Nonsequitur: Historic Environmental Agreement Between China and the US?

November 13, 2014

Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday announced a plan for curbing “greenhouse gas” pollution. The US agreed to cut U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China pledged to cap its rapidly growing carbon emissions and increase the share of non-fossil fuels of the country’s energy production by 2030. The two countries are the top two emitters of carbon gasses.

However, China did not set specific emmissions targets; it merely agreed to “cap” them at an unspecified rate in the future. Also, it is questionable whether this agreement can be ratified in the US Senate. Multiple US leaders have noted that under the agreement, US action is required now, while China has only offered action in the future, without consequences for failing to do so. Given the “lame duck” status of the President, this may be similar to President Clinton’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol in the late 90s – an important symbolic act, but neither ratifiable nor practical to enforce. In other words, like much of President Obama’s policy “successes,” this is more political than actual.

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