By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) - China and other developing nations must help "pay" for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Monday, backing off a recent statement that put a greater burden on the United States.
As the United States and other developed countries make costly commitments to address climate change, "developing countries like China must do the same," Locke told members of the Manufacturing Council, a private sector advisory group.
"They’ve got to step up. They’ve got to pay for the cost of complying with global climate change. They’ve got to invest in energy efficiency and conservation, but also very definitive steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Locke said.
The comment followed Locke’s statement last week in China that U.S. consumers should pay for the carbon content of goods they consume from countries around the world.
"It’s important that those who consume the products being made all around the world to the benefit of America -- and it’s our own consumption activity that’s causing the emission of greenhouse gases, then quite frankly Americans need to pay for that," Locke told the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai after meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.
A Commerce Department spokesman said Locke was not endorsing a tax on imports or any other particular policy option to reduce the carbon content of imported goods.
Instead, Locke was trying to say U.S. companies must not be put at a trade disadvantage as the United States moves to pass legislation to rein in greenhouse gas emissions that come primarily from burning fossil fuels, the spokesman said.
"There’s an obvious concern that U.S. companies compete on a level playing field. As the voice in the cabinet for American business, that’s the concern the secretary was trying to convey," the spokesman said.
China recently passed the United States as the largest overall greenhouse gas emitter, though U.S. per capita emissions still far exceed China‘s.
Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu were in China last week to discuss how the two countries could work together on clean energy technologies to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
At a closing press conference in Beijing, the two cabinet secretaries praised China for the steps it was already taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and said it was a model for other developing countries to follow.
The Commerce spokesman said Locke had in fact stressed to Chinese leaders throughout his visit that they needed to take further steps to reduce the country’s "carbon footprint." (Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Anthony Boadle)