Established and liberal media outlets are touting President Obama’s pact with China to cut carbon dioxide emissions and fight global warming as a huge diplomatic success.
What’s overlooked, however, is the fact that Obama’s global warming deal is far from binding and only represents a vague promise from China to have carbon dioxide emissions peak by 2030 while giving no firm targets for emissions cuts.
Nevertheless, media outlets spun it as a huge diplomatic success for the White House.
The Obama-China deal was a “landmark agreement,” according to The New York Times. “It was a signature achievement of an unexpectedly productive two days of meetings between the leaders,” argues the Times.
The Times also argued that the supposed foreign policy victory with China could help Obama “reclaim some of the momentum he lost at home” after Democrats were swept out of power in the midterm elections.
USA Today reported the U.S. and China reached an “historic” agreement to cut emissions, citing Obama’s own words on the deal. USA Today called the deal a “breakthrough on emissions” that “formed the highlight of Obama’s trip” to Asia.
The Washington Post spun the deal as a “far-reaching agreement” that has “China committing for the first time to cap carbon emissions.” The Post says “China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, pledged in the far-reaching agreement to cap its rapidly growing carbon emissions by 2030, or earlier if possible.”
Politico reports that “the targets offer the clearest indication yet that the United States and China — the world’s top carbon emitters — are serious about reaching an agreement at United Nations negotiations in Paris at the end of 2015” adding that the tentative deal could boost prospects of a global climate treaty being agreed to next year.
“The nonbinding targets could undercut GOP objections that Obama’s climate change efforts at home would be ineffective in slowing climate change without action from Beijing,” Politico noted, at least acknowledging the targets were not legally enforceable.
“The United States and China, the world’s two biggest contributors to climate change, have struck a new, more ambitious deal to cut their greenhouse gas emissions,” reports the liberal news site ThinkProgress. “The pledge will serve as a new and more ambitious commitment for United States to bring to the international community, as countries around the world prepare for the next round of international climate talks in Paris in 2015.”
So was Obama’s agreement with China a great success?
Not really. Obama has likely committed the U.S. to more emissions cuts than even the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandated carbon dioxide cuts for power plants aims to achieve, which means that more climate regulations and executive orders are likely on the way.
China, on the other hand, has not given the U.S. any firm emissions targets to work with. President Xi has simply reaffirmed the country will “do its best” to peak emissions by 2030 — some energy analysts predict Chinese emissions will likely peak around this time anyway.
Moreover, Obama only has about two more years left in office, meaning the vast majority of carbon dioxide emissions cuts will be done under subsequent administrations. There’s nothing to stop a future U.S. president from reneging on these commitments.
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