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CCNet 13/11/14

US Republicans Denounce U.S.-China Climate Deal 

Chinese Media Warn Against High Expectations 


 
 
Any hope for Congress to reconvene with a sense of bipartisanship was quickly erased Wednesday morning as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply criticized the announcement of a new climate deal between the United States and China. --Ed O'Keefe, David Nakamura and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, 13 November 2014
 
 


“I was particularly distressed by the deal he’s reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which, as I read the agreement, it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states across the country,” said Mitch McConnell, who is in line to become the new Senate majority leader in January. --Ed O'Keefe, David Nakamura and Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, 13 November 2014
 


Chinese newspapers welcomed the US and China's pledges on tackling greenhouse gases, but warn against expecting dramatic cuts from Beijing. China did not set a specific target, but said emissions would peak by 2030. Noting that this is the first time both countries have reached an agreement on a world issue, the Chinese edition of the Global Times praises the "existence of a China-US joint leadership". However, the papers subtly hints that China will not make any dramatic cuts despite pressures from the US and Europe. --BBC News, 13 November 2014




The Chinese no doubt saw how much the President wanted an agreement and that he would accept nearly anything that could pass as one. Mr. Xi must have been delighted to see a U.S. President agree to make America less economically competitive in return for rhetorical bows to doing something someday about climate change. --Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 13 November 2014 
 
 
With the US and China announcing specific pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the focus is likely to turn to India, the world’s fourth biggest emitter, to follow suit and take actions to rein in its growing emissions. A member of the reconstituted [Indian] Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change said this expectation, if it does arise, would be totally unfounded. “All that China has done is to acknowledge that it has reached a level of development from where it can take emission cuts. The Chinese per capita income is already comparable with the rich world. And it still has 16 years to let its emissions grow. By that time, it would be meaningless for China to let its emissions grow. Economically and technologically, it would make much more sense to start cutting emissions. Nothing of that is true for India. To expect India to do something similar to China is not sensible,” he said. --Amitabh Sinha, The Indian Express, 13 November 2014
 
 
 
Republicans take control of the Senate in January.  Majorities in both the House and Senate will be opposed to the Obama Administration’s climate agenda.  It seems certain that they will be even more opposed to the new 26% cut by 2025 goal than they are to the 17% by 2020 goal.  My guess is that there will be votes on a resolution disavowing President Obama’s new commitments in both the House and Senate early in the 114th Congress. That would complicate the State Department’s plans to announce its commitments that will be part of the Paris accord by the end of March. --Myron Ebell, GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014
 
  

Obama’s promise — to China, recall — is not binding, is not intended to be binding, and will not be part of a binding promise to the rest of the world for the December 2015 Paris climate treaty talks. This is the latest example of a new species of promise described as “politically binding”, a turn of phrase introduced in this context during the Bush years, in recognition of the fact that two-thirds of the US Senate will never agree to Kyoto-style constraints. Shifting to “politically binding” promises also is an effort to circumvent that same reality by effectively introducing treaty commitments to the country without declaring them at customs. --Chris Horner, GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014
 
 
 
 
This “historic agreement” has the legal binding effect of a campaign leaflet. However, as a “politically binding” promise, it begs (and hints at the answer to) the most important consideration: will it mean something? That is, what are they trying to do with it? The Obama administration and its cheerleaders are trying to toss another log or two on the fire of what is called customary international law, which is made up of promises so often made and so well understood that countries are obligated to not violate their object and purposes, regardless if it is not written somewhere. --Chris Horner, GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014


 
 


1) US Republicans Denounce U.S.-China Climate Deal - The Washington Post, 13 November 2014
 
2) Chinese Media Welcome Climate Deal, Warn Against High Expectations - BBC News, 13 November 2014
 
3) US-China Climate Move Puts Focus On India - The Indian Express, 13 November 2014
 
4) WSJ: Obama Trades Higher U.S. Energy Costs For Distant Chinese ‘Intentions’ - The Wall Street Journal, 13 November 2014
 
5) Myron Ebell: Will US Republicans Disavow Obama’s Climate Deal With China? - GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014
 
6) Chris Horner: A Single Non-Binding Climate “Deal” with China Is Meaningless, But a Series of Them Could Be Trouble - GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014
 
 
 
1) US Republicans Denounce U.S.-China Climate Deal
The Washington Post, 13 November 2014
 
Ed O'Keefe, David Nakamura and Steven Mufson
 
Any hope for Congress to reconvene with a sense of bipartisanship was quickly erased Wednesday morning as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply criticized the announcement of a new climate deal between the United States and China.
 
McConnell made his comments during a morning coffee with 10 newly elected Republican senators in his office off the Senate floor. As his new colleagues stood beaming, McConnell was asked by reporters whether he planned to shift the Senate to the political middle in hopes of reaching accord with President Obama and Democrats.
 
“The president continues to send a signal that he has no intention of moving toward the middle,” said McConnell, who is in line to become the new Senate majority leader in January. “I was particularly distressed by the deal he’s reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which, as I read the agreement, it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states across the country.”
 
In his initial reaction, McConnell said, “This unrealistic plan that the president would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.”
Boehner denounced the agreement as “the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families.”

The speaker, who will preside over an increased GOP majority when the new Congress convenes, charged in a statement that Obama “intends to double down on his job-crushing policies no matter how devastating the impact,” and he pledged that Republicans would continue to make blocking Obama’s energy policies a priority for the rest of his term.
 
Top administration officials made it clear Wednesday the president would pursue some of his top priorities despite GOP opposition. Speaking to reporters on a press call Wednesday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said Obama has emphasized the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change for months.
 
Full story
 
 
 
2) Chinese Media Welcome Climate Deal, Warn Against High Expectations
BBC News, 13 November 2014
 
Papers welcome the US and China's pledges on tackling greenhouse gases, but warn against expecting dramatic cuts from Beijing.
 
China and the US on Wednesday agreed to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions after the leaders of the two countries met for talks in Beijing.
 
US President Barack Obama said the move was "historic", as he set a new goal of reducing US levels between 26%-28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.
 
China did not set a specific target, but said emissions would peak by 2030.
Noting that this is the first time both countries have reached an agreement on a world issue, the Chinese edition of the Global Times praises the "existence of a China-US joint leadership".
 
However, the papers subtly hints that China will not make any dramatic cuts despite pressures from the US and Europe.
 
"It is the basic right of the people to pursue a moderately comfortable life and improve their living standards. We need to balance many factors and move on step by step," it says.
 
Echoing similar views, a commentary in the Beijing Times welcomes the "shared responsibility" of tackling emissions but also reminds readers of the "differences" that still exist between the two countries.
 
It says that the US and other industrialised countries need to shoulder more responsibility because their longer-term actions have had an impact on the environment.
 
Full story
 
 
 
 
 
3) US-China Climate Move Puts Focus On India
The Indian Express, 13 November 2014
 
Amitabh Sinha
 
With the US and China announcing specific pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the focus is likely to turn to India, the world’s fourth biggest emitter, to follow suit and take actions to rein in its growing emissions.
 
In a surprise revelation, the US and China Wednesday said they had reached a groundbreaking agreement on climate change, according to which the US would cut its emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. China, on the other hand, had agreed to ensure that its emissions would start declining in absolute terms from the year 2030.
 
The US was already committed to a 17 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels and this agreement raises the level of its ambition. For China, this is the first time that it has offered to start reducing its emissions even if it is to begin after 16 years. With the European Union having already promised much deeper cuts, 40 per cent by 2030 relative to 1990 levels, the world’s three biggest polluters have now put their offers on the plate ahead of the annual climate conference in Lima, Peru.
 
India is not mandated to make any emission cuts but the Chinese decision might raise expectations from New Delhi as well.

A member of the reconstituted Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change said this expectation, if it does arise, would be totally unfounded.
 
“All that China has done is to acknowledge that it has reached a level of development from where it can take emission cuts. The Chinese per capita income is already comparable with the rich world. And it still has 16 years to let its emissions grow. By that time, it would be meaningless for China to let its emissions grow. Economically and technologically, it would make much more sense to start cutting emissions. Nothing of that is true for India. To expect India to do something similar to China is not sensible,” he said.
 
Full story
 
 
 
 
4) WSJ: Obama Trades Higher U.S. Energy Costs For Distant Chinese ‘Intentions’
The Wall Street Journal, 13 November 2014
 
The climate-change campaign against fossil fuels has been having a hard time with democracy. Voters in the U.S. support fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, Australia repealed its carbon tax, and frustration with green energy costs is rising across Europe. So perhaps it’s not surprising that President Obama has turned to a dictatorship for help with his anticarbon ambitions.
 
In that sense, the emissions accord sealed Tuesday night between the U.S. and China is a perfect reflection of the mindset of Western climate-change activists. Cheap and abundant energy is popular among Americans because it raises living standards and helps the economy grow.The romance of the fresh princelings of Beijing is that they needn’t abide such barriers to enlightened governance as elections, a free press, transparency, the rule of law and two political parties.
 
They can simply order economic transformation in the next five-year plan, and censor any dissenters as Al Gore wants to do in the U.S. Thus in China Mr. Obama has found the ideal climate-change partner: A technocratic elite that can instruct the bourgeoisie how they must light their homes and commute to work.
 
We and many others have been skeptical of a U.S.-China carbon pact, though that was because we assumed the White House and green lobby would demand terms that imposed at least some discipline on Chinese behavior. We discounted the possibility that Mr. Obama preferred the illusion of progress, and that his green allies could be rolled as cheaply as the terms of Tuesday’s accord.
 
Under the nonbinding, no-detail agreement, Supreme Leader Xi Jinping promises “to intend to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030,” and then maybe after that to decline. This is another way of describing the status quo.
 
Forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, BP ’s Statistical Review of World Energy and the academic journal Energy Policy all expect Chinese energy consumption to crest in two decades due to demographic and urbanization trends. Mr. Obama has in essence persuaded the Chinese to do what they planned to do anyway.
 
Mr. Xi also agreed to shift at least 20% of Chinese energy production to non-fossil-fuels by 2030. But this too is what China has already intended, albeit largely by replacing dirty coal with nuclear power. China’s Communist Party has relied on coal to fuel rapid economic growth but that is increasingly becoming a political liability as the air becomes unbreathable. Then there is widespread groundwater contamination and an eat-at-your-own-risk food supply.
 
This tangible damage has inspired a revolt against the corruption and eyes-wide-shut ecological denial that defines China’s political system. The harm—measured in health problems and premature deaths, not merely higher temperatures predicted decades away in climate computer models—also should remind America’s green central-planners that autocracies are the world’s worst polluters. Think of the death of the Aral Sea under the Soviets, or dead pigs floating down the Yangtze.
 
All of which suggests that this accord is less about China than American climate politics. One of the main arguments against U.S. carbon rationing has been that such economic masochism is pointless as long as Chinese and Indian emissions continue to grow. Mr. Obama will now claim the Middle Kingdom is signed onto his anticarbon agenda, even if its promises are distant and vague.
 
In return for Mr. Xi’s assurances, Mr. Obama pledged that the U.S. will cut emissions by as much as 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. This implies doubling the annual pace of CO2 reductions over the 17% marker that Mr. Obama set in 2009. So using the Sino-American deal as cover, Mr. Obama will now say he is obliged to impose a new burst of aggressive carbon regulations, no matter the harm to U.S. growth.
 
The difference is that American governance, unlike China’s, is supposed to follow the rule of law; companies can’t refuse to obey regulations because the CEO’s brother-in-law belongs to the Party. Yet most of the rule-makings to enforce Mr. Obama’s promises to China will emerge from his administrative-state tunnels like the Environmental Protection Agency without a vote in Congress. Under this President, the political systems of the East and West may share more features than patriots care to admit.
 
This condominium between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbonizers is also supposed to inspire a new global climate treaty in Paris next year, but other nations may draw a different lesson about Mr. Obama’s negotiation methods. The Chinese no doubt saw how much the President wanted an agreement and that he would accept nearly anything that could pass as one.
 
Meaningless global warming promises are much easier than corralling weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, or convincing Beijing to fight Islamic State, or for that matter stopping Chinese cyber-attacks on U.S. military and corporate targets. Mr. Xi must have been delighted to see a U.S. President agree to make America less economically competitive in return for rhetorical bows to doing something someday about climate change.
 
 
 
5) Myron Ebell: Will US Republicans Disavow Obama’s Climate Deal With China?
GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014
 
U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a commitment by both countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2025-30, at the end of the APEC summit meeting in China on Wednesday.  President Obama pledged that the United States would reduce it emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, while President Xi pledged that China’s emissions would peak by “around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early, and to increase the share of non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20% by 2030.”  That quote is from the White House fact sheet on the agreement.
 
The Obama Administration’s long-stated goal has been to reduce emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.  That works out to an annual cut of 1.2% from 2005 onward.  The new goal would require a much faster rate of cuts.  The White House calculated that if the faster rate doesn’t begin until 2020, then the annual cut would work out to 2.3-2.8% from 2020 to 2025.
 
It is not clear what President Xi’s commitment means, but President Obama’s signature on the deal has no legal force.  And it will be up to future Presidents and Congresses after he leaves office in January 2017 to decide whether to require the emissions reductions agreed to.
 
Leaders of the official climate establishment quickly claimed that the U. S.-China agreement will provide new momentum to the international negotiations on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which will continue at the annual United Nations climate conference in December in Lima.  A new international agreement is supposed to be signed at the next UN conference scheduled for December 2015 in Paris.
 
Here for example is what former Senator Timothy Wirth said in a written statement: “Today’s announcement is the political breakthrough we’ve been waiting for….  If the two biggest players on climate are able to get together, from two very different perspectives, the rest of the world can see that it’s possible to make real progress.”  Wirth is the vice chairman of Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation and served as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs during the Clinton Administration, where he prepared the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
 
However, it doesn’t appear that there is much that is new in the agreement.  The Reuters story by David Stanway reporting from the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) summit in Beijing got it right in the headline: “China, US agree limits on emissions, but experts see little new.”
 
Stanway continues:
 
For China, the targets add little to its existing commitments to wean itself off carbon, environmental experts said.  ‘The statement is an upbeat signal to motivate other countries, but the timeline China has committed to is not a binding target,’ said Li Junfeng, an influential Chinese climate policy adviser linked to China’s state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.
 
There is also the little obstacle of Congress.  Republicans take control of the Senate in January.  Majorities in both the House and Senate will be opposed to the Obama Administration’s climate agenda.  It seems certain that they will be even more opposed to the new 26% cut by 2025 goal than they are to the 17% by 2020 goal.  My guess is that there will be votes on a resolution disavowing President Obama’s new commitments in both the House and Senate early in the 114th Congress.
 
That would complicate the State Department’s plans to announce its commitments that will be part of the Paris accord by the end of March.  In fact, if the House and Senate do disavow the deal with China, it would be a major international embarrassment to President Obama and would be a severe blow to the chances for a significant agreement in Paris in December 2015.
 
 
 
6) Chris Horner: A Single Non-Binding Climate “Deal” with China Is Meaningless, But a Series of Them Could Be Trouble
GlobalWarming.org, 12 November 2014
 
Headlines tout that the “U.S. and China have announced a landmark agreement to curb carbon emissions,” with the U.S. promising (to China) that it would emit 26% to 28% less carbon dioxide in ten years hence than it did ten years ago.  Naturally, under our system, for any such promise to be meaningful it requires Senate ratification under the Constitution’s Art. II, Sec. 2.  Therefore, some explanation is in order.
 
This promise — to China, recall — is not binding, is not intended to be binding, and will not be part of a binding promise to the rest of the world for the December 2015 Paris climate treaty talks.
 
This is the latest example of a new species of promise described as “politically binding”, a turn of phrase introduced in this context during the Bush years, in recognition of the fact that two-thirds of the US Senate will never agree to Kyoto-style constraints.  Shifting to “politically binding” promises also is an effort to circumvent that same reality by effectively introducing treaty commitments to the country without declaring them at customs.
 
Specifically, the Obama administration’s rhetorical vow is part of the shift in strategyrecognizing that the successor to the 1997 Kyoto treaty must culminate with a series of “soft” commitments (those who doubt this might compare the rhetoric by pressure groups embracing Beijing with their insistence during the Bush era that nothing less than a binding pact would do).
 
In very short, the idea is to embed the Obama EPA’s proposed GHG rules in a series of promises to the world, mindful of “customary international law.”  Under that often gauzy notion, once commitments, however informal, rise to a certain level of recognition, a nation is bound to not violate their “object and purpose.”  So, post-Paris, options could include (according told draft pleadings produced under open records laws) activist state attorneys general turning to the court system to add law to otherwise non-binding commitments.  That would similarly afford an opening to compliant regulatory agencies enamored of the practice known as sue-and-settle.
 
Regardless, the argument from 2016 onward will be that neither Congress, a new administration nor the courts can molest EPA’s GHG rules, other than to make them stronger of course, as they are at the core of serial promises to the world to enforce and abide by our own ‘climate’ laws; at the time those promises were made, they were made with these rules in mind.
 
Whatever one’s feelings about the plan, there it is, in un-nuanced brief.  Were it not, one has a difficult time explaining the passion of the “Treaty or Bust!” crowd for these non-binding vows.
 
As a column in the Financial Times ($) noted just days before the Beijing meeting, this has already prompted talk of a “restore the treaty process” resolution — or, for the more politically minded, a “Are you with Tom Steyer or your voters?” Sense of the Senate — modeled on the 1997 Byrd-Hagel resolution. The latter instructed President Clinton to not go to Kyoto and agree to that treaty. He did still go, agree to Kyoto, and even signed it eleven months later; sloppy reporting notwithstanding, we never “unsigned it” (as even then NYT belatedly acknowledged), but instead a non-binding resolution neutered our signature on even a purportedly binding pact.  Neither “the world” nor our courts could take anything from it as an expression of U.S. intent.
 
The immediate public concern is whether this promise, in return for China repeating its “promise to try” to peak its emissions in the future, actually means anything.  The answer is that, on its face, this “historic agreement” has the legal binding effect of a campaign leaflet.
 
However, as a “politically binding” promise, it begs (and hints at the answer to) the most important consideration: will it mean something?  That is, what are they trying to do with it?
 
The Obama administration and its cheerleaders are trying to toss another log or two on the fire of what is called customary international law, which is made up of promises so often made and so well understood that countries are obligated to not violate their object and purposes, regardless if it is not written somewhere.
 
They hope to persuade the media, the courts and anyone else they can, through the usual overwrought pressure tactics, that neither Congress, a new administration’s EPA, nor the courts can touch they greenhouse gas rules known as the war on coal.
 
They have been embedded in a series of promises to the world, and under customary international law we cannot violate them.
 
There is little doubt that reprising the aforementioned Sense of the Senate regarding Beijing/Paris would undermine the idea that these “soft” commitments actually commit the US to anything.‚Äč
 

 
 

 
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