Another climate conclave comes and goes.Dec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Nicholas Stern is one of the world’s über-environmentalists, the author of the famous Stern Review, a 700-page study released by the British government in 2006, which concluded, “Climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent response.” Eight years on, Stern professes himself satisfied that the 13-day, 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate, concluded last week in Lima, Peru, is an important step towards a new agreement at the climate change summit to be held in Paris in December 2015. Of course, Stern and others in the climate change crowd agree there is much work to be done by then, and even after a deal is reached.
That may well be, but neither the Lima agreement nor what is yet to come has much to do with whether the goal of this exercise, set in Copenhagen in 2009 by world leaders, will be obtained—to prevent global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, thereby averting floods and droughts, storms and insects, and perhaps even the plagues visited upon the Egyptians by a wrathful God. The U.N. Environmental Program reported last month that to avoid this 2-degree increase and the catastrophic damage it is forecast to bring, global emissions must peak by around 2025 and fall to half their current level by 2050.
That’s a tall order for three reasons. First, Latin American and other poor countries (and some not-so-poor ones) are desperate for growth and see green policies as impediments to growth. Second, many participating countries do not even have the ability to measure their emissions, which should be a prerequisite for proving that commitments have been met. Finally, President Obama is insisting that the goals nations set for themselves be nonbinding. He points out that despite America’s failure to sign the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, we have met its target, no matter that it took a huge increase in supplies of natural gas and a long recession to get us there.
Obama has no choice but to rely on some form of voluntary compliance. Recall that the Senate in 1997 voted 95-0 to set conditions for ratifying Kyoto that the Clinton-Gore administration knew it could not meet. So President Clinton, taking the Senate’s advice that it would not consent, did not send the proposed treaty for ratification, although Al Gore nevertheless went ahead and signed it, to no effect other than to secure his standing as America’s greenest politician. Kyoto expires in 2020, and the purpose of next year’s meeting in Paris is to replace it with . . . well, certainly not with another treaty that will not be ratified by the Senate. Instead, each country is to come to the table in March to lay out its “intended nationally determined contribution” [INDC] to reducing its emissions starting in 2020.
Those INDCs, which some countries say they cannot contrive until June, will cover 50 shades of green, a spectrum ranging from Obama’s dark green, to Canada’s, Australia’s, and Russia’s shades of pale green, and on through India’s forget green, we prefer coal-gray. The developing countries are interested in a different kind of green—greenbacks. They were exempted from the Kyoto Protocol and surrendered that exemption in Lima in return for promises of cold cash and treatment that differentiates them from developed countries, e.g., no outside monitoring. They say: We are where we are because the rich countries have been sending emissions skyward since the industrial revolution, and therefore
the wealthy countries should shoulder most of the burden of reducing emissions, and transfer large sums to developing countries to compensate us for joining the battle to reduce emissions. The relation of these demands to problems created by their cooperation in reducing emissions is somewhat unclear: Similar demands had been put to the developed world well before climate change became an issue and a new bottle into which to pour this old wine. The Lima award for chutzpah was won by Saudi Arabia, which is demanding compensation from wealthier countries, if any there be, for oil revenues the kingdom might lose as a result of any emission-reduction policies that result from these meetings.
President Obama pledged $3 billion of taxpayers’ money (specific source of funds as yet unidentified) to the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. agency in South Korea (headquarters for these sorts of organizations get spread around the world), matching the total pledged by Germany, France, and South Korea. Japan says it will toss $1.5 billion into the pot, and other countries have contributed enough to meet the fund’s initial capitalization goal of $10 billion. That still leaves it more than a bit short of the $100 billion annually developed countries pledged to mobilize back in 2009.
12:48 PM, Dec 18, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Buried in the avalanche of Cuba and North Korea news was this revealing tidbit about the Obama administration's environmental priorities:
The Obama administration will set duties on solar products from China and Taiwan that combined could exceed more than 200 percent, adding fuel to a renewable-energy clash between the U.S. and China.
6:29 AM, Dec 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Chinese equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, has been awarded to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
"Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is this year's winner of the Confucius Peace Prize, China's alternative to the Nobel Prize," reports the Associated Press.
Xi lowers the boom on Hong Kong.Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
With the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing safely over and regional leaders departed, China’s new strongman Xi Jinping decided to lower the boom on Hong Kong. Police there began clearing the barricades last week from the city’s main thoroughfare with the students in apparent retreat. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, widely perceived as Beijing’s puppet, was quoted by Reuters as promising “resolute action” and warning students not to return to occupation sites.
12:00 AM, Nov 15, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
There is more than might have been, but a lot less than first meets the eye. That describes the climate deal struck this week by President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping in their private two-day meeting following a gathering of 19 Asian Pacific leaders in Beijing. The very fact of a deal is more than even well-informed observers expected.
7:25 AM, Nov 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Late last night, the White House announced a carbon deal with China. As the Washington Post explains:
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Obama struck a deal Wednesday to limit greenhouse gases, with China committing for the first time to cap carbon emissions and Obama unveiling a plan for deeper U.S. emissions reductions through 2025.
7:37 AM, Nov 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
President Obama told the president of China he wants to "take the relationship to a new level."
Obama, who is visiting China as part of a global summit, attended an event at the residence of Chinese president Xi Jinping Tuesday. According to the pool report, Xi told Obama he wanted to work more closely with the Americans, and the American president agreed.
9:10 AM, Nov 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama put on a purple silk robe, matching the one worn by the Chinese president, to watch a fireworks display for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation he's attending in China.
"It's a tradition that each year the APEC host provides shirt or jacket for the other leaders as sign of cooperation," says CBS's Mark Knoller.
An idea for the president.7:48 AM, Nov 10, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
President Obama, an increasingly leaky White House tells us, fears irrelevance. I am still relevant, the president all-but declared at his recent press conference. And to prove it, he told us about his constitutional authority to issue executive orders and to veto bills that he finds in conflict with his progressive agenda. Perhaps.
9:04 AM, Nov 6, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
During the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, the U.S. military used a new generation of technological weapons that left the rest of the world far behind.
10:31 AM, Oct 28, 2014 • By ELLEN BORK
On Sunday, the leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy protests abruptly scrapped a poll of protester sentiment they had announced just days earlier. The idea of the poll had been to get protesters’ reactions to two bones thrown to them by the Hong Kong government in televised talks held on October 21.
11:44 AM, Oct 20, 2014 • By ELLEN BORK
Representatives of the student led democracy protests in Hong Kong are due to enter into a dialogue with the Hong Kong government on Tuesday. The prospects for success are not good. The two sides are far apart, with the government saying it will not even discuss the protesters’ chief demand – the democratic election of the chief execut
Who stands with Hong Kong’s democrats?Oct 20, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 06 • By ELLEN BORK
On the evening of Saturday, October 4, enormous crowds gathered in downtown Hong Kong at the main site of the democracy protests that have dominated the affairs of this city of 7.2 million for weeks. They filled an eight-lane thoroughfare in the center of the Admiralty business district, spilling out around the adjacent government office complex. Banners hanging from overpasses demanded democracy and denounced the deeply unpopular, Beijing-appointed chief executive, CY Leung.