December 6th 2014

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Articles from this issue:

SOCIETY The wealth of nations depends on the health of families

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Latest federal push for same-sex 'marriage'

MARRIAGE LAW Can state parliaments legislate for same-sex marriage?

TRIBUTE Famed Australian bioethicist who never sought public honours

CANBERRA OBSERVED Palmer party Senate split stymies government agenda

EDITORIAL Behind Obama's unfriendly behaviour at G20

ENVIRONMENT US-China climate agreement a cynical political ploy

AGRICULTURE Hope Dairies' big export venture to China

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Lesson of Japan's debt-free economic stimulus

EUROPE Will Ireland be the next European nation to ban surrogacy?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Cross-strait ties remain Taiwan's biggest challenge

OPINION Has 'quality' education for girls rally come to this?

CULTURE Visual media crucial for conveying truth

BOOK REVIEW A battle between titans

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US-China climate agreement a cynical political ploy

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 6, 2014

U.S. President Obama and China’s President, Xi Jinping, have been widely praised in the media for signing an agreement in Beijing, on November 11, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from 2020. 

President Xi Jinping

of China

Their agreement comes just weeks before this December’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Lima, Peru, which is one of the main events before the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris.

The speed with which the U.S.-China agreement was reached was evident in the fact that, even a week after it was signed, copies of the text were not on the U.S. President’s website. 

Curiously, there was no mention of the agreement on the Chinese government website:

The White House website posted a media release which declared: 

“Today in Beijing, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made history by jointly announcing the United States’ and China’s respective targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change in the post-2020 period. 

“By making this announcement well in advance of the deadline set out in the UN [Climate Change] negotiations, the two leaders demonstrated their commitment to reducing the harmful emissions warming our planet, and urged other world leaders to follow suit in offering strong national targets ahead of next year’s final negotiations in Paris. 

“Today, the Presidents of the United States and China announced their respective post-2020 actions on climate change, recognising that these actions are part of the longer range effort to transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the global temperature goal of 2°C.

“The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%. 

“China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.

“The United States and China hope that, by announcing these targets now, they can inject momentum into the global climate negotiations and inspire other countries to join in coming forward with ambitious actions as soon as possible, preferably by the first quarter of 2015. 

“The global scientific community has made clear that human activity is already changing the world’s climate system. Accelerating climate change has caused serious impacts.

“Higher temperatures and extreme weather events are damaging food production; rising sea levels and more damaging storms are putting our coastal cities increasingly at risk; and the impacts of climate change are already harming economies around the world, including those of the United States and China. These developments urgently require enhanced actions to tackle the challenge.”

Almost every one of these statements is either wrong, exaggerated or incomplete.

Scarcely had the ink on the agreement dried than United States became blanketed in early winter snow. 

The reported agreement is strange … for a number of reasons.

First, it is not an agreement in the usually accepted form, where each side gives binding undertakings to the other. Rather, it is a statement of intentions. And Obama did not discuss his plans with the U.S. Congress before going to Beijing.

Secondly, its announced intentions come into effect long after President Obama retires from the presidency in two years time, yet it is designed to get other countries to commit while President Obama is still in office.

Next, Obama said the U.S. intends to cut CO2 emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2025, but China intends to have peak emissions by 2030. In other words, its CO2 emissions will continue to increase until then, when fossil fuels will produce 80 per cent of China’s electricity.

The IPCC’s general secretary, Christiana Figueres, who arrived in Beijing a week after President Obama, met China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli on November 17.

According to the Chinese government web site, “Figueres spoke highly of China’s policy on climate change and its latest goals. She expects China to continue to play an active and constructive role in pushing for an agreement at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 as planned.”

In other words, the UN IPCC is happy to accept no reduction in China’s emissions before 2030, while insisting that the rest of the world cut CO2 emissions heavily before that time.

A further complication in the real world — as opposed to the fantasy world of the IPCC — is that the U.S. Senate, which must ratify any international agreement entered into by the President, will never agree to it. History shows this clearly.

Despite the UN convention on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, being adopted in 1997, and signed by President Bill Clinton the following year, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify it at any time Clinton was in office. Nor did it ratify the Kyoto Protocol when President Obama had control of both houses of Congress from 2009 until 2010.

The agreement of the presidents of the U.S. and China was a political ploy the purpose of which was to stampede other countries into an agreement which neither the U.S. nor China will honour.

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