Now that the mid-term elections are over in the US, Obama is free to announce the climate commitments that voters didn’t need to hear. (I did say this would happen.) It’s a “landmark” agreement and a “gamechanger”, but no one can point out what happens if either country doesn’t stick to its agreement.
The end-point of this grand theater of intent and glorious promises is Paris 2015.
What matters is the appearance of “momentum” — and this show ticks all the boxes. The two global superpowers make a sudden, unexpected agreement to reduce emissions and the press can call it “remarkable”, as if it has substance. Obama – the President without a majority in either house of Congress – has announced a big new target of 26% reduction by 2025. What can a lame-duck President achieve? Fluff and PR. As it happens, US emissions have been falling for years because of the miracle of shale oil. This announcement supposedly doubles the pace of that reduction which was occurring anyhow, and which had nothing to do with any green policies aimed at reducing emissions. Furthermore, Obama, magically, will do it without imposing new restrictions on power plants or vehicles. What’s not to like?
The Chinese, meanwhile, were projected to hit their peak emissions in 2030 anyhow. So their big commitment is to keep doing what they were going to do anyway mostly. Let’s have a press conference. Everybody cheer. It’s historic baby.