China-US deal more likely to wreck planet than save it

United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping of China have signed a bilateral climate agreement.

Much of the US and British media, and many US Democrats, have hailed the deal as a key step forward. Many US Republicans have attacked it as going much too far.

Anything the Republicans attack has to be good. Right? No. In fact it is an appalling deal.

Let's look at the numbers.

The US has agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. But 2005 was the highest year ever for US emissions. They have already declined 10% in eight years. Obama is promising that they will decline another 18% in 15 years.

China has agreed to reach peak emissions by 2030. Chinese economic growth has been running 10% a year. If that growth continued, Chinese emissions in 2030 would be four times what they are now.

But economic growth will not continue at that level, and there will be some progress in energy efficiency. Still, this is a promise to roughly double Chinese emissions by 2030.

The US and China between them produce almost half the world's CO2 emissions (45%). If the US cuts 18% and China doubles emission, their combined emissions will rise by more than a third.

But worse, even if they cut emissions in half, they would still be raising the amount of CO2 in the air each year. They would be warming the planet.

Instead, they are increasing the amount of CO2 they put in the air each year. They are promising to warm the planet faster each year.

But it is even worse than that. After another 15 years of increased emissions, we will have to cut even more deeply to get back where we started. Even if they cut emissions as fast as they increased them, we will only get back to the current level of emissions some time after 2040. And where we are now is, everyone agrees, unacceptable.

But it is still worse than that. These are only promises. Nothing will hold them to these promises. And they are promises about 2030. They are not promises to cut global emissions by even 1% next year.

And the worst thing of all is: This is a deal between the US and China. Two men, from two countries, are taking all the decisions for the world. They are confident that all the other countries, and all seven billion of us, will fall into line.

Their staff negotiated this deal in secret. The whole panoply of United Nations negotiations over climate, the Kyoto treaty, all those meetings and experts and negotiations, are redundant.

The US president and the Chinese president will decide the fate of the world. And they have made the wrong decision.

This is why the Campaign against Climate Change campaigns for One Million Climate Jobs, real investment in jobs that can reduce emissions and create unemployment. As Naomi Klein says, we need “mass social movements” to act on climate change.

It is why we, together with others, are building towards major protests on March 7 next year as well as next year’s UN climate talks in Paris.

[Reprinted from Campaign against Climate Change, Jonathan Neale is International Coordinator of the Campaign against Climate Change.]

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