Coal Tattoo

What about China: Obama makes major climate deal

Barack Obama, Xi Jinping

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping drink a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. Obama is on a state visit after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The United States and China pledged Wednesday to take ambitious action to limit greenhouse gases, aiming to inject fresh momentum into the global fight against climate change ahead of high-stakes climate negotiations next year. (AP Photo/Greg Baker, Pool)

Here in the coalfields of West Virginia, one of the constant refrains against any U.S. action to reduce greenhouse emissions is: But what about China?

For example, here’s Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers, trashing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants:

We hear from the supporters of this rule that if the United States ‘takes the lead’ on reducing carbon emissions, then others will follow. But what evidence do we have that they actually will? And why on earth should we be willing to sacrifice the lives and livelihoods of thousands upon thousands of our fellow citizens on the naive bet that current and emerging economic competitors like China, India, Brazil, Russia and others will follow our lead?

History shows that they will not. They will, instead, use this as an opportunity to take more of our jobs, more of our industrial base, more of our national wealth.

Or, here’s Sen. Joe Manchin, in a Senate floor discussion about how coal is the future:

Currently China burns more than 4 billion tons per year. They are not stopping or letting up. If anything, they are increasing their consumption and building
more coal-fired plants as we speak, while the United States and Europe each burn less than 1 billion tons. So the United States of America, you could say, uses less than one-eighth of the coal consumed annually in the world. If we stopped burning every kind of coal, would that really clean up the climate?

And here’s West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, speaking out against the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change:

Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States have dropped 12% from 2005 levels, while emissions in other countries continue to increase. Even if these guidelines were adopted in their current form, and I stress that West Virginia will do everything in its power to keep that from happening, those reductions would be offset by other countries – countries that would be taking American jobs as they continue to produce electricity at a lower cost.

But a funny thing happened on the way to all these folks using the China card. Here’s the lead from The New York Times:

China and the United States made common cause on Wednesday against the threat of climate change, staking out an ambitious joint plan to curb carbon emissions as a way to spur nations around the world to make their own cuts in greenhouse gases.

The landmark agreement, jointly announced here by President Obama and President Xi Jinping, includes new targets for carbon emissions reductions by the United States and a first-ever commitment by China to stop its emissions from growing by 2030.

Administration officials said the agreement, which was worked out quietly between the United States and China over nine months and included a letter from Mr. Obama to Mr. Xi proposing a joint approach, could galvanize efforts to negotiate a new global climate agreement by 2015.

The story continues:

A climate deal between China and the United States, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, is viewed as essential to concluding a new global accord. Unless Beijing and Washington can resolve their differences, climate experts say, few other countries will agree to mandatory cuts in emissions, and any meaningful worldwide pact will be likely to founder.

“The United States and China have often been seen as antagonists,” said a senior official, speaking in advance of Mr. Obama’s remarks. “We hope that this announcement can usher in a new day in which China and the U.S. can act much more as partners.”

As part of the agreement, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. That is double the pace of reduction it targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020.

China’s pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, is even more remarkable. To reach that goal, Mr. Xi pledged that so-called clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.

Writing on his Dot Earth blog, longtime climate reporter Andrew Revkin observed:

After years of “you first” rhetoric on addressing the unrelenting buildup of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, China and the United States, the world’s biggest emitters, agreed in Beijing on Wednesday to intensify domestic steps and international partnerships to rein in their contributions to global warming … With recent new commitments from Europe, this means that countries responsible for more than half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are accelerating their emissions cutting plans … There are plenty of hurdles ahead, but this shift bodes well for the next rounds of negotiations toward a global climate agreement, in Lima next month and Paris a year from now.

The National Journal reported:

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought to cast the announcements as a turning point in talks over a new global climate deal. Negotiators will meet in Peru late this year ahead of the make-or-break talks in Paris in late 2015.

“This leadership demonstrated by the governments of the world’s two largest economies will give the international community an unprecedented chance to succeed at reaching a meaningful, universal agreement in 2015,” a spokesman for the U.N. leader said late Tuesday night.

Here’s more coverage from Inside Climate News and from Climate Progress.