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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Economy / AlterNet / By Janet Allon

Paul Krugman on Why the U.S.-China Agreement on Carbon Emissions Is a Really Big Deal
“It’s been a good week for the planet.”

November 14, 2014 |

The climate deal reached by the U.S. and China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting this week is a very big deal, Paul Krugman writes in his Friday column.

The opposition to doing anything to save the planet has been long, idiotic and stubborn, and of course will continue in Republican circles, especially as Senator James Inhofe, who believes climate change is a hoax, takes over the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Climate change denialists have even pursued witch hunts against climate scientists.

There have also been the economic scare tactics, which argue that limiting emissions will destroy jobs and end growth. “This argument sits oddly with the right’s usual faith in markets,” Krugman writes. “We’re supposed to believe that business can transcend any problem, adapt and innovate around any limits, but would shrivel up and die if policy put a price on carbon. Still, what’s bad for the Koch brothers must be bad for America, right?”

There are those, like new Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who wring their hands over the “war on coal,” which is not making a lot of impact, Krugman points out, since coal mining employs few people, and they’ve already been defeated.

What makes the agreement truly meaningful, Krugman argues, is that even Americans who are worried about global warming (most people) have felt helpless to fight it with other developing countries like China continuing to pollute. And, until now, no one thought China would get on board to help protect the climate. In some ways, this has been understandable, Krugman writes.

America is not exactly the most reliable negotiating partner on these issues, with climate denialists controlling Congress and the only prospect of action in the near future, and maybe for many years, coming from executive orders. (Not to mention the possibility that the next president could well be an anti-environmentalist who could reverse anything President Obama does.) Meanwhile, China’s leadership has to deal with its own nationalists, who hate any suggestion that the newly risen superpower might be letting the West dictate its policies. So what we’re getting here is more a statement of principle than the shape of policy to come.

Still, though, there is a lot to cheer here, Krugman concludes.

Until now, those of us who argued that China could be induced to join an international climate agreement were speculating. Now we have the Chinese saying that they are, indeed, willing to deal — and the opponents of action have to claim that they don’t mean what they say.

Needless to say, I don’t expect the usual suspects to concede that a major part of the anti-environmentalist argument has just collapsed. But it has. This was a good week for the planet.

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SENATOR IMHOFE IS FROM OILKLAHOMA AND HAS AN OIL-CRAZED WORKERS AND COMPANY CEO’S _ THAT IS WHY HE OWNS THE ENERGY COMMITTEE. SO BE IT! I Met him at Kyoto and like him did not think the Protocol was a good idea. But since then I could not accept any other idea he stood for. // SustainabiliTank
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Charlie Wood for the whole 350.org team writes:

This week, just weeks after the largest climate mobilisation ever, the world’s two biggest polluters — the United States and China — announced their most ambitious climate action yet. That is not a coincidence: it’s a sign that our pressure is working, and that we need to apply much more.

The emissions of China and the US have been used by governments around the world as an excuse to dodge their own responsibilities. But this new agreement leaves these governments with nowhere left to hide and opens the door for real progress from global governments. Right now, world leaders are converging on Australia for the G20 leaders summit and we have momentum on our side.

But Tony Abbott, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister and host of the G20, is refusing to allow a meaningful discussion of climate change at the G20. Climate change is the elephant in the room and Tony Abbott is asking the G20 to ignore it.

Send a message to Tony Abbott and tell him that he needs to get out of the way of climate action at the G20 and put climate change back on the agenda.

The world is ready to act. Most countries want to talk about climate change but Australia’s climate denying government is using their position as President to block discussion. We are not going to let one politician block discussion on climate change get off easy.

Put the pressure on Tony Abbott to stop blocking discussion at the G20 and get out of the way of real climate action.

There is plenty that the G20 could talk about when it comes to climate action. G20 countries are wasting US $88 billion a year just to help fossil fuel companies find new fossil fuel reserves, despite numerous warnings from scientists that we need to leave the fossil fuels we already know about in the ground.

With the new agreement between the US and China, now is the time for the G20 to commit to ending fossil fuel subsidies and taking steps towards real action on climate change. But unless Tony Abbott lets them talk about it, no commitments will be made.

Keep the pressure on Tony Abbott. Tell him to get out of the way of real progress.

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And from the Canadian International Institute based in Winnipeg:

US-China Climate Commitment first step in road to phasing out coal and welcoming increased renewables says IISD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WINNIPEG—14 November 2014—The U.S. and China’s joint climate commitment is a strong boost for the international process and should pave the way for a phasing out of the use of coal and increased use of renewable energies, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD),

This important step comes directly after Ban Ki Moon’s successful New York Summit, and very early on the “Road to Paris 2015” and the international agreement expected there. But what does the announcement tell us about how the two countries will meet these commitments, and what steps might they and other countries take next?

“The Road to Paris will see countries pledging what they can deliver within their domestic political constraints,” said Peter Wooders, group leader of the Energy program at IISD. “This realism is a pragmatic first step and a change from the ‘top down’ commitment process which has largely stalled the UNFCCC, and which the U.S. could never ratify in any event, given division in Congress.”

IISD analysis notes that the U.S. and China have been able to make this commitment thanks to the common factor of coal, a major source of electricity generation in both countries. The “Shale Gas Revolution” in the U.S., its existing mix of power plants which allow ready switching between coal and natural gas, as well as the opportunity to import hydro power from Canadian provinces, give the U.S. the opportunity to significantly reduce projected emissions. In China, further increases in coal mining and supply are not the low-cost option they were once thought to be, and financial and environmental drivers – with the air quality of Beijing the most well-known issue – will reduce the reliance on coal.

“The use of coal has traditionally been under-priced, i.e. subsidized. Financially, the exploration, mining, transport and construction of coal plants has been supported around the world. Environmentally, we have not fully accounted for the air pollution and other costs,” said Wooders. “When these costs are taken into account – which they should be – renewable technologies and energy efficiency become much more attractive. But this is a major change to the business models around electricity generation, and will bring resistance from the potential losers and lobbying from the potential winners. The Chinese government in particular – as China does not currently have the scale of shale gas available to the U.S. – will need to support the energy transition through good policy.”

IISD’s work in China, and more broadly, focuses on some of the key tools needed:

the identification of subsidies to coal and renewable energy suppliers, allowing for a debate on their costs; the strong link between the government’s renewable commitments and the development of their renewable technology industries (“green industrial policy”); how the fiscal system can be made to work for sustainable development (“greening the financial system”); sustainable public procurement as an enabler of change; and the creation of low-carbon economic zones; the more general policy implementation support which comes from understanding who is impacted and how much, and how these impacts may be mitigated or the vested interests confronted.

The door is now open for renewables, and can be pushed wider.

And what of Canada? Its government has aligned its climate change policies – including overall targets – to that of the U.S. in the past. Both countries recently introduced regulations on coal-fired power generation, essentially banning new coal plant construction and – in the case of the U.S. – imposing constraints on existing plants. For Canada to follow the U.S. in terms of an overall target, however, it will have to find savings elsewhere. It – and other countries with relatively low coal generation – will need to move to reductions in oil and gas consumption and production now; they do not have the luxury of the one-off gain from the phase-out of coal.

For more information please contact Sumeep Bath, IISD media and communications officer, at  sbath at iisd.org or +1 (204) 958 7740.

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