November 21, 2014
The Obama-China Climate Deal Can’t Save the World. So What?

by Michael A. Levi

While environmentalists, Democrats and other supporters of last week’s U.S.-China climate deal rushed to outdo themselves with hyperbolic congratulations (“game-changer”, “historical”, “this century’s most significant agreement”), the other side can’t dump enough cold water: “terrible”, “changes nothing”, a “waste of time.” And in a way, the skeptics are absolutely right. This deal will definitely not solve the climate problem.

But the rest of their criticism makes no sense.

The first complaint about the deal is that it’s nothing new. On the U.S. side, this criticism requires a misreading of current U.S. policy. John Kemp, writing for Reuters, claims that the contours of U.S. emissions-cutting target are “essentially the same as those proposed in the Clean Power Plan published by the Environmental Protection Agency in June.” But the Clean Power Plan, as its name suggests, only targets carbon dioxide from power plants, which are less than a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The new commitment, in contrast, covers the entire U.S. economy.

For Detail