Barack Obama

U.S.- China Climate Deal—Less Than Meets the Eye?

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Obama Xi
IBT

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a "joint announcement on climate change" in which each country made pledges about how they intend to handle future emissions of their greenhouse gas emissions. Mother Jones hailed the announcement as a "game-changer." Maybe not.

From the announcement:

Today, the Presidents of the United States and China announced their respective post-2020 actions on climate change, recognizing that these actions are part of the longer range effort to transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the global temperature goal of 2?. The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%. China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030. Both sides intend to continue to work to increase ambition over time.

The crucial word here is "intends."

Reuters gets it right when its analysis declares that the "China climate statement is no breakthrough." From Reuters:

In the joint announcement, the United States gave its intention to cut economy-wide emissions 26-28 percent below the 2005 level by 2025.

The baseline, scale and timing of the reductions are essentially the same as those proposed in the Clean Power Plan, published by the Environmental Protection Agency in June.

In return, China announced that it intends to achieve peak carbon dioxide emissions no later than 2030 and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels to around 20 percent of primary energy consumption.

China has a long-standing strategy to increase the share of zero-emission resources in national electricity generation at the expense of fossil fuels, especially coal.

China's government has been discussing an energy and climate strategy based on emissions peaking in either 2025 or 2030; the joint announcement opts for the later target, which is easier to achieve.

The joint announcement employs language very carefully. Throughout, the operative word is "intend" or "intention", which makes clear the statement is not meant to create any new obligations.

China's 2030 emissions target is set in terms of a date but says nothing about the level at which emissions will peak.

The joint announcement also reaffirms "the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances" enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Under China's interpretation of that principle, countries that were rich and developed in 1992 must cut their emissions, while countries that were then poor are not required to do so.

So at what level might China's emissions peak? Assuming the recent 3 percent annual increase in China's carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions continues for the next 16 years, emissions would reach 16 gigatonnes by 2030. If the economy continued to grow at 7 percent per year, that would imply an increase in carbon intensity (GDP per ton of emissions) of more than 60 percent.

In 2005, the U.S. emitted the equivalent of 7.26 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. So cutting emissions by 28 percent by 2025 implies emissions of 5.23 gigatonnes in 2025, which is about the amount that the U.S. emitted in 1992. Assuming that Chinese emissions did peak in 2030, the country could by then be emitting three times more than the U.S.

Only time will tell if the joint announcement is more "optics" than substance, though it should make the ongoing U.N. climate change negotiations at Lima in December and at Paris next December more interesting.

NEXT: Jonathan Gruber, Who Claimed "Lack of Transparency" Was Critical to Passing Obamacare, Now Says the Republican Strategy is to "Confuse" People About the Law

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  1. I intend to fuck as many women as I can before I die. Unfortunately, my wife intends other things.

    1. Buy her more chocolate, she’ll come around to your way of thinking.

      1. Or accept that 1 is as many as you can – then you are both achieving targets.

        1. Hey, just because this strategy has not worked for me on the first 4932 attempts, doesn’t mean it won’t work next time!

  2. Gay Mao is back! Back for the attack!, he got his pen, he got his phone, he got his gay Mao jacket!

    Seriously, I have been saying this for a while. Obama wants the Secretary General spot at the UN. Then he can pretend to be Emperor of the world.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave the US, and defect to some other country. I mean he loves the way they govern in China, maybe he’ll go there.

    1. Interesting idea.

      I’m not sure an American as Sec. Gen of the UN is an actual prospect, though – particularly one which diplomats have noted is a completely untrustworthy ally and prone to enormous breaches of trust for the sake of temporary personal political gain.

      In bureaucracies like the UN, there is no desire by anyone for a ‘prima donna leader’; in bureaucracies, ‘leadership is for lapdogs’ who will serve the technocrats, rely on the expertise of others, and be a bulletproof empty-suit who simply parrots platitudes while the dirty business of deal-making occurs in the back rooms.

      1. good point. Then maybe he does wind up in a foreign country where they will adore him. That’s what he really wants anyway, to be adored by a bunch of brain dead lemmings. What about Indonesia, doesn’t he have ties there?

        1. i think he will defect to California and spend the rest of his career following in the steps of Al Gore and Jimmy Carter – pandering to Climate Change panic, and going on occasional junkets to Africa on behalf of UN/NGOs and do photo-ops pretending to care about something there.

    2. Seriously, that passionate purple maternity dress was without a doubt the MOST ridiculous and embarrassing thing any president has ever worn. By comparison, Dukakis and that tank helmet looked like Captain America.

  3. related:

    The big headline coming out of the second summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama is a climate agreement the two sides reached about cutting carbon emissions in the coming decades. News stories have used sweeping language like the “historic climate change agreement” to describe the deal.

    This seems to greatly exaggerate the significance of the deal, at least from the perspective of China. In fact, in the agreement Beijing simply reiterates commitments it had previously announced.

    http://thediplomat.com/2014/11…..mate-deal/

    1. Well, fortunately for the real world, the Chinese aren’t even thinking about honoring their end of this, and Obama will no longer be emperor in 2 years.

      1. But Hillary or Jeb will. So start practicing breathing without exhaling.

        Iiiiiiinnn.

        Iiiiiiinnnnnnn.

        IIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN.

  4. “In the joint announcement, the United States gave its intention to cut economy-wide emissions 26-28 percent below the 2005 level by 2025.”

    I intend to be fabulously wealthy by 2025, and to ride in a coach pulled by a matched pair of purple unicorns!

    1. I plan on having my mobile Mr. Fusion mounted on my flying car.

    2. The most transparent intention in history!

    3. This is actually feasible. Elect libertarians, let people get wealthy again, and they will start to actually give a realistic shit about emissions. Once the market turns its attention to the issue, it will be solved in months.

  5. The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions…

    I intend to achieve an after-tax target income of $10 million…

    This is easy and fun.

    1. BTW, he also promised that ‘if you like your automobile, you can keep your automobile, period!’
      So I’m not at all worried about that.

  6. alt alt text: Spppppocckkkk /Shatner

  7. the global temperature goal of 2?.

    BRRRR!!

  8. cutting emissions by 28 percent by 2025 implies emissions of 5.23 gigatonnes in 2025, which is about the amount that the U.S. emitted in 1992.

    And that was during a recession.

  9. Cue the Al Gore Effect: Obama negotiates important climate change agreement with China, temperatures in the middle of the U.S. plunge to freezing-ass-cold records.

    1. Tony will be along to splain this to you ignorant deniers any minute now.

      Tony’s not a scientist in real life, but he did sleep in his mums basement again last night.

      1. Maybe even the most stalwart Obama supporters are starting to buy into the idea that there might be cult implications when he shows up in China dressed in a no-kidding Heaven’s Gate outfit.

        1. The left are a cult. How else can you explain all of their cult like tendencies? Their top desire is to mindlessly follow a charismatic leader, not to mention their blind faith in everything that leader tells them.

  10. Only time will tell if the joint announcement is more “optics” than substance

    Time’s up! It’s more “optics”.

  11. This is why we always roll with the punches.

    http://www.anon-way.tk

  12. This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.

  13. China has a long-standing strategy to increase the share of zero-emission resources in national electricity generation at the expense of fossil fuels, especially coal.

    That sounds so pretty, especially if you don’t apply any specifics in the statement. A share of 2% (for instance) of total energy consumption is an increase from a previous share of 1% (which was the current share in so-called “renewables” in 2011 of all total energy consumption in China) at the expense of fossil fuels, but it is still a puny share of total energy consumption. You can perfectly announce the increase with pomp and circumstance to make the pliable media and the Zero-growth religious fanatics happy, but in the end it is more appearance than substance.

    Coal makes 69% of current energy source consumption in China, with oil making up 18%, NatGas and Hydro being another 10%. Just to put things in perspective.

    1. Sounds like they need a Great Leap Forward on the environment.

    2. The only practical “clean” energy of scale is hydro, and we can’t do that because of the fishies.

  14. If the economy continued to grow at 7 percent per year, that would imply an increase in carbon intensity (GDP per ton of emissions) of more than 60 percent.

    It is not an unreasonable assumption if all other things remain equal, but remember that the current growth in the economy of China is fueled by a policy of loose money, which cannot be sustained.

    Even so, the notion that the government of China is going to discourage economic growth to stave off a phenomenon that nobody can define for sure (as the term “Climate Change” does not lend itself to specificity very well) with a billion Chinese who are tasting riches and wealth for the first time in decades, is ridiculous. Nobody is strong enough or has big enough clout to make the Chinese government comply with any Climate Change agreement even if they sign any of them just so everybody else shuts up. Why is the U.S. government even bothering with this issue is what boggles the mind. The whole farce creates an image of doped-up flower children managing U.S. foreign policy and negotiating with a 4,000 year-old culture. These guys are WAY off their league.

  15. Alt text: Pajama party! All we need now is the pillow fight.

  16. How did Al Gore get to the Chinese leadership? That is one clever guy.

    1. Party memos?

  17. Also –

    Ron, I think the thing that is overlooked here is that the “Climate ‘Agreement’ (aka tepid promises)” was really just a warm-fuzzy headline to feed the anti-capitalists while they negotiated terms for reducing tariffs on IT-related trade.

    While the current read on the agreement is thin, it seems that we’re actually giving Chinese our support for greater trade latitude in exchange for… well a photo op to make vague happy-talk about the ‘climate’.

    IOW, i suspect the entire ‘climate’ component of this was pure theatre for the sake of Obama’s domestic audience; it was a trade deal wrapped in Greenwash-talk. It was mostly just Guanxi-building efforts to allow both leaders something to show their respective populations.

  18. So, the US Congress will totally ratify this agreement, right? LOL

    1. not necessary. Congress has to approve any new legally-binding ‘treaties’

      The president can make ‘agreements’/’accords’ that update or amend previously-exiting deals, which themselves may or may not be non-binding.

      The framework for the above agreement is effectively a bi-lateral add-on to the 1992 UNFCCC, and reflects what the president is going to try and wrestle other nations into doing = simply ‘update’ targets and make nice-talk about how they ‘promise’ to really try hard and stuff.

      Its bullshit. As noted by both ‘Friends of the Earth’ in ron’s other post, and most media outlets not so desperate to give Obama a ‘win’ that they use terms like, “Historic!” and “Groundbreaking!” when describing this meaningless gesture.

    2. I was wondering about that aspect myself. Something something advise and consent words words words.

      Not that Obumah would worry about a dusty old piece of paper.

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