by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At a Beijing press conference, President Obama called a new China-United States climate deal a “historic agreement.” Grist assures us that the “New U.S.-China climate deal is a game changer.” Business Week concurred, explaining “Why the U.S.-China Emissions Pact Could Be a Climate Change Breakthrough.” Vox took it even further and declared: “Obama’s climate deal proves China is the biggest foreign policy success of his presidency.” (Which may be true. And sad.) The rest of the media, unsurprisingly, offered comparable takes on the deal.
I guess when you’re on the lookout for good news any morsel will do. But there are two problems with treating the deal as big news. 1: We’re not really doing anything we weren’t going to do anyway. 2: Either is China.
Considering the players, it’s also appropriate to point out that the Obama administration plans on using Chinese-style governance to satisfy our end of the climate agreement. It’s what one-party autocracy enthusiast Thomas Friedman might call “leadership.”
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 their output against ours.
Until 2030, that is, or some year around that time, when China’s carbon emissions are expected peak. Specifics aren’t important. At that point, China promises that it will implement some vague action plan at some vague point in the future. All we need to do is trust them. The agreement contains no binding language requiring any goals to be met. Our president is no Scott Boras.