David Harsayni on the U.S.-China Climate Change Deal



At a Beijing news conference, President Barack Obama called a new China-United States climate deal a "historic agreement." But there are two problems with treating the deal as big news, argues David Harsanyi: 1) we're not really doing anything we weren't going to do anyway, and 2) neither is China.

Specifically, though, the United States pledges to impede its own economic growth right now, in significant ways, while China will be free to continue building coal-powered plants, expand its economy, and cement its place as the world's leading polluter—perhaps even doubling its output against ours. Until 2030, that is, or some year around that time, when China's carbon emissions are expected to peak. Specifics aren't important. The agreement contains no binding language requiring any goals to be met. But in around 15 years, the Chinese promise that they will implement some vague action plan. All we need to do is trust them.