While attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing this week, President Obama decided to get some real work done towards slowing the effects of climate change on the planet. On Tuesday evening, it was announced that the United States and China had come to an agreement to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainable energy consumption. Obama stated that the US would double its current reduction of greenhouse gases so that by 2025, the country’s carbon emissions are 26% to 28% less than they were in 2005.
Meanwhile, China is going to ensure that its carbon emissions levels do not grow after 2030 and hopefully get them to start dropping sooner. The country’s leader, President Xi Jinping, also agreed that China will increase its share of non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 20% by 2030. In order to do that, China will need to boost its current capacity from solar, wind and nuclear by at least 1,000 gigawatts. Currently, that amount is more than what the coal-fired plants in the country produce.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 12, 2014
One common refrain from Republicans who have opposed increases in green energy and restrictions on carbon emissions has been that, even if they were to agree that global climate change is real, it is pointless for the United States to do anything if large countries like China continue to use fossil fuels unchecked. Now that Obama has brought China to the table and got them to agree to go in a greener direction, that part of the conservative argument falls apart.
Of course, the real reason most Republicans in Washington oppose any significant action on climate change isn’t because of the science behind it or indifference from developing countries or the difficulty in creating a new energy infrastructure. Nope. The real reason is their extremely close ties to the oil, coal natural gas industries and the promises they’ve made that they will do everything they can to obstruct any attempts to curb the use of fossil fuels and expand the use of sustainable energy.
Therefore, once the President made his announcement, the predictable outrage came from the right. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has long been in the pocket of the coal industry, whined right away that Obama was killing jobs.
“Our economy can’t take the President’s ideological War on Coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners. This unrealistic plan, that the President would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs…The president said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them.”
“This announcement is yet another sign that the president intends to double down on his job-crushing policies no matter how devastating the impact for America’s heartland and the country as a whole. And it is the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families. Republicans have consistently passed legislation to rein in the EPA and stop these harmful policies from taking effect, and we will continue to make this a priority in the new Congress.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who wrote a book claiming global warming is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people, and is now in line to chair the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, was also critical of the deal. He said the following to the Washington Post.
“It’s hollow and not believable for China to claim it will shift 20 percent of its energy to non-fossil fuels by 2030, and a promise to peak its carbon emissions only allows the world’s largest economy to buy time…The American people spoke against the President’s climate policies in this last election. As we enter a new Congress, I will do everything in my power to reign [sic] in and shed light on the EPA’s unchecked regulations.”
If these men are against this agreement so vociferously, it means the President is probably doing something right. With China and the US coming to a bilateral deal regarding long-term goals in energy usage and greenhouse gases, it appears that climate change can now place higher on the list of priorities in subsequent G20 conferences. While this deal is a move in the right direction, there is a whole lot more that needs to be done, and done soon.