Historic US-China Deal To Fight Global Warming? A non binding agreement that commits China to do something after 2030 does not amount to much

WASHINGTON – President Obama went to Beijing and –surprise, surprise– he pulled a huge rabbit out of a hat in the form of a “historic” agreement with China committing the latter to the reduction of its own green house gases…after 2030.

Joint US-China commitment

To be precise, China pledged “to intend to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030”.

As this is a bilateral committment, President Obama promised that the US by 2025 will reduce its own emissions by as much as 28% below 2005 levels.

We shall do something, after 2030

Got that? America pledges –now– to achieve further green house emissions reductions by 2025, in exchange for the vague promise that China, after peaking in 2030, will start reducing its own emissions after that date.

And, by the way, this is only a “declaration”. An interesting development, in as much as it seems to commit China to doing something about reducing emissions. But this is not a treaty. It is a non binding document. There are no penalties for non compliance. Which is to say that it is not enforceable.

And again, we are talking the vague “promise ” –today– to do something meaningful after 2030, long after Obama and most likely Xi Jinping will be out of the picture.

I am not impressed.

Little substance

There is very little substance here. And yet many commentators talked about this “deal” as a (needed) major breakthrough in the fight against global warming. You see, China at last set some clear emissions reduction goals and timetables, finally recognizing its responsibilities as the top world polluter, along with America.

All in all, we are told by “the experts” that out of this announcement we get that the two countries that produce the largest amount of harmful emissions are finally setting a good example.

We are also told that, after this Beijing China-US deal, in the future no country within the developed world will be able to hide behind the (lame) excuse that, until China is on board with concrete commitments to cut its own emissions, it makes no sense to take steps aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Now China is “on board”, so everybody else should join in and do its part.

A new milestone?

Really? I find it bizarre that analysts and even serious media are willing to make so much out of so little.

Sure, I can recognize that this Xi-Obama deal may have some symbolic meaning. Who knows, may be China really means this. But we are talking about a promise today (2014) to do certain unspecified things many, many years later (2030).

In the meantime, in order to honor its side of the agreement, America would have to curb its own emissions at a faster pace, starting now.

So, US unilateral sacrifices beginning now, in exchange for the promise of Chinese action after 2030.

And this is a historic breakthrough based on shared principles, spelling out coordinated US-China actions to fight climate change?

To me, all this looks most unserious.


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