No Agreement in Beijing -- Just a Surrender

The media is calling the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change made by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing  an "agreement", a term that invokes the idea of mutual obligations. It is also frequently mentioned that the U.S. and China have been holding talks on climate issues for over six months, implying the announcement was the result of negotiations, meaning give-and-take. The New York Times ran an op-ed by Secretary of State John Kerry on Nov. 11 which had the sub-heading "John Kerry: Our Historic Agreement with China on Climate Change." This was not, however, an accurate quote from Kerry who only used the term "agreement" in his text to refer to the outcome hoped for in the UN climate talks set for next year in Paris. He did not stray from the term "announcement" for what occurred in Beijing, which is all that happened. Likewise, the White House blog did not use the term "agreement" either.

Beijing agrees with this assessment. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the two countries had simply "announced action plans." And while the government said, "China is willing to make joint efforts with other countries to cope with climate change and promote a new agreement in 2015" that agreement was to be based on " the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities." On that basis, "China is calling on developed countries to shoulder their responsibilities" according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

The Chinese media has been on message as well. According to Global Times, a publication of the Chinese Communist Party, "the two countries announced their respective post-2020 goals of coping with climate change. They will also jointly push international climate change negotiations for a new agreement to be reached as planned at a conference in Paris next year." The state-run China Daily used the term "pact" in its headline, but attributed it to "experts" all but one of those cited being American. The only Chinese comment was that the "joint announcement" was "significant and constructive." When the term "agreement" was used in the story it was again in reference to the upcoming 2015 Paris conference.  

President Obama, however, did call the joint announcement an "agreement" that represents a "commitment" by China at the Beijing press conference at the end of his visit. He may have misspoken out of ignorance about the precision of diplomatic language. Yet, he needs to give as much weight to what happened in China as possible to give cover to his accelerated Green agenda at home. He wants to give the impression that the rest of the world is as concerned about climate change as he is. So he has a strong motive to exaggerate the Chinese position. He wanted to bring home a "scrap of paper" he could wave around to proclaim climate peace in our time; that the two largest national economies were  standing fast against the common climate enemy.

President Xi understood this and threw Obama a bone, but only after Beijing had taken all the meat for itself. The join announcement gave China exactly what it wanted for 2015, and it had to give up nothing in return. The U.S. announced that whatever agreement comes out of Paris will be based on the "the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities." The "differentiated responsibilities" phrase means in UN lingo that developed countries (like the U.S.) have to do everything, whereas the developing countries (like China) do not have to do anything. This principle was established at the UN in 1992. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was based on it. That agreement required 37 "developed" nations to cut back their emissions while placing no requirements on the rest of the "developing" world. The U.S. did not become a party to Kyoto because it was unequal in its mandate. The U.S. position has always been, even during Obama's first term, that the U.S. would not agree to anything that did not apply to everyone; otherwise those who did not have to comply would gain a competitive advantage on those who had to play by the rules. Now, Obama has declared that he will sign a new agreement based on the unequal principle. That will be his Green legacy.

The action plans announced in Beijing are in line with the UN principle. The U.S. is to make drastic cuts in emissions (which means in energy use and economic activity, slowing growth and job creation) over the next decade while China will continue to grow as fast as possible until at least 2030. What more could Beijing want than to see America hobble itself while China expands to close the gap across a range of strategic capabilities? As the "UN Framework Convention on Climate Change" states, "the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.” This will certainly be true for China where President Xi has set goals of doubling the country's 2010 GDP by 2020 and moving one billion Chinese into urban settings by 2030.

The real meaning of the Beijing joint announcement is that China does not consider climate change to be a problem, and that it will use the UN process to protect its right to advance while inflicting as much damage on the U.S. as possible. And Obama is fine with that.  

The media is calling the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change made by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing  an "agreement", a term that invokes the idea of mutual obligations. It is also frequently mentioned that the U.S. and China have been holding talks on climate issues for over six months, implying the announcement was the result of negotiations, meaning give-and-take. The New York Times ran an op-ed by Secretary of State John Kerry on Nov. 11 which had the sub-heading "John Kerry: Our Historic Agreement with China on Climate Change." This was not, however, an accurate quote from Kerry who only used the term "agreement" in his text to refer to the outcome hoped for in the UN climate talks set for next year in Paris. He did not stray from the term "announcement" for what occurred in Beijing, which is all that happened. Likewise, the White House blog did not use the term "agreement" either.

Beijing agrees with this assessment. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the two countries had simply "announced action plans." And while the government said, "China is willing to make joint efforts with other countries to cope with climate change and promote a new agreement in 2015" that agreement was to be based on " the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities." On that basis, "China is calling on developed countries to shoulder their responsibilities" according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

The Chinese media has been on message as well. According to Global Times, a publication of the Chinese Communist Party, "the two countries announced their respective post-2020 goals of coping with climate change. They will also jointly push international climate change negotiations for a new agreement to be reached as planned at a conference in Paris next year." The state-run China Daily used the term "pact" in its headline, but attributed it to "experts" all but one of those cited being American. The only Chinese comment was that the "joint announcement" was "significant and constructive." When the term "agreement" was used in the story it was again in reference to the upcoming 2015 Paris conference.  

President Obama, however, did call the joint announcement an "agreement" that represents a "commitment" by China at the Beijing press conference at the end of his visit. He may have misspoken out of ignorance about the precision of diplomatic language. Yet, he needs to give as much weight to what happened in China as possible to give cover to his accelerated Green agenda at home. He wants to give the impression that the rest of the world is as concerned about climate change as he is. So he has a strong motive to exaggerate the Chinese position. He wanted to bring home a "scrap of paper" he could wave around to proclaim climate peace in our time; that the two largest national economies were  standing fast against the common climate enemy.

President Xi understood this and threw Obama a bone, but only after Beijing had taken all the meat for itself. The join announcement gave China exactly what it wanted for 2015, and it had to give up nothing in return. The U.S. announced that whatever agreement comes out of Paris will be based on the "the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities." The "differentiated responsibilities" phrase means in UN lingo that developed countries (like the U.S.) have to do everything, whereas the developing countries (like China) do not have to do anything. This principle was established at the UN in 1992. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was based on it. That agreement required 37 "developed" nations to cut back their emissions while placing no requirements on the rest of the "developing" world. The U.S. did not become a party to Kyoto because it was unequal in its mandate. The U.S. position has always been, even during Obama's first term, that the U.S. would not agree to anything that did not apply to everyone; otherwise those who did not have to comply would gain a competitive advantage on those who had to play by the rules. Now, Obama has declared that he will sign a new agreement based on the unequal principle. That will be his Green legacy.

The action plans announced in Beijing are in line with the UN principle. The U.S. is to make drastic cuts in emissions (which means in energy use and economic activity, slowing growth and job creation) over the next decade while China will continue to grow as fast as possible until at least 2030. What more could Beijing want than to see America hobble itself while China expands to close the gap across a range of strategic capabilities? As the "UN Framework Convention on Climate Change" states, "the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.” This will certainly be true for China where President Xi has set goals of doubling the country's 2010 GDP by 2020 and moving one billion Chinese into urban settings by 2030.

The real meaning of the Beijing joint announcement is that China does not consider climate change to be a problem, and that it will use the UN process to protect its right to advance while inflicting as much damage on the U.S. as possible. And Obama is fine with that.