On Wednesday, 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 gases. The announcement was hailed by most environmental groups and much of the media as "historic," a "breakthrough, and a "game-changer." Careful parsing of the text's diplomatic jargon suggests that the joint announcement is, in fact, none of those. …
Looking at the previously announced energy and climate policies of both the U.S. and China, the new pledges appear to add little to their existing plans to reduce their emissions. The new Obama pledges basically track the reductions that would result from the administration's plan to boost automobile fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 and the Environmental Protection Agency's new scheme to cut by 2030 the carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants by 30% below their 2005 level. Xi was no doubt aware that a week earlier an analysis of demographic, urbanization, and industrial trends by Chinese Academy of Social Science had predicted that China's emissions peak would occur between 2025 and 2040.
Supporters hope that the joint announcement is the prelude to a "great leap forward" to a broad and binding global climate change agreement at Paris in 2015. Perhaps, but the U.S. and China left themselves plenty of room to step back if their pledges become inconvenient.
That's from my new Time column on the U.S.-China emissions "deal." Go here for the whole article.