Why the U.S.-China Climate Deal Is Bad News for Climate Activists


(Photo: Whitehouse.gov)

Hopes that last December’s climate talks in Lima would reverse the momentum towards climate catastrophe were dashed by an event that was announced three weeks before: the so-called U.S.-China climate deal.

Said to be the product of nine months of secret talks, the agreement between the United States (history’s leading carbon emitter) and China (today’s leading emitter) was lauded in many quarters as a “breakthrough.”

Climate skeptics to the end, Republicans in the United States predictably criticized the deal as detrimental to the U.S. economy and skewed in favor of China. But the deal evoked a fair share of criticism from experienced climate observers as well.

The key provision triggering dismay was the agreement that China would not begin reducing its emissions until 2030. And the U.S. commitment to bring down its own emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels — while significant — will not be enough to derail the planet from the track towards a 2-degree centigrade increase in temperature by the turn of the century. For the U.S. cuts to begin to make even the slightest dent, the baseline should have been 1990 levels, which have long served as the universally agreed standard.

Moreover, the critics point out, the deal does not have the force of law. This is crucial, since mere executive action will not be sufficient to accomplish the cuts that President Obama’s negotiators promised. And the new Republican-controlled Congress is not likely to legislate the powers necessary for the Democratic president to deliver on his promise to the Chinese.

Obama and Xi’s Message to Lima

It was, however, the message the agreement delivered to the negotiators from over 190 countries assembling in Lima during the first two weeks of December that proved most disconcerting.

What Obama and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were telling the delegates was something like this: “We’re not going to subject what we decide to agree on to a multilateral process. Moreover, what we offer in terms of emissions cuts will not be determined by some objective assessment of what we should be offering, guided by science and the principles of equity, but by what we ourselves decide to place on the table. Also, compliance will be purely voluntary.”

The U.S.-China accord was, of course, just one of the elements that influenced the outcome of the negotiations in Lima. However, it was decisive.

In short, the unilateral and non-transparent process of setting voluntary emissions cuts dashed hopes for setting up a more rigorous climate regime — one based on mandatory emissions cuts — at the December 2015 talks in Paris. Moreover, the deal provided the formula for a face-saving retreat by developing countries from their tough stand that it should be the rich industrialized countries that bear the burden of emissions cuts — a stance that was encapsulated in the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” Rich countries have generally resisted this demand.

The phrase that broke the deadlock on this front in Lima was copied and pasted from the U.S.-China accord, which modified the principle to “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”

For the rich industrialized countries — and the big emerging economies as well — this blurring of the lines was a major victory, since it meant that dealing with the greenhouse gases that have accumulated owing largely to their own production and consumption will now be every country’s responsibility. And saying something is everyone’s responsibility really means that it’s no one’s responsibility.

With China joining the developed countries in promoting this redefinition, many developing countries felt they had been left with no option but to sign on to the “Lima Call for Climate Action” at the conclusion of the talks. Not surprisingly, many felt they were left high and dry by China’s climate “pivot,” as some negotiators termed it.

To Lidy Nacpil of the climate advocacy organization Jubilee South, the Lima outcome is “another fatal step in the strategic retreat from the Kyoto Protocol,” which had bound the developed countries to mandatory emissions cuts. Nacpil and other climate activists see the Lima declaration as setting a weak foundation for the new climate regime — which is supposed to be inaugurated in Paris in December 2015 — that will replace the Kyoto Protocol. The centerpiece of the coming regime will be the so-called “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs), or the voluntarily offered emissions cuts that will be made by countries in lieu of mandatory pledges.

Flaws of the Lima Declaration

Perhaps the most comprehensive and incisive analysis of the Lima outcome comes from Pablo Solon, executive director of the Bangkok-based analysis and advocacy institute Focus on the Global South. Formerly Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Solon outlines the main flaws of the Lima agreement:

  • It mentions “loss and damage” from climate change in the preamble, but fails to say anything more definitive on how compensation will be paid to countries and communities now suffering from the emissions caused by the climate-polluting countries.
  • The text makes no mention of the need to change current patterns of production and consumption. “The different proposals focus on reductions of emissions produced in a country, and not the emissions consumed in a country,” Solon asserts. He points out that one-third of carbon emissions associated with the goods and services consumed in developed countries are being emitted outside the borders of those nations — mostly in the developing countries where goods are manufactured for export. “It is not enough,” he observes, “to reduce emissions in developed countries if they do not also reduce their consumption of products that generate CO2 emissions in other parts of the world.”
  • The text is quiet on the need to keep 75 to 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves under the ground, something that must be done if carbon emissions are to be limited to an acceptable level. “Indeed, in the 1,892 lines of the text,” Solon points out, “there is only one mention of ‘fossil fuels’— regarding a proposal to phase out ‘fossil fuel subsidies’ — and there are only general mentions of ‘reductions in high-carbon investments.’”
  • The declaration avoids identifying the sources of funding for the $100-billion Green Climate Fund that would support the adaptation efforts of the global South.

Solon reserves his strongest criticism for the lack of a compliance mechanism to ensure that countries live up to their voluntary pledges. “What happens if a big polluter fails to cut emissions on time and damages a vulnerable country?” he asks. “No mention is made of a mechanism to demand and sanction governments and corporations for their inaction. All the options in the text consider only processes of review or assessment. A climate agreement without a strong compliance mechanism is just a political declaration.”

Solon’s concern is a matter of great importance to developing countries, since over the last few years, Canada, Russia, and New Zealand have withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, and Australia and Japan have failed to reach their legally binding targets under the convention. Yet these countries have not been sanctioned.

The Washington-Beijing Climate Axis

What’s most damaging is the watering down of the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” as a result of joint lobbying by chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. The new formulation, according to Solon, “will dilute more and more the historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions of developed and emerging economies.”

The big losers are the poor underdeveloped countries. The big winners are China and the United States, which according to Solon now “have an agreement to erase their responsibility for the climate chaos they created.”

In the past, the United States and China used each other’s intransigence as an excuse to avoid making cuts in their carbon emissions. But the world was becoming weary of this game, forcing the two to drop their pretense of opposing each other in favor of a show of cooperation. With their climate agreement and the Lima Declaration they played a central role in crafting, the two biggest emitters have set the parameters of global climate action.

Unless these parameters are resisted, they will all but ensure that a destabilized climate will be this generation’s catastrophic legacy to our descendants.

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Walden Bello is a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and a long-time climate activist. An earlier version of this piece appeared in Telesur English.

  • severeanxiety767


    ► 99% of Rhinos gone since 1914.

    ► 97% of Tigers gone since 1914.

    ► 90% of Lions gone since 1993.

    ► 90% of Sea Turtles gone since 1980.

    ► 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995.

    ► 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950.

    ► 80% of Western Gorillas gone since 1955.

    ► 75% of River & Riverbank Species gone since 1970.

    .. ► 75,000 dams block U.S. rivers built over 75 years.

    ► 60% of Forest Elephants gone since 1970.

    ► 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.

    ► 50% of Human Sperm Counts gone since 1950.

    ► 50% of Fresh Water Fish gone since 1987.

    ► 40% of Giraffes gone since 2000.

    ► 30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995.

    ► 28% of Land Animals gone since 1970.

    ► 28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970.

    ► 93 Elephants killed every single day.

    ► 2-3 Rhinos killed every single day.

    ► Bees die from malnutrition lacking bio-diverse pollen sources.

    ► Malnutrition weakens bee colonies for disease and poisoning.




    ► In just 13 years, we will “lock in” an inevitable near term 6°C earth temp rise because we continually exceed the worse-case emissions scenario set out back in 2007 says climate scientist, Dr. Michael Jennings.


    ► Energy demands to increase 100% by 2060 says the IEA.



    ► Emissions have to decrease 80% by 2030 says climate scientist, Kevin Anderson.


    ► To power England with 100% solar & wind, requires 25% of its land says physicist, David MacKay in 2012. Even if he is wrong, he makes a valid point.


    ► 40% Green Energy requires 200% more copper says John Timmer of Ars Technica. Even performance improvements won’t be enough in time.



    ► Peak copper hits 2030 – 2040 says Ugo Bardi.


    ► Post peak copper production cannot accelerate at any price says Dave Lowell.


    ► This is true of any post peak mineral production.

    ► There is no real substitute for copper says Mat McDermott of Motherboard.


    ► We mined 50% of all the copper in human history in just the last 30 years.

    ► 100% green energy requires 500% more copper.

    ► Peak minerals includes more than just copper.

    ► By 2050, expect to be past peaks for tin, silver, nickel, cadmium and more.

    ► We move some 3 billion tons of earth per year to get 15 millions tons of copper.

    ► We can’t afford to mine 500% more copper at ever lower concentrations.

    ► We cannot recycle it into existence.

    ► We cannot conserve it into existence.

    ► Substituting aluminum for copper takes 5X the energy and is less safe.

    ► Google’s own Stanford Phd, green energy experts, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, tell IEEE Spectrum why green energy “simply won’t work” and is a “false dream” without major lifestyle changes.


    ► Ozzie Zehner explains his book, Green Illusions, at Google Talks in 2012.


    Here is Gail Tverberg on Green Energy.


    Here is a link to give you an idea of just some of the deadly poisons used to make solar panels.


    Battery Performance Deficit Disorder:





    ► Green Energy is our solution to Climate Change.

    ► But, Climate Change is only 1 of 6 Direct Drivers for Mass Extinction.

    ► The 6 Direct Drivers of Mass Extinction are:

    … 1) Invasive Species

    … 2) Over-Population

    … 3) Over-Exploitation

    … 4) Habitat Loss

    ….5) Climate Change

    ….6) Pollution







    ► 10,000 years ago, humans and livestock occupied 0.01% of earth’s vertebrate biomass.

    ► Humans and livestock now occupy 97% of earth’s vertebrate biomass.

    ► 1,000,000 humans, net, are added to earth every 4½ days.

    ► 50% of vertebrate species died off in the last 50 years.

    ► 50% of remaining vertebrate species will die off in the next 40 years.

    ► +50% = Unstoppable Irreversible Catastrophic Cascading Extinctions Collapse.

    ► 75% Species Loss = Mass Extinction.

    ► Ocean acidification doubles by 2050, triples by 2100.

    ► World Bank says we have 5-10 years before we all fight for food and water.



    Our “green” energy hi-tech future requires:

    ► conflict minerals,

    ► rare earth elements,

    ► heavy metals,

    ► nano metals and graphite.

    Search for “rare earth mining in China” on YouTube and see what special hell your solar panels and wind turbines produce in Mongolia. China can do this because they have undercut all the world’s production of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) with low wages, low currency and no environmental enforcement. They can do this because they ignore the radioactive thorium that comes with mining high-value, heavy rare earth elements.

    Rare earth elements can’t profitably be mined outside of China unless we can get power from radioactive thorium, the mining by-product found with heavy rare earth elements. We can’t afford to mine REEs while treating thorium as radioactive waste instead of as a profitable energy source. Burning thorium will pay for heavy REEs and provide the low-carbon base power “green” energy requires. We can use thorium reactors to clean up uranium waste, making it safer.



    Sixty-six heavyweight scientists active in the field of biodiversity conservation have pleaded with the world’s greens to get over their objections to nuclear power, pointing out that renewable energy means terrible losses of endangered animals and plants. Their plea was ignored.


    Solar cell manufacturing produces 3 green house gases that are over 10,000 times worse than C02. They require all kinds of deadly liquid acids to manufacture. Solar panels lose efficiency at the rate of 1% per year lasting 20-25 years. The expensive inverters and batteries they require have to be continually replaced. The new thin cell panels use nano materials and are even more toxic with shorter lifespans. It doesn’t matter how “clean” the latest experimental solar panels are because existing manufacturing plants will stay open to recoup major investments. Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University estimates the production of just 6 solar panels requires one ton of coal.


    Manufacturing just five, 1-megawatt, wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of toxic, acidic water used to leach out the required neodymium. Wind turbines only work at 25% of their rated capacity 90% of the time. Over 2 million children died in the Congo for the conflict minerals green energy needs. Thousands of people die in Chinese mines every year for the minerals green energy needs. Wind power requires 10X as much nickel as fossil power. Peak nickel may hit by 2025.



    The Smithsonian Institute calculates wind turbine bird deaths.

    Any other reason for bird deaths doesn’t exonerate wind turbines.



    New study on bat deaths due to wind turbines.


    One company in the U.S. cut down 5 acres of trees to build a solar farm to power a plant for the production of plastic bags. Green plastic bags — fucking mind blowing. Green power will not be enough. Part-time energy and billions of tons of toxic lead, liquid metal or molten salt batteries adds up to death to all life on earth just from sheer destructive ecological inertia due to mineral extraction. Americans love solar and wind power because it makes them feel independent, it’s like your own personal power plant for each and every home. We can’t afford it ecologically. We need central power to save on minerals, especially since all the infrastructure is already there. All we have to do is figure out how to clean it up.

    Tim Garrett explains why

    ► one dollar equals 10 milliwatts

    ► why we can’t decouple growth from emissions.

    ► why efficiency & conservation leads to more energy growth.




    In the video, “Years Of Living Dangerously” we learned the Indonesian lumber mafia killed all the elephants in a nature preservation park just to get rid of the need for a park so they can clear-cut the trees. 80% of those park trees are gone. These guys clear cut forests, replace the forests with palm-oil trees, and sell the palm-oil to burn as gasoline in Europe. They make money selling lumber, collecting tax carbon credits and selling the palm-oil to burn in cars, mostly in wunder-green Germany. Win-win-win. Unless you’re an elephant.

    In the video, “Virunga” on Netflix, we learned the Congolese mineral mafia is killing off the last Mountain Gorillas so that the need for a national park will cease to exist. Cell phones don’t run on love, you can ask the 2 million children murdered there since 1998, or the 1 million Iraqi children our oil embargo killed in the 1990s. People may think me misanthropic, but that’s not true, some of my best friends are people.

    When air-conditioner makers in China and India got paid carbon credits to destroy a gaseous waste by-product 15,000 times stronger than CO2, they quickly realized that if they made 10 times more than they needed, they got paid 10 times more carbon credits to destroy it. They soon made as much profit destroying a gas they didn’t need as they did selling air-conditioners. When found out, they said pay up, or the planet gets it. We stopped paying and now they release a gas that is so dangerous it is the carbon equivalent of all the cars in the whole world.


    Life is simple: James Hansen wants you to get 100% of your carbon taxes back, Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein do not. Don’t believe me? Then ask them, if you are able, that’s why the Rockefellers fund 350.org. When governments and corporations get control of carbon taxes, we’re finished. The Rockefellers divested from oil, but they still want your carbon taX dollars. This is why they fund 350.org. It is my dream that carbon dividends are paid world wide in a new world currency 100% to private citizens and not governments and corporations. A new currency would circumvent any national differences and unite the world as never before. Money is funny that way. So are dreams.

    Elizabeth Kolbert hurt Naomi Klein’s feelings when she exposed the fact that Klein wants the world to divest from oil, while at the same time, oil-invested Ford Foundation funds her husband’s video about Klein’s life.



    ► Green Energy provides 3% of total world energy use.

    ► World energy demand up 100% in 50 years.

    ► World emissions have to drop 80% in 15 years for 50/50 chance of 2°C.

    ► It takes one ton of coal to make 6 solar panels.

    ► It takes 4 times the rated green energy to displace 1 equally rated unit of fossil energy.


    So far, we have to replace fossil fuels with 4X its rated power, while emissions have to drop 80% while total energy demand doubles in the midst of energy, mineral, food and water shortages. Please don’t be offended if I tell you this is fuckn impossible. You can’t use solar panels to make 4X as much green energy without accelerating peak minerals, ecological destruction, water mismanagement etc.

    We have to get nuclear power from thorium whether we like it or not. We can’t have a hi-tech green energy world without digging up radioactive thorium, which is the radioactive waste we leave behind when we leach out the heavy Rare Earth Elements such a world requires. Thorium is plentiful, and in a post-peak mineral world, plentiful is important. We are being lied to about green energy so that we don’t have to think about lowering energy use. China is going to build 400 nuclear plants in 35 years. China and India are on a crash course to be the first to produce commercial power from thorium. India has just announced the world’s first thorium reactor to be operational by 2020, which probably means 2022 at the earliest.

    ► China has made 6 gigatons of cement in the last 3 years.

    ► U.S. has made 4 gigatons of cement in the last 100 years.

    ► China’s banks have lent $15 trillion in the last 5 years.

    ► U.S. commercial banks have lent $15 trillion in the last 100 years.

    ► China will build 400 nuclear power plants in 35 years.

    ► India will have the first thorium commercial reactor by 2022.

    ► U.S. will have to replace all its surviving solar-wind power systems in 30 years, likely after economic collapse in times of shortages and energy poverty.

    ► U.S. has enough nuclear waste to power themselves for 300 years without emissions while solving proliferation, emissions and storage problems.

    ► Many people will die from Fukushima, we can’t turn our backs on them. Many Iraqis are born deformed from depleted uranium ordinance, we can’t just ignore that. We need to clean up our nuclear waste while we still have the expertise to do so. We can’t just walk away from nuclear power hoping it will all just go away.




    Why do I think we should try even when I “know” we will fail?

    In no particular order, here are the 5 top traded “commodities”.

    1) food

    2) sex

    3) oil

    4) drugs

    5) guns



    Civilization is slowly collapsing while the earth is quickly dying. My credentials? I cut grass in a trailer park in Canada. I never made it past high school, but I learned all this stuff when i woke up hungover the other day with my dog licking my face using E.S.P. to let space aliens tell me to warn you.

    p.s. — I can’t believe they let me post all this stuff.