum. Our response: it’s not a reasonable amount of financing, and it’s not politically feasible here. Pershing needs to go back to the Hill and tell them the current level of financing is not enough.

2. The US is trying to count money spent on international offset projects as part of the financing picture – but this is double-counting, as these projects are being used for US mitigation targets. This money flowing in is less predictable and not channeled to the right places. Don’t double-count international offsets. They’re not part of the finance package.

3. US mitigation targets are weak, though World Resources Institute analysis that everyone’s talking about says the targets are better than they look at first blush. Getting better US targets is going to require serious congressional pressure, from the president or the populace or both.

Other interesting note on US participation:

Climate refugees. Jonathan Pershing stated on the plenary floor the US is uncomfortable with language “climate refugees” being in the text, because of the possible legal implications of the word refugee. It likely makes sense for countries to be obliged to treat climate refugees like refugees – even more so because we will have made them refugees by our emissions.

Keep up the domestic pressure.