Administration calls meaningless emissions deal with China 'historic'

There is nothing this president likes to do more than slap the term "historic" on anything he does.

Case in point; a climate change emissions agreement the US signed with China yesterday. The agreement is certainly ambitious, with stringent emission reduction goals for the US by 2025 and a brake put on Chinese emissions by 2030.

The problem, as David Stout of Time points out, is that the goals are nearly impossible to reach:

Under the deal, the U.S. must slash carbon emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and China must start reigning in its release of greenhouse gases nationwide. Based on the initiative, China needs to hit peak CO2 emissions by 2030.

In addition, China, which has long relied on coal to fuel its unprecedented economic growth, also promised to rapidly increase the country’s reliance on nonfossil fuels in primary energy consumption. By 2030, Beijing is aiming to have 20% of the country’s energy needs supplied by zero-emission sources.

But to hit these targets, experts argue that both nations must now draw up and enforce unprecedented policies.

As Sam Roggeveen, of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, pointed out in a blog post published on Wednesday, the U.S. will have to “double the pace of its carbon pollution reduction to meet the new target.” Domestic politics could easily put a brake on that.

In China, Roggeveen writes, “an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity” must be deployed by 2030 — more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today. Otherwise the goal can’t be met.

Even if the central government had an all-consuming drive to achieve this, economists say it must provide the proper economic incentives to local bureaucrats who are pivotal to executing policies on the ground.

“The feasibility of doing [this] depends on the local bureaucrats, so if the local bureaucrats resist then nothing can be done,” Xu Chenggang, professor who is a specialist in China’s economic development at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME. “[It doesn’t] matter how strong the leader is, to get things done really depends on incentives.”

China can continue to build coal-fired electric plans as fast as they can, while the US must cut its industrial production to achieve the massive reductions in emissions required by the agreement. According to the New York Times, China intends to build 50 carbon spewing coal powered electric plants in the next few years. Under the agreement, they don't have to cut a single molecule of their emissions. On the other hand, reducing US carbon emissions by 28% in 10 years goes far beyond anything the EPA is proposing and would necessitate ruinous policies that would hurt our manufacturing base.

China still refuses to participate in international climate change agreements like Kyoto, and the upcoming Copenhagen nightmare, so the idea that they are serious about reducing their emissions is laughable. Perhaps the "historic" aspect of this agreement is how badly the US got taken by the Chinese and how historically naive the administration is about Chinese intentions.

There is nothing this president likes to do more than slap the term "historic" on anything he does.

Case in point; a climate change emissions agreement the US signed with China yesterday. The agreement is certainly ambitious, with stringent emission reduction goals for the US by 2025 and a brake put on Chinese emissions by 2030.

The problem, as David Stout of Time points out, is that the goals are nearly impossible to reach:

Under the deal, the U.S. must slash carbon emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and China must start reigning in its release of greenhouse gases nationwide. Based on the initiative, China needs to hit peak CO2 emissions by 2030.

In addition, China, which has long relied on coal to fuel its unprecedented economic growth, also promised to rapidly increase the country’s reliance on nonfossil fuels in primary energy consumption. By 2030, Beijing is aiming to have 20% of the country’s energy needs supplied by zero-emission sources.

But to hit these targets, experts argue that both nations must now draw up and enforce unprecedented policies.

As Sam Roggeveen, of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, pointed out in a blog post published on Wednesday, the U.S. will have to “double the pace of its carbon pollution reduction to meet the new target.” Domestic politics could easily put a brake on that.

In China, Roggeveen writes, “an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity” must be deployed by 2030 — more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today. Otherwise the goal can’t be met.

Even if the central government had an all-consuming drive to achieve this, economists say it must provide the proper economic incentives to local bureaucrats who are pivotal to executing policies on the ground.

“The feasibility of doing [this] depends on the local bureaucrats, so if the local bureaucrats resist then nothing can be done,” Xu Chenggang, professor who is a specialist in China’s economic development at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME. “[It doesn’t] matter how strong the leader is, to get things done really depends on incentives.”

China can continue to build coal-fired electric plans as fast as they can, while the US must cut its industrial production to achieve the massive reductions in emissions required by the agreement. According to the New York Times, China intends to build 50 carbon spewing coal powered electric plants in the next few years. Under the agreement, they don't have to cut a single molecule of their emissions. On the other hand, reducing US carbon emissions by 28% in 10 years goes far beyond anything the EPA is proposing and would necessitate ruinous policies that would hurt our manufacturing base.

China still refuses to participate in international climate change agreements like Kyoto, and the upcoming Copenhagen nightmare, so the idea that they are serious about reducing their emissions is laughable. Perhaps the "historic" aspect of this agreement is how badly the US got taken by the Chinese and how historically naive the administration is about Chinese intentions.