Apparently, after much drama, intrigue, and sleepless nights, we have some sort of agreement at Copenhagen. We’ll probably get the text of the Copenhagen Agreement soon. But I think the gist of it is as follows:
The Copenhagen agreement contained no specific targets for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A proposed 50% cut that was in earlier drafts was removed.
The pact calls on developed nations to provide $30 billion to help developing nations deal with the effects of climate change from 2010 to 2012. By 2020, the text says rich nations “set a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year” for poor nations. The text says the money will go to the “most vulnerable” developing nations.
The deal pledges countries to try to keep atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide low enough to keep average global temperatures less than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — a threshold beyond which many scientists say dangerous consequences could result.
But the agreement doesn’t specify how countries will achieve that goal.
And as reported by Time:
[T]he deal was not legally binding for anyone — neither developing nations like China, nor the U.S. Each country will list its climate actions in an appendix to the document; then, there will be international analysis and reporting similar to what happens under the World Trade Organization. But there will be no legal penalties if countries fail to achieve their targets. “We’ll receive a sense of what each country is doing,” said Obama. That way the signatories will know “we are in this together, and we will know who is emitting and who is not.”
From the press coverage here in the U.S., it also appears as if the agreement was “salvaged” by last minute heroics by the U.S. For example, NY Times reported:
Mr. Obama’s announcement came late in a day that began with his 11-minute address to world leaders shortly after noon, and that was filled with brinksmanship and 11th-hour negotiations. Mr. Obama, whose speech included remarks that appeared pointed at China’s resistance to mechanisms for monitoring emissions reductions, met privately with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao afterward. But Mr. Wen did not attend two smaller, impromptu meetings during the day that Mr. Obama and United States officials conducted with the leaders of other world powers, an apparent snub that infuriated administration officials and their European counterparts.
The deal eventually came together after a dramatic moment in which Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton burst into a meeting of the Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders, according to senior administration officials. Mr. Obama said he did not want them negotiating in secret.
The intrusion led to new talks that cemented central terms of the deal, American officials said.
WSJ (in article linked above) had a different take:
Earlier in the afternoon, President Obama had met with leaders of European and other countries to strategize about “what he was going to go do in making a last run at Premier Wen,” according to a senior administration official. “They decided that, if they went to Wen and they couldn’t get an agreement,” they would still aim for an agreement that would lead countries “to continue to make progress toward something in the future.”
Afterward, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to what they thought was a meeting with Mr. Wen, only to discover when they were ushered in that the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa also were there, the official said.
Whatever version you believe, you can count on more sensationalistic and spirited commentary to come out in the following days. Instead of spewing more hot air, I’d like to take a step backward to get some perspective on what happened.
Copenhagen did not happen in a vacuum. It was the culmination of years of concerted global efforts. Many countries (China included) came to Copenhagen to expand the framework of the Kyoto Agreement. Some like the U.S., however, came to Copenhagen to replace Kyoto.
China wanted developed countries to adhere to the Kyoto agreement limiting greenhouse emissions of developed countries to 5.2% below 1990 levels. (The EU did manage to achieve that target, though mostly on the back of the economic collapse of Eastern Europe. The U.S. actually increased its greenhouse production by over 17%. Japan actually increased its greenhouse production by over 14%.) China also wanted developed nations to commit resources to help developing nations adjust to a low carbon economy.
Premier Wen said in a speech at Copenhagen:
The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities “represents the core and bedrock of international cooperation on climate change and it must never be compromised. Developed countries account for 80 percent of the total global carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago. If we all agree that carbon dioxide emissions are the direct cause for climate change, then it is all too clear who should take the primary responsibility. Developing countries only started industrialization a few decades ago and many of their people still live in abject poverty today. It is totally unjustified to ask them to undertake emission reduction targets beyond their due obligations and capabilities in disregard of historical responsibilities, per capita emissions and different levels of development. Developed countries, which are already leading an affluent life, still maintain a level of per capita emissions that is far higher than that of developing countries, and most of their emissions are attributed to consumption. In comparison, emissions from developing countries are primarily survival emissions and international transfer emissions. Today, 2.4 billion people in the world still rely on coal, charcoal, and stalks as main fuels, and 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity. Action on climate change must be taken within the framework of sustainable development and should by no means compromise the efforts of developing countries to get rid of poverty and backwardness. Developed countries must take the lead in making deep quantified emission cuts and provide financial and technological support to developing countries. This is an unshirkable moral responsibility as well as a legal obligation that they must fulfill. Developing countries should, with the financial and technological support of developed countries, do what they can to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change in the light of their national conditions.
But many in the U.S. do not believe countries like China should get any help. Throughout much of the week, U.S. officials promised that whatever the agreement, no money will flow from the U.S. to China to help China go green. Later Hillary announced that the U.S. would contribute to a $100 billion fund to help developing nations to adopt green technologies but that for countries like China to take any money, they must be subjected to strict regulatory oversight for use of that money. China balked at the potential for loss of sovereignty (for such peanut of a price) and that deal never went through.
I personally am satisfied with a political declaration of positions to tackle climate change. Not only is climatic science too uncertain to design a comprehensive, fair, and effective regulatory scheme, we also don’t have a common reference on what equitable share each country should contribute to reduce the green house burden on the atmosphere going forward.
It is impractical to think we can escape the carbon cycle simply by mandating it (just look at the above Kyoto results). Simply mandating (through a regulatory agreement) different countries to fixed levels of energy usage / CO2 footprint will either involve locking them in a backward state of economic development or result in countries flaunting the agreement.
Economic development (as we know it) has been tied with industrialization, and industrialization is tied to fossil energy usage. We’d like to find a different cycle of development, and China – in many headlines throughout this year – has definitely made some noise trying (China has also committed to a 40-45% cut in carbon intensity by 2020). But it’s going to be difficult. How should the world as a whole shoulder this burden? To ask developing nations not to develop is not fair. To ask the developing nations to shoulder this burden, after the developed nations has already used up the carbon reserve in the atmosphere, is also not fair.
There are thus two important prongs we need to tackle going forward.
1. How can the world’s major economies stimulate the development of green technologies to allow us to escape the previous trap of carbon-dependent development?
2. How can we agree on an equitable framework for various nations to share in the burden of creating and pursuing alternative modes of development? Wen mentioned that the vast majority of man-made CO2 have been caused by developed countries and that they are the ones which should take the lead to help developing countries adapt going forward. But how much?
Note: here is a preliminary text of the deal
The only fair way to deal with climate change problem is to set a global cap of co2 emission per capita. Since we are all born to be equal; we all have the same right to enjoy a high living standard and pursuit of happiness.
Besides, all countries need to revoke their claims on the clean technology patents to help reduce the emission if the problem is so urgent.
S.K. Cheung says
“all countries need to revoke their claims on the clean technology patents to help reduce the emission” — well, you can’t have it both ways. If the argument is that “developed countries” should shoulder the current burden for emissions reduction on the basis that their prior actions have led us to the current state (ie. a user-pay type model), then developing nations shouldn’t expect any freebies when it comes to technology that reduces future emissions. In fact, if they want to avail themselves to those technologies, they should expect to pay handsomely for it (either to license it from the creators, or to invest in creating it themselves) ie more of the same user-pay model.
Earlier reports I had read had described success that was muted enough: intensity targets for developing nations and hard targets for developed nations (and intensity targeting is a Bushism if I ever heard one); but this post suggests that the results are even more bleak. It seems developing nations are receiving monies just to mitigate the effects of climate change, without any stipulation to modulate and moderate the processes that have led to climate change in the first place. So good money is going to be paid to constantly chase the problem, with no enforceable mechanism to compel the type of changes potentially needed to address the cause of the problem. That smacks of the classic Chinese phrase “treating the symptom but not the disease”. On first blush, this deal is so fantastic I’m not sure it’s even worth having. I particularly like the part about each country setting their own targets, with the price of non-compliance being the prospects of a stern wagging of the finger from other countries. That’s priceless.
Adam Clark says
China now emit nearly as much CO2 per person than a average French (6 tonnes a person a year), but Chinese emission per person increased these last years by 0.5 tonnes a year a person (french CO2 is decreasing)… while average Chinese is still much much poorer than average french. this year the electricity consumption in China increased by 27%… 70% of it coming from burning coal…
The big problem is here… the world will face catastrophe if there is not a big change in China.
Western country emitted more in the past, true, but they also developed the technologies that enable the rest of the world to leave poverty and have life expectancy above 30-40 years…
Britain also made the Kyoto target – we switched from coal to natural gas. The fact is that the costs of reducing CO2 output are nowhere near as amazingly vast as some people make out. Oh, and Allen, that i0L article is way off, actually the majority of the drop in EU emissions came from western Europe, especially Germany. In fact, when the Kyoto agreement was ratified by the EU (i.e., in 2002 before the 2004 expansion) no Eastern European nation had even joined the EU.
The ‘economic collapse’ of Eastern Europe is in fact only true of those states which were formerly part of the USSR. In Romania, for example, the economy has grown by 4-5% year-on-year since the fall of communism. As another example, Poland has averaged 3-4% GDP growth over the last ten years. Likewise, whilst the financial crisis of the past year has caused much suffering in Hungary, GDP per capita is still more than 50% higher than it was in communist times. It is only when you turn to countries like Russia, the Ukraine, Georgia etc. which were saddled with the slanted infrastructure and lawlessness of the former Soviet Union that you see something that can be called a collapse, although until recently even these countries were experiencing a belated recovery.
No doubt people will point at the US’s vast per capita output – and rightly so, especially given that much of this output is totally un-necessary (e.g., people driving SUVs to go shopping) , but everyone knows which country has the largest total output and in which country greenhouse gas emissions are growing at the fastest rate.
China’s CO2-equivalent output per person was 5.5 tonnes of CO2 per year. In 2000 it was the equivalent of 3.9 tonnes of CO2 per person per year. Assuming that intensity has remained the same over the last five years, it will be at least 7 tonnes next year.
What is more, Chinese per capita output is higher than that of many countries significantly richer in per capita terms. Current nominal Chinese GDP per capita is around $3,250, but countries such as Turkey ($10,479), Brazil ($8,295), Macedonia ($4,656), Jordan ($5,600), and Algeria ($4,588) all have significantly lower per capita CO2 equivalent outputs, mainly due to having more diverse industry and greater use of nuclear and hydroelectric power. All of this shows that there certainly are ways in which China could, with minimal sacrifice, afford to actually reduce output rather than simply set a fairly meaningless intensity target which, given the likely diversification away from CO2-intensive heavy industry into light industry and services which most countries undergo at similar stages of development.
The assumption, therefore, commonly found amongst some commenters, that because Chinese output per capita is lower than US output per capita this absolves all need for action on the part of the Chinese government is wrong. US output is too high and needs to drop, but Chinese output, even in per capita terms, cannot be allowed to even approach the US’s output per capita.
Errrm . . . No. Actually countries are free, within the bounds of the TRIPS agreement (assuming they are WTO members or TRIPS treaty signatories), to grant compulsory licenses on patents for reasons of national security, or in case of environmental disaster or emergency, or for whatever other reasons they may see fit.
To start with, I certainly think China should drastically limit its growth in carbon output.
However, I don’t believe the existing measures (including the carbon intensity or per capita output) are fair measures. The fair measure must be weight heavily on the consumption end with some weight on carbon intensity.
Since several here have pointed out the similarity in per capita output between France and China, let me just use these two countries as example.
Chinese GDP – composition by sector:
services: 40.1% (2008 est.)
French GDP – composition by sector:
services: 77.6% (2008 est.)
Obviously service sector consumes less energy than industrial sector by every measure. China being a heavily manufacturing economy and France being a mainly service economy, if all else being equal, France should consume much less energy per person than China.
I have not worked out how the ultimate measure should be, but it must take into account of the final destination of consumer goods and services.
Correspondingly, the best method for carbon reduction is to increase energy efficiency in manufacturing and in our daily lives. Which means, both China and France have long way to go on that path.
China being a heavily manufacturing economy and France being a mainly service economy, if all else being equal, France should consume much less energy per person than China.
You’re forgetting things like car ownership. Manufacturing is hardly the only way CO2 is produced. This is the problem with China, it has a long period of economic growth before it “levels out” along developed country lines. Chinese people will get richer but also pollute more as part of their daily lives based on current trends.
I didn’t forget the car ownership. You cannot measure the average Chinese energy consumption by the standards of a middle class urbanite in Beijing or Shanghai, because they are far from average. But I agree with you in the sense that if in the future, half of the Chinese population start to consume at the level of an average French, we are all toast.
You cannot measure the average Chinese energy consumption by the standards of a middle class urbanite in Beijing or Shanghai, because they are far from average.
I quite understand that. As you say, I was talking about the future.
And the fact is that France’s produces 90%+ of its electricity using nuclear power which has 0 carbon footprint while China uses mostly coal.
Thanks for clarifying. I think kudos should go where kudos is due.
UK has embarked on a serious and systemic program to change from coal to natural gas in its energy generation. Germany also has embarked on a serious solar program. But for the efforts of these two nations (plus that of France to go fully nuclear), there is no way Europe (E-15) as a whole could be on target to meeting its target. Europe (E-15) has also been helped by relative stable population (unlike the U.S.).
Nevertheless, we should not forget that a large part of Germany’s reduction come from including East Germany, whose industrial collapse took place mostly after 1990 in its numbers. Of course, there is also the current recession, which may make present numbers better than they may seem.
Overall I definitely think Europe has done better than the U.S. in curbing greenhouse emission. It does so through a combination of efficiency improvements as well as systemic focus on increasing non-carbon sources of energy (nuclear in France, natural gas in UK).
See also http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/dec/09/eugene-robinson/robinson-claims-fall-ussr-meant-big-drop-greenhous/ (American perspective).
@Allen – This, of course, is only a qualified success, achieved through one-time-only measures taken at least partly for reasons that have little to do with avoiding climate change (the switch away from coal in the UK, for example, was due to the collapse of the British coal mining industry following privatisation). The UK is also not on track to meet its voluntary target in CO2 production (rather than the CO2-equivalent targets found in Kyoto). That said, measures taken for any reason in relatively painless fashion do show what can be achieved.
As for China’s place in all this, Yang Ailun (Greenpeace China’s Climate and Energy rep.) put it best:
You can read the whole article here:
I agree with with miragecity.
Unless the west agrees to reduce their standard of living to a fraction of what it is now and make real painful sacrifices, the developing nations have no reason to make similarly painful changes. It’s all a farce.
Thanks for that link and excerpt.
I agree that China was made to look bad by the U.S. – especially this observation: “The fact that the US could spin the issue of China’s data transparency as the “deal-breaker” for the whole Copenhagen meeting was the saddest thing in the past two weeks.”
That’s partly why, PR aside, I think we need to begin a conversation on what norm should inform what equitable burden exists for each nation, in addition to discussing how we can develop a new mode of industrialization that is more sustainable…
I personally think the largest contributors of greenhouse gas will have plenty of own reason for going green without Copenhagen.
1. U.S. – national security. It can’t rely on oil to the extent it has for such a long time.
2. China – national security + environment. It can’t subject itself to too heavy a reliance on oil. Adding significant mixture of wind, hydro, solar, and nuclear will be the right thing for China to do since coal is not dirty just in terms of global emissions, but also in terms of the local environment.
@Colin – 1) Mirage City doesn’t seem to understand how patent law works (patents are not international but national), 2) China’s per capita CO2 output exceeds that of some developed countries, and 3) nobody is being asked to reduce their standard of living nor should they be, only that they should invest in reducing CO2 output.
As has been noted by others, less CO2 intensive power production promises to reap fruit long-term as it encourages the exploitation of renewable energy and new technologies like nuclear fusion.
So you are a believer in nuclear fusion??? I’m … though I’m still holding out only hope! 😉
I agree that industry type should be factored in. It makes no sense to “accuse” a nation of being dirty if that nation specializes in industries that are needed but that turn out to be dirty (e.g. manufacturing vis a vis services), even when those industries are run “efficiently.”
You have to recognise that it’s not just Americans criticising China. Read the comments from the head of the Swedish delegation, Lars-Erik Liljelund. Sweden is hardly a regular critic of China.
Really China has no one other than itself to blame. It was the one that demanded there be no international verification process, despite the fact without one there is no point in any deal because it doesn’t just become voluntary it lacks any transparency at all.
nobody is being asked to reduce their standard of living nor should they be, only that they should invest in reducing CO2 output.
Indeed. This is not a zero sum game where people have to go back to living in mud huts to stop climate change. We have the technology, it’s about investment and political will. Perhaps people will need to be less selfish, so we don’t all aim to drive cars (e.g. share, maximum of one car per household, etc) – in China and elsewhere. But reduce our living standards to a fraction? That sounds like a peverse sense of “justice” through punishment rather than necessary change.
In the American press, I see people often describe the deal as a U.S. brokered deal.
What makes this a U.S. brokered deal? Who is the U.S. brokering between? Depending on the version of the story, I might even characterize the deal as the U.S. realizing it was being marginalized, and having to finesse its way to the negotiating table with China, Brazil, South Africa, and India…
It really is all a farce. Only drastic changes to the way the developed world live and the developing world’s industriaization path will have any real positive change affect the climate. And I do mean reducing developed nation’s standard of living to a fraction of what it is now. Of course, that will never happen, so what reason do developing nations have for reducing GDP growth (and remember growth is compounded) by going green?
You want the developing world to reduce their pollution? Then GIVE them the green technology. If the world really is in such crisis, why don’t the developed nations get serious and do this? Look past the fancy speeches and rhetoric, and realize that it is international politics as usuall, with the usual dose of hypocrisy. But personally, I don’t even think giving developing nations the green technology will make a difference in the long run.
This conference is monkey business. Limit climate tempurature rise to 1.5 or 2 degrees? Give me a break. Either global warming won’t be an issue, or the damage has and will inevitably be done to raise tempurature by 10 or 20 or more degrees. It takes an especially arrogant and massive idiot to think you can tinker with mother nature to such a fine degree.
S.K. Cheung says
“It takes an especially arrogant and massive idiot to think you can tinker with mother nature to such a fine degree.” — personally, I’m happy with the “idiots” who suggest these changes (not the politicians, but the scientists on whose recommendations these targets are based), as opposed to an esteemed scientist and climate expert like yourself.
“You want the developing world to reduce their pollution? Then GIVE them the green technology.” — like I suggested in #2, if they want a freebie, then they should be expected to adhere to the same total output targets as everybody else. No more free-ride for being a “developing” country. You should similarly ask the developing countries why they don’t get serious and do that, bereft of fancy speeches and rhetoric, as you say.
I wrote in my last post on how this Copenhagen business is going to end: a general agreement (not binding at all), and each goes back to ways as things have always been. It seemed indeed to have come to that end as I had predicted. This is nothing surprising. A basic understanding of human nature and group dynamics will lead anyone to see how the Copenhagen meeting would end. When politics hijacked a premature scientific conclusion, and based on that conclusion you try to get more than 192 to act, you are setting yourself up for a perfect mess.
Let me quote something here: “Anytime politics intrudes on science, science is degraded and society as a whole is the loser,” said Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “That is why the whole global warming issue is a mess right now. Scientists have not reached a scientific conclusion yet, but the politicians want to jump the gun and be seen as saviors on the issue. This is a recipe for disaster.”
This was cited from a report in 2007 — way before the climategate was brought to light — when a climatologist was fired for questioning a warming-related conclusion:
We’d have to give Gore credit for his ability to blow this to such proportion. If he had started a campaign against water pollution, I am sure he would have been equally successful, yet how much more substantial and beneficial that would have been!
The assumption, therefore, commonly found amongst some commenters, that because Chinese output per capita is lower than US output per capita this absolves all need for action on the part of the Chinese government is wrong. US output is too high and needs to drop, but Chinese output, even in per capita terms, cannot be allowed to even approach the US’s output per capita.
This is rhetoric, which can be turned around to state it another way: that while Chinese output is growing too fast and should be limited, the US output cannot be allowed to even stay where it is at all, for even one more day… which sounds even more alarming, doesn’t it?
After all, the fair result in the long run is to equalize per capita emissions. If so, then it doesn’t matter who is emitting in what country, does it? Viewed as a neutral observer from Mars, doesn’t it make sense to whack the highest per capita emitter first? No other way makes any sense, barring home-country bias.
colin’s two posts hit it right on the nail.
Yes, the growth of developing nation’s emissions needs to be limited, and that’s why they need to be given the technology. Screw technology transfer restrictions if this is as serious problem as some say it is, and not some exercise in jockeying for the starting position in green technology development.
S.K. Cheung wrote:
like I suggested in #2, if they want a freebie, then they should be expected to adhere to the same total output targets as everybody else. No more free-ride for being a “developing” country. You should similarly ask the developing countries why they don’t get serious and do that, bereft of fancy speeches and rhetoric, as you say.
You have it all backwards. The moral case is the following. Firstly, developed countries need to reduce emissions from now on and into the future for future fairness in which all persons emit an equal amount. Secondly, developed countries should pay up for past total emissions by which they reached their current standard of living. This is a cost that should not be amortized to all the rest of humanity since they did not benefit (except marginally via emigration to a developed country). Therefore, the green technology which the developing nations are asking for is quid pro quo for this past cost, and a reasonable and generous one, because it gives developed nations a way to pay for their past emissions by helping all humanity reach a common future goal, rather than tallying up the actual bill which is most certainly higher.
All that aside, I think China does need to undergo some serious structural transformations going forward. The difference is, China recognizes it, talks about limiting cars and expanding public transit for Beijing, etc. — all that stuff is on TV and seriously discussed — and you can bet it will happen in China and not just empty promises, because it’s in China’s own interest to do so, too. US and other developed countries in the West, comfortable with their current and unsustainable standard of living, on the other hand, are another story. I have much less faith in them. It’s almost axiomatic that the rich and endowed won’t be making sacrifices until forced. Indeed is anybody even talking about a pending reduction in the standard of living there? It’ll be a hard sell.
P.S. The elitist part of me actually thinks it may not be a great idea to have the same standard of living everywhere, just like not all neighborhoods are not meant to be equally good. This is politically incorrect and another topic altogether.
I posted a link to a BBC article “The arguments made by climate change sceptics” in your thread where the usual skeptic charges were listed and rebutted. What do you think of that article? There are many fields of scientific studies and many of them have profound political implications. Do you have a general suspicion of science? Or just those that have impact on contemporary politics? Or just the science about climate change?
S.K. Cheung says
“Secondly, developed countries should pay up for past total emissions by which they reached their current standard of living. This is a cost that should not be amortized to all the rest of humanity since they did not benefit (except marginally via emigration to a developed country).” — that’s reasonable.
“Firstly, developed countries need to reduce emissions from now on and into the future for future fairness in which all persons emit an equal amount.” — also reasonable.
“Therefore, the green technology which the developing nations are asking for is quid pro quo for this past cost, and a reasonable and generous one, because it gives developed nations a way to pay for their past emissions by helping all humanity reach a common future goal, rather than tallying up the actual bill which is most certainly higher.” — this is where it falls down. This green technology (or any industrialized technology) is the culmination of said industrialization, for which industrialized nations are being asked to make good on past costs from an environmental perspective. So developing nations have 2 options. Asking for this technology for free is one option, but that should be accompanied by adherence to emissions reductions starting TODAY. If developing nations want a free-ride in terms of emissions, then they shouldn’t expect a free ride on the technology. As I’ve already said, you shouldn’t expect a free ride on both fronts.
“I’m happy with the “idiots” who suggest these changes (not the politicians, but the scientists on whose recommendations these targets are based)’
It’s ALL politics at this level. Does anyone really think the proposals passed around at copenhagen really reflect what the scientists think? If the scientists had their way, global pollution would be cut in half today.
I think if you poll scientists around the world today and ask if 2 degree is the tipping point for climate disaster, most will – reflexively if nothing else – agree. Scientists are human beings and not immune to politics and paradigms. I don’t think anyone honest will tell you that we know definitely 2 degrees is the tipping point, but many will say: well based on several models from reputable members of the community thus far, 2 degree sounds like the right thing, for now.
So technically I will disagree with you that it’s only “idiots” who believe in this 2 degree number…
Now something just on the side, here are two interesting graphics relating to greenhouse mission per capita I came across on http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/emissions.html.
Hopefully this gives some context (what’s up with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, U.S., and South Korea???).
Note also that even OECD Europe is constant on a per capita basis. No dramatic decrease in per capita numbers.
This is the challenge major developing economies like China will face going forward. How can China develop without spewing its “proportional” share of co2? How can other countries like the U.S. help?
S.K. Cheung says
“It’s ALL politics at this level. Does anyone really think the proposals passed around at copenhagen really reflect what the scientists think? If the scientists had their way, global pollution would be cut in half today.” — undoubtedly, scientific ideals need to be tempered with political/economic realities. If it weren’t for such realities, China would have no problem cutting her emissions either. In fact, I don’t think China’s argument is that there is dubious scientific basis for cutting emissions; the argument seems to be that such cuts would unfairly hamper her economic development. So your statement applies to everybody.
Since we had some quotes from Greenpeace activists above, I decided to call up a couple of my buddies active in Greenpeace (I was active in Greenpeace most of my 20’s).
They told me that from their perspective, it’s clear that most of the blame for “failure” at the conference lies with the U.S. – for not really wanting a deal, dragging their feet, and trying to lay blame on developing countries like China.
Here is a quote of Greenpeace official take of the conference:
Of course, the popular U.S. narrative is still that U.S. tried its best, but bad boys like China made the deal just out of reach; luckily we had Obama, who was still able to ride in as a white knight to salvage some sort of a deal that was “better than nothing.”
“I don’t think anyone honest will tell you that we know definitely 2 degrees is the tipping point, but many will say: well based on several models from reputable members of the community thus far, 2 degree sounds like the right thing, for now.”
I don’t doubt 2 degrees MAY lead to disaster. 2 degrees and 5 feet increase in ocean levels could well mean that Bangladeshi’s will need to evolve fins and gills. What I meant is that it is folly to believe you can limit warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees with any accuracy, which is what the “idiots” at copenhagen were arguing about. That’s quite a good imitation of playing god, no?
If 2 degrees is the tipping point, shouldn’t we aim for a target that gives us plenty of leeway? like stopping pollution growth today? Of course, that would mean massive cuts in the developed world (to compensate for growth in the developing worth), which was never an option at these talks. Thus, everyone was blowing gas at these talks, pun intended.
Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Climate science is so nascent that you can pit the top 100 climatologists against a dartboard, and either prediction will probably be just as likely. If weather forecasters are overwhelmingly wrong in predicting next week’s weather, how much trust do you really want to put in 1 – 100 year forecasts? This is nothing against scientists, in fact I hold the highest esteem for them. This just one cynic stating that we are arrogant fools (pun) to think we can control and dicker with exact degrees of warming when we know practically nothing about it or it’s many related issues. For example, one instinctively thinks that particulate soot from pollution is bad for the world, and in many respects, it is. But soot in the atmosphere has actually tempered global warming by reflecting sunlight back into space. Well, guess what happens when we install high efficiency particle filters in our plants and cars…
@wuming, I read the pros and cons there, but BBC just lists this two sides of the arguments, which suggests that a dispute is still there. I am not anti-science, because science isn’t a monolithic community. There are those who question many assumptions of global warming.
I think a lot of this is bs. The real issue here is human population growth and their usage demand.
Since China is a manufacturing nation, of course it will create more CO emissions. But let’s say China improves all of its factories with the latest green technology, the extra cost to manufacture these products will simply be passed on to the consumers. Consumers tend to choose the items with the lowest price. Eventually manufacturers will figure out to move their factories elsewhere with less emission restrictions, that’s all. Of course, this is assuming that going green will always be more expensive. I am not sure if that will always be the case but that is certainly the case today.
But that still does not touch the issue of human population growth. As long as that continues there will be demand for manufacturing, and ultimately that is driven by capitalism which tend to focus on short term growth than long time gains. I think the real key to change is to change the way people use items so they would waste less. Of course that also goes against capitalism because if people waste less they would buy less and that’s bad for the economy.
And I have not even started on breeding practices yet. I for one think people should have less kids, but then that opens up another can of worms when it comes to supporting social policies in the form of taxes.
I think a lot of this is bs. The real issue here is human population growth and their usage demand.
I agree with you in general, but I think you missed an important distinction. The issue is not precisely the growth of human population but the growth of the human population that participate in the global economy. Had China been stuck in the Mao era, it’s population would not have been aspired to the life styles of US and Europe, then China would not have been the center of attention at this stage.
The problem is that there are still hundreds of millions of Chinese and even more Indians that are not full participants in the global economy, but they will eventually wake up to that prospect. Who is to tell a new aspirant that he is too late for this last train when he is ready to pay the full fare (work to earn) for a seat?
Charles Liu says
Adam @ 3, “the world will face catastrophe if there is not a big change in China.”
Adam, the same can be said about America. Americans like myself on average consums over 10 time more and pollutes many times more than average Chinese.
Matter of fact today’s reality is 5% of the world’s population consums nearly 25% of the world’s energy. Shouldn’t the burden of making big change be on the big consumers?
How nice of you to simply point finger at China.
Who is to tell a new aspirant that he is too late for this last train when he is ready to pay the full fare (work to earn) for a seat?
The station manager who says that stopping the train as it’s leaving would cause it to derail and kill 20% of the people patiently waiting for the next train.
You believe in climate change or you don’t. If you don’t then there’s nothing more to be said. If you do then you need to accept that current developed world lifestyles are not sustainable unless we change they way they are supported (i.e. by using cleaner energy). That applies to people in the developed world and those in the developing world who aspire to a better life.
Charles Liu says
Allan, @ 28,
Great quote from Greenpeace that really shows the media distortion and “official narrative” we Americans are subjected to.
Another thing I got a laugh out of is how when Obama met with the Europeans it’s neuturally described, but when China, India, Brizil met it’s some nefarious secret meeting by the Climate Axis of Evil.
If this isn’t our media manufacturing “enemy” what is?
Scroll back a few comments you will find I have most consistently defended the theory of man-made climate change. I also have no illusion of an easy and painless solution (through technology or by “adaptation”.)
The fair solution would be for developed world to retrench in their life style and for the developing world, especially China and India to scale back on their ambitions of sustained fast pace growth. The problem is that both are impossible politically.
Obama tried to shift the focus to China because he has no domestic room for maneuver. What Obama has promised so far will almost certainly be empty promises since he has no domestic support for anything even close to what he has promised.
So the burden will eventually be on the backs of China and India. Can they find paths for sustainable development? They certainly have the great incentive to look for such paths, even if climate change theory turned out false.
Comparing per capita emission is still problematic here. China is the world’s factory. So a big part of the total emissions in China is taken up by the production of goods consumed outside of China. I don’t see how it is fair to complain how much emission each Chinese citizen on average is producing if a big fraction is for the benefit of outsiders.
This reminds me of the long running fuss about the trade deficit U.S. experiences with China. If U.S. imports $1 worth of goods from China, it is counted as $1 in the trade balance calculation on China’s tab, never mind that more than, say, $0.75 of that goods could have come from imported parts and materials from other countries into China.
I assume you are referring partly to #26.
My point was just to show how difficult it has been for developed nations to shift CO2 emission on a per capita basis. Despite all the hoopla about Europe changing to a low carbon economy, the fact is that CO2 emission per capita in developed portions of Europe has not budged.
How do we expect China to develop while decreasing its CO2 trajectory if even Europe has found it so challenging to change its own ways?
I feel China’s emphasis on reducing emission intensity is entirely sensible. Given the overall development status of and standard of living in the country, it is simply unreasonable to expect China to commit to maintain or cut the absolute amount of emissions. So China’s offing to cut emissions intensity by 40–45% below 2005 levels by 2020 is in essence saying that she will continue developing the country and improving citizen’s living standard, but doing so in more green manners.
Of course, SKC was also correct that intensity targeting is a Bushism if I ever heard one is also on the mark. I find it indefensible if the U.S.’ position is to keep its way above the rest living style while merely doing so in a greener way.
As for my comment on hidden problems in using per capita emission as a bench mark (in #37), I was thinking about the need for a metric along the line of per capita emission associated with all service and goods consumptions. I wonder how U.S. would look like in that regard.
There are obvious evidence that the climate is changing, but I’m still not convinced why if the temperature rise 2 degree the earth is doomed. Okay that’s assume it’s so urgent, and we must ACT NOW!
Some point out China’s per capita co2 emission is higher than many developing countries, maybe even some developed countries. So what? If science decide we need to cap 3 tons of co2 emission per capita to meet the 2 degree target, I think China should sacrifice her development and maybe the living standard to meet the target! So do every country! Don’t forget we are talking about SAVE THE WORLD!
Regarding the patent issue I point out previously, I mean all technologies that can help to reduce co2 emission, no matter who invent it, should be donated to the whole world and shared by all the countries and people to help reduce the co2 emission! If climate change is really this URGENT!
Finally I should point out, historically, human being had a very small footprint on earth. All wild life have their fair share of the earth resources. Today human being as one species dominates the earth and consume way too much resources that should be saved for other living beings. While other creatures are on speedy distinction, human being itself is on the road of self destruction if current live style continues. People should really calm down and think of what will be human being’s future, what should be our population strategy, if we still claim everyone have the same rights!
S.K. Cheung says
“I mean all technologies that can help to reduce co2 emission, no matter who invent it, should be donated to the whole world and shared by all the countries and people to help reduce the co2 emission! If climate change is really this URGENT!”— that would be an ideal scenario. However, if private enterprise develops such technology, their duty is to look after the interests of their shareholders. If government develops such technology, their responsibility is to improve the lives of their citizens. So “the world’s people” is rarely, if ever, the leading beneficiary of what goes on in the world. That’s why countries like the US try to avoid hard targets, owing to the political price to be paid at home if they did something that would drastically increase the cost of living for Americans. That’s also why countries like China avoid hard targets, because the restriction on her economic growth might exact a political price, even in that type of political system. It’ll be a cold day in you-know-where before national governments place a premium on the interests of the international community over their own citizens, owing to the fact that the tendency is to always take care of your own constituents first.
Which is also why the navel gazing about “who is being portrayed as a white knight” and “who is being made to look evil” completely misses the point. The point is that everyone has much to do, and no one is prepared to do much of it. Worrying about whether China looks bad is missing the forest for the trees. Being the prettiest of the ugly ducklings, or being the tallest dwarf, hardly seems to be something worth worrying about.
That’s exactly the point! Humans and states are born selfish, and this is a zero-sum game. Assuming all the dire consequences of this global climate threat are accurate (I am supposedly a scientist on my own, but really I know nothing of this matter, though I am inclined to believe the seriousness of this issue), the bottom-line is what every state is supposed to sacrifice together in reasonable fairness to solve this matter.
No one should expect a free lunch. On the other hand, as a common Chinese saying goes, those with bare feet have nothing to fear from the ones with shoes. i.e., you developed countries have more to lose than if nothing changes.
For all those trying to point the blame on China, I am partial in this debate and am quite happy that China allegedly did what the British accused. This is what a responsible statesman is supposed to do.
Now, please allow me to apologize first for what follows showing my disdain with that spinning clown Miliband. Why is the British doing the attacking this time? Her majesty is just reaffirming its role since the WWII as the running dog of the U.S., isn’t it?
From Copenhagen, China had to learn an important lesson – she could decide to be a leader or the bad guy. For there can be no such thing as being the good guy when you’re the world’s biggest CO² emitter.
Let’s just break China up into smaller pieces with populations the size of the US or Japan. Or Canada, or Australia. You can then have a bunch of good guys who are not nearly the biggest CO2 emitters.
Here is a TNR blogpost. While the post itself is not very interesting, the first comment by Xenophon is. I am usually pretty allergic to conspiracy theories, but this idea that US and the Europe set a trap for China in Copenhagen somehow made sense to me, especially in light of the Brown and Miliband’s statements.
Thanks for the TNR link. The comment by Xenophon is very interesting. I am pasting it below:
In retrospect, I think the “plan” for Copenhagen–hatched between the US and Europeans–was to downplay the demands being made on the emerging economies, especially China, so as not to scare them away before the conference. Copenhagen, was in essence, a trap into which China would be lured, and then, in the glare of world media coverage, be forced into submission, ie intrusive inspections, etc. President Obama, with his supposedly overwhelming influence among third-world countries was the ultimate hammer to achieve this. Hence, the aura of inevitability preceding and during the early part of the conference and the wildly exaggerated ideas of the outcome among the climate advocates, the media, et al.
But someone forgot to assess the Chinese position with cold, hard logic. The Chinese leadership is trying to move huge numbers of people out of poverty and transform China into a world power. As they gradually open up Chinese society and the economy, they live more and more on a political knife’s edge. They know what political instability will do to China’s development–what China was like under the late Ching and Republican rulers. ( They also know that the US wouldn’t really be heart-broken if their ambitious plans are thwarted.) While the Chinese leadership may actually buy into the science of global warming–I’m not really sure–they are not going to sign on to an inspections regime that locks them in to levels of economic pain that conceivably bring about–or at least contribute to–domestic political cataclysm.
China’s vested interest in weaning itself off hydrocarbons for strategic and economic reasons means that its policies will, in practice, probably be generally–very generally– green-house-gas-reduction-friendly, but that’s as much as we can expect. They’re not going to risk political suicide and the collapse of all the work of the last three decades that have taken China so far. Clearly, others felt similarly to China based on the comment of the Brazilian negotiator in one of the article’s links, but China was perhaps the only one that would simply say, “No.”
So, the “trap” failed to catch the prey, and bagging the US Senate will now be nigh impossible. In the end, I suspect that rising energy prices and the consequent shift to increasingly viable energy technologies will be the motive force in combating green house emissions, but it certainly won’t be on the timeline of the scientists, climate advocates, et al.
I think a lot of this is bs. The real issue here is human population growth and their usage demand.
You are right on. The per capita emission is a better and fairer measurement than the total emission, but an even better barometer would be the per capita carbon consumption, including all the carbon emission associated with the good you consume. In forty years, China could easily move those high-carbon intensity factories to Africa, and lower its per capita carbon emission and total as well. But the relocation of carbon emission origin does not lower the total emission of the world, does it? The truth is that we all need to scale back our consumption habits, and stop producing more children than the resource of this planet warrants.
Let me ask all of you who have commented here: How many of you are driving compact cars (or not driving at all) instead of unnecessary SUVs, how many of you have changed all your indoor lighting to the energy efficient type, how many of you have considered or are considering adopting children instead of having your own? (My answer to all of this is yes!) These are simple things to do to contribute to the carbon reducttion, but I suspect not everyone is doing it.
i quite agree with neutrino and 31 hzzz. China and other developing countries have been emphasizing on the comparison of the per capita carbon emission all along and the developed countries in Copenhagen are reluctant to address this.
Normally when the west criticize china on human rights record, they like to emphasize individual right, e.g. the state infringement of Chinese citizens’ individual rights. And China likes to emphasize group right in defence. Ironically this time after Copenhagen, the West commentators including Gordon brown and Ed Miliband start to agree China on group principle, insisting China’s emission be calculated as a whole instead of on a individualist basis, i.e. per capita emission.
the following analogy is made in a posting in http://www.pinggu.org: 评丹麦世界气候大会：破船上的大智慧
the Copenhagen summit is compared to a leaking boat. On this leaking boat, it would be suicidal for 190 people to take time negotiating on who should work more to remove water from the boat. in that situation, probably even the most selfish person on the boat would automatically work to his best to save the boat.
But in a little bit more complicated scenario, the situation would be different. If the people on the boat could figure out before sinking, the boat could carry them to a safe port, hence they can leave the danger to the next group of passengers, then many people on the boat would sit down and enjoy the sea journey instead of working hard to save the boat…
(I hope this comment is an original posting in the above forum, if it is a translated version from english, it would be silly for me to do the reverse translation:-))
A few thoughts on the Copenhagen Agreement~
The US pushed numbers reflecting overall CO2 output, why am I not surprised?
China pushed numbers reflecting CO2 per capita output, why am I not surprised?
Developing countries pushed getting lots of cash to deal with their problems, why am I not surprised?
The EU talked big but wouldn’t even commit to a 30% reduction, why am I not surprised?
So for the most part, each country did what they were expected to do, and that was what was in their country’s political and economic interest. Everyone talked big but the actual commitments were non-existent, just goal numbers.
I have a feeling that if:
The US had a low per capita CO2 output, they would have taken the Chinese position.
China had a high per capita CO2 output, they would have taken the US position.
Developing countries were developed, they would have taken the US position.
Regardless of where the EU was, their position would have been as watered down as it was because they never agree on anything amongst themselves.
I also have a feeling that if:
China was a developed nation with a high per capita CO2 output, most of our Chinese bloggers would have insisted on total CO2 rather than CO2 per capita limits.
The western countries were developing nations with low per capita CO2 outputs, most of our western bloggers would have insisted on CO2 per capita numbers rather than total CO2 limits.
So why not just admit that most here are taking the argument of the side they happen to be connected to rather than look at this objectively?
So how can we reduce CO2, methane and other harmful pollutants? How about a carbon tax and tariff? Regardless of where something is manufactured, the factory producing the product would have to meet certain CO2 and other pollutant emissions or there would be a carbon tax or tariff added to the price. With those standards in line, China would still have wage efficiencies so she could maintain her manufacturing prowess, but would pay a price not to use available pollution control technology. Every country would try to develop better and better technology since the market for it would be tremendous and tremendously profitable.
Some have suggested that developed countries make available for free the technology for pollution and CO2 lowering equipment to undeveloped countries. That idea isn’t reasonable because the countries don’t own the technology, corporations who invented the technology own it and have patents for it. Their reason for existence is to make a profit and they invest funds into R&D with the expectation that those costs will eventually be rewarded with profit. They won’t willingly give away their investment. If governments forcibly took that technology from them with no reward, there would be no reason to continue to develop new technology. On top of that, they’d sue and I’m sure they’d win in court.
Remember, undeveloped countries are undeveloped because of poor past political and economic policies along with massive corruption. Why is that the fault of developed countries? As an example, Singapore is a developed nation because of wise political and economic policies and a lack of corruption. They did not rely on massive foreign aid to get where they are. Neither did Japan. During the early 1900s, Argentina’s economy was larger than France’s. Since that time, it has fallen back because of poor political and economic decisions and massive corruption. Is it France’s fault that it is far more successful these days? Is France responsible for Argentina’s failure?
That’s why, in my opinion, these “Robin Hood” arguments are absurd.
The notion that developed countries help developing countries so we can fight climate change together (the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”) is a concept born from the Kyoto agreement, which has roots in the 1992 UN Framework on Climate Change (which the U.S. ratified).
From the 1992 agreement (text), it is stated in Article 4:
I’d quote from the Kyoto agreement also except the U.N. server hosting the text is down for now…
You also wrote:
First of all, I fail to see the relevance of this. We are not talking about global economic egalitarianism. We are talking about jointly trying to solve a global problem. Developed country pitch in disproportionally not to do charity. Developed nations agreed to do so because it offers the best chance of jointly succeeding.
Also – just as a historical gripe, I’d argue with the notion that the developed world got to being developed simply because they have been the most responsible and wise about governing. Many people around the world would agree with me that the developed world got to being developed on the back of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism.
I only have one question to you: Do you believe people are born to be equal?
S.K. Cheung says
“How many of you are driving compact cars (or not driving at all) instead of unnecessary SUVs, how many of you have changed all your indoor lighting to the energy efficient type, how many of you have considered or are considering adopting children instead of having your own?”
1. I drive a hybrid
2. CFL’s. Christmas lights are LED, on a timer
3. we heat with heat pump
4. programmable thermostat
5. as for kids, I’m done procreating (and hopefully my wife has as well) 🙂 but we have no plans to adopt. Good on you for looking into that option.
1. drive honda civic
2. have compact fluroescent throughout house for years
3. at home, rarely set heater above 65 deg F; rarely set ac below 75 deg F
4. no children yet; wouldn’t mind adopting though wife wants own kids
5. avoid beef (too much methane); in general eat very little meat (for health reasons, not so much climate reasons)
6. on weekends, rely on bicycle for local mode of transportation
7. no x-mas tree; no x-mas lights (though enjoy going into town to look at the lights)
8. try to recycle bottles, containers, packaging, etc. – though not as good as I could
S.K. Cheung says
To Steve #48:
well said. That should basically summarize all the biases that underlie the positions being taken here, including mine.
Allen speaks of “jointly” solving a global problem. Fair enough. From a “world citizen” standpoint, I think we should push for a sharing of technology just as soon as he stipulates that developing countries (including China) would adhere to hard emissions targets with the availability of such technology.
I think a carbon tax would work. It’s the ultimate user-pay model or consumption tax. However, the products made in China instantly just got a lot more expensive. I wonder how that would sit with folks around here who seem to espouse the “Chinese economic growth above all else” position.
Re: I think a carbon tax would work. It’s the ultimate user-pay model or consumption tax. However, the products made in China instantly just got a lot more expensive.
Why would this additional cost be different for product made outside of China?
In general I like the concept of the carbon tax. Here are some issues that may portend trouble:
1. how will carbon be accessed; figuring out the carbon footprint of a product is difficult: it depends less on the final form of the product than the manufacturing pathway of the product; one would have to have a very good supply chain monitoring system to be able to say, by looking at a computer monitor at a store, for example, how much carbon was emitted to produce the product and to get the product to the store;
2. since carbon footprint will be difficult to assess, the process of assessing can be politicized; as the economy tanks, we already are seeing the rise of protectionist sentiment across the world (including very much so here in the U.S.); imagine how easy it will be for politicians in Congress to say since monitoring in China doesn’t quite match our “grade A” standard here in the U.S., let’s assume the worst for all products made in China; I can imagine special interests all over the map trying to persuade congress to assess this special and that special carbon tax for foreign made products;
3. what will governments that collect carbon tax do with the money? will they be used to create companies that create green technologies that can be shared with the world? will they be used to help the most needy nations adapt to climate change? or will they be used as an additional source of tax revenues … to be squandered?
@ Allen #49: Actually, I agree with you on this and when reading back on what I wrote, I wasn’t very clear in my position. I think developed countries SHOULD help undeveloped ones to solve their CO2 emission problems because it serves the ultimate purpose. I can see why you might have felt I had a different position. What I was trying to point out was that the attitude that something is owed is a bad one and that most problems are self inflicted, including the US’s huge CO2 emission problem. Quite frankly, it’s an embarrassment and one reason I couldn’t stand the Bush administration, whose philosophy was “business as usual” and “let’s not regulate anything”. I support regulation, a carbon tax and incentives to lower emissions of all types, not just CO2. The “Robin Hood” argument I was referring to was the “demand” argument used by many underdeveloped countries that enables their leaders to pocket huge amounts of foreign aid of which very little actually gets to their own citizens.
Allen, your argument about slavery and imperialism is valid if you go back long enough but has little to do with present day circumstances. How did slavery, imperialism and colonialism allow Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, etc. to develop since the end of the war? How did it enable Chile to develop? How did it apply to Canada? If you think about it, slavery didn’t help the US develop since it was an agricultural phenomenon. The US developed industrially in the northeast and midwest through industry, which had nothing to do with slavery, colonialism or imperialism. It can be argued that Samuel Slater had more to do with it than anyone else. I guess we disagree here. I feel the governing model, educational system and legal system is key to development. I’d argue that this is the case with China’s growth. When Deng changed the system to allow capitalism and foreign trade, China boomed. Are you saying China has been imperialist, colonialist and using slavery to achieve this growth? To me that is a weak historical revisionist argument.
@ miragecity #50: Everyone is born equal but the minute they are born, things begin to become unequal. Their parents’ circumstances, their culture’s rigidity or flexibility in terms of upward mobility, their local educational system, etc. all can add or subtract their ability to have equal chances with their fellow countrymen or with people from the rest of the world. A Namibian tribesman might come out of the womb equal to you or I, but from that time on that person’s chances to have a chance at our lifestyle are severely limited by circumstances. Does that answer your question? I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking here.
@ DJ #54: I agree with you. I think well run Chinese companies will be more than competitive with foreign manufacturers.
@ Allen #55: All good questions. First of all, a carbon tax or tariff doesn’t have to be universal; it would be created by individual countries or associations. To ensure trade remains viable, it would behoove countries to adopt similar standards. Will it get bureaucratic? Sure, just look at any tax or tariff, it can’t be avoided. However, your first example I think is misleading. The computer monitor manufacturer is only concerned with the carbon output of his assembly process. The individual component manufacturers would be subject to tax or tariff of their individual products. Therefore, a computer monitor assembler in China would have a very low carbon footprint, since it isn’t a smokestack industry.
There can only be one “standard” for monitoring CO2 emissions. Countries can either comply or be outside the system. If it is in China’s best interests to comply, China will comply. And I’m pretty sure it’d be in their best interests, just as it’d be in an American company’s best interest to comply. Some companies might rather pay the tax than comply, since it might be cheaper for them to do so. That’s always going to be tricky but no more tricky than the current negotiating process.
The money would best be used for R&D and helping underdeveloped countries clean up their industries. Will it end up doing so? That would depend on how it’s set up in the beginning. Regardless of what it is used for, by meeting the standard there is an economic incentive to reduce CO2 emissions so the end result is the same. If one country used the funds for research while another put it into their general fund, the one using it for research would come out ahead in terms of their economic development.
@ miragecity #56: There wouldn’t be an “emissions cap” since this is a tax/tariff and not cap and trade. There would be an economic incentive for industry to lower emissions for “selfish” reasons, selfish in terms of profit. Since everyone would play under the same rules, no one factory would have an advantage. Would this increase the price to the consumer? Yes, it would. In the end, the consumer will have to pay the cost of lowering pollution but as acid rain and smog have shown, the actual cost ended up being much, much lower than predicted and the benefit to the consumer in terms of ‘quality of life’ was more than worth the cost.
I really like your idea of developed countries paying for the abatement equipment for underdeveloped countries. They can purchase equipment from their own manufacturers so the majority of the cost stays within the country, yet the underdeveloped country ends up with the needed equipment and the chances for corruption won’t really exist. The manufacturer is able to scale up production which lowers the cost of the product, allowing all end users to benefit.
Regarding idea of carbon tax, I’m not oppose the it. But first you still need the answer the question the emission cap is base on what average? per country? per capita, or per square kilometer? Again I think per capita is the most fair way. And don’t forget the pollutants are not only co2, you need to tax on manufacture, transportation, even mass of breeding cows!
Regarding the patent issue, okay I understand companies put money and efforts and they need to be paid off. Why not let the countries who are responsible for historical green house gas emission accumulation pay for it? Compare to given money to developing countries for compensation, I think it would be better let the developed pay for the clean energy technology. Let the governments pay for these technologies and suddenly the green technologies are widely available. This would eliminate the money distribution, corruption, blah blah blah whatever developed countries are worry about.
I wonder why there is no serious discussions of the need for global population control. One of the most important root cause of this climate concern is the dramatic increase in world wide population in the last six decades.
you said: “Everyone is born equal but the minute they are born, things begin to become unequal.”
Okay I understand the reality, but do they have the right to pursuit the equality? If a US citizen emit 18 tons of co2 to enjoy his big house, multiple vehicles, eating beef, air conditioning in summer and heating in winter, does a Chinese or Indian citizen have the right ( if he is capable) to enjoy the same living standard and emit same amount of co2?
Definitely today’s world is not determined by slavery, imperialism, and colonialism. But a lot of its effects remains. The rich countries of today are mostly still the imperialists of a century ago. Yes – there is also South Korea and Taiwan and Singapore. But they are small – and have ridden on the backs of U.S.
Charles Liu says
miragecity @ 59, “Okay I understand the reality, but do they have the right to pursuit the equality?”
Only the Tibetans, Uyghurs, TAM mothers that our NED funds, have such rights. When it comes to us American’s collective rights to consume 12 times more energy than an average Chinese, pursuit of equality against our reality is a non-starter.
Us Americans, 5% of world’s population, consuming less than 25% of the world’s resources? Not a chance in hell, global warming or not.
S.K. Cheung says
To DJ #54:
“Why would this additional cost be different for product made outside of China?” — you’re right, it may not be. My assumption is based on:
a) the type of energy source used in China (significant reliance on coal, for instance) as opposed to other places which may use more renewable types of energy to power their manufacturing
b) the “carbon trail” in getting raw materials to the manufacturing sites (obviously this would vary greatly depending on where something is manufactured as compared to where the raw materials are coming from, and China may not be worse off than any other jurisdiction when taken in its entirety)
c) the “carbon trail” in getting finished products to the retail sites (the assumption is that most things that are imported would become relatively more expensive vs locally-made products).
In the end, the final price with carbon taxes in on a CHinese-made product being sold (for example) in the US may still be cheaper than (for argument’s sake) a US-made product. But my guess is that part/some/most of the current price advantage may be lost.
To Mirage #56:
“Regarding idea of carbon tax, I’m not oppose the it. But first you still need the answer the question the emission cap is base on what average?” — if you go with carbon tax, then the question becomes how you document the carbon trail, and what price you put on a unit of carbon. Emissions cap is no longer necessary, because it becomes a market system. If you want to consume a lot of stuff that requires a lot of carbon, you’ll pay for it. If you want to manufacture a lot of stuff that uses a lot of carbon, then you’ll watch as the price of your product goes up relative to another manufacturer who builds in efficiencies and conservation, thus putting you at a competitive disadvantage. No longer will you have to mandate emissions reductions.
“Why not let the countries who are responsible for historical green house gas emission accumulation pay for it?” — and that’s fine. But once developing countries have this technology, why wouldn’t they step up and target the same reductions as everybody else?
“US and the Europe set a trap for China”
“it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal”
S.K. Cheung says
To #59 and #61:
“I understand the reality, but do they have the right to pursuit the equality?” — you both should check out the first 60% of Steve’s #48.
Is energy consumption the most important aspect of equality? Better yet, is energy consumption the most important aspect of equality in the eyes of PRC citizens?
As Steve says, by the chance of birth, and the myriad circumstances that intervene thereafter, people aren’t “equal” when it comes to “stuff”. I think, as a “world citizen”, that we should hope that everyone has enough, but not that everyone has the exact same amount as the next guy, or the guy half way around the world.
However, #61, Tibetans etc aren’t, IMO, aiming for the “right to (pursue)..equality” with Americans, especially wrt their rights. They are, after all, in China, and they might as well dream on. They may simply be opining for the right to have some rights, pertaining to things some might consider to be a bit more basic than high energy consumption.
Charles Liu says
real @ 63, it’s very easy to once again blame China isn’t it. As one observer commented in the Guardian article you cited, what’s being characterized by Mark Lynas as “serious cuts” by US (17% cut based on 2005 level, while everyone else based their reduction on 1990 level) is in reality a 4% reduction by 2020.
Now, why would China, or anyone else, accept our lamea$$ offer? Also, here are few more comments to this IMHO exteremely biased article:
“India shares China’s sovereignty worries.
That’s nearly half of mankind not happy with binding commitments.”
“China, India and the rest of the developing world shouldn’t cave in to the developed world’s demands.
1. The US and China may be the world’s top two polluters – but China has nearly 4.5 times the population of the USA!
2. It is the West that caused almost all the greenhouse gases to date – China and the rest of the developing world shouldn’t agree to any restrictions that might jeopardise their future economic development.”
“The nerve of the Americans to lecture any other nation on how to be green.
“With just 5% of the world?s population, the US consumes 25% of world energy resources.” source: http://www.bostonindicators.org/indicators2006/summaryreport.aspx?id=4486
“In total, the average American consumes five times more energy than the average global citizen, 10 times more than the average Chinese, and nearly 20 times more than the average Indian.” source: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/808 ”
And before people bring up China’s use of coal power plants, maybe an honest look at the numbers is in order:
China 2,656,000 GWh 32.3%
U.S.A. 2,118,000 GWh 25.7%
Translates to per-capata coal power use:
US – 0.006 GWh per person
China – 0.0019 GWh per person
An American has over 3 time the reliance on coal power generation than a Chinese. And before anyone start spliting hair over clean technology, just remember Western nations refused to put clean technology transfer on the table during COP15.
Now, why would China, or anyone else, accept our offer?
Why not if it won’t propose anything else? China signed up to a paperless tiger of an agreement with no international oversight and no enforceable targets. So why would it block other countries from setting themselves a minimum target that may or may not be enough?
India shares China’s sovereignty worries.
India does not share China’s worries according to that article. Indeed the lead says:
If you are confused by democracy, the government speaks on behalf of the people – though you cannot say its opinions are those of all its citizens – not the opposition.
In total, the average American consumes five times more energy than the average global citizen
So it’s all your fault, Charles. When are you ditching your car, selling your home PC (only using internet cafes), washing machine (going to laundrettes), using candles instead of lights in the evenings, etc?
Charles Liu says
And before people bring up China’s use of coal power plants, maybe an honest look at the numbers is in order:
China 2,656,000 GWh 32.3% of global use
U.S.A. 2,118,000 GWh 25.7% of global use
Translates to per-capata coal power use:
US – 0.006 GWh per person
China – 0.0019 GWh per person
An American has over 3 time the reliance on coal power generation than average Chinese. And before anyone bring up clean technology use, just remember Western nations refused to put technology transfer on the table during COP15.
“It is the West that caused almost all the greenhouse gases to date”
i understand what do you mean but to be more exact:
Carbon dioxide … which contributes 9–26% … Increase since 1750 107 ppm to Current level 387ppm
“China and the rest of the developing world shouldn’t agree to any restrictions that might jeopardise their future economic development.”
recalls me a bit usa/bush-the-last opinions about kyoto protocol (did usa came to kyoto to be against?)
“that would be an ideal scenario. However, if private enterprise develops such technology, their duty is to look after the interests of their shareholders. ”
Incorrect. Shareholders are are only one class of stakeholders in an enterprise. The perversion with modern western capitalism is that shareholders are the only ones that matter, thus resulting in the likes of financial crisis and raping of the natural world.
Thanks for explaining how carbon tax works. But, I have the following questions:
1. who owns this tax money and how should it be used?
2. will all the green house gases emission be taxed? IMO it’s fair only if it includes all the activities that generate GH gases, which includes the emission caused by manufacturing, transportation, power generation, heating, cow breeding… besides, we should also tax on cutting trees, which is the activity that negate the green house gases reduction.
3. back to 1st question, the total of money collected should be used proportionate to the population, you can’t say developing world should consume less beef than developed world, should you?
“But once developing countries have this technology, why wouldn’t they step up and target the same reductions as everybody else?”
again what target? If per capita why not? That’s the only fair way!
Thanks for all the responses. This has been an interesting discussion and I’ve learned a lot from everyone.
@ miragecity #59: Chinese and Indian citizens already have the “right”. As an example, here are some luxury homes in China. The only criteria for ownership is the ability to pay. Anyone in China can buy anything they want if they have the money, and their personal CO2 emissions can be as high or higher than anyone else on the planet. It’s no different in India.
But I think you’ve hit upon a very important point. If China has almost 5x as many people as the States, if both countries had similar lifestyles then China should have 5x the CO2 emissions, right? Since China has taken serious steps to reduce population, I can’t find any fault in that argument. However, that’s not the situation. China has a huge disparity between rich and poor. The rich produce a huge CO2 footprint per capita while the poor produce almost no CO2 footprint per capita. Remember, a wealthy person in China is far wealthier with a person of exactly the same wealth in the western world because costs are so much lower in China, especially when it concerns hired help. So we have to look at “per capita” in two different settings. In order to use your “equal” definition, each person would have to have the same carbon footprint as every other person, or else a maximum carbon level would be established that no one could exceed.
However, there are all sorts of permutations to that requirement. I used to be a road warrior, traveling between 50-100K air miles per year. My carbon footprint was enormous and far exceeded any viable level that could be established. Much of that carbon footprint was used to assist our operation in China in becoming viable, so a benefit to China and a direct result of that travel was increased Chinese employment. The CCP was very supportive of my presence there, since they were trying to build up a semiconductor industry and I had knowledge and experience that was unique to that country. Do the benefits of my travel outweigh the carbon footprint I produced? Should the White House or Zhongnanhai be under the same restrictions as my house? Where do you draw the line? If business travel is outside the restrictions, what about private jets? Should they be banned? How about limos? How about Hummers?
If we only use “country per capita” requirements, then within countries some will be more equal than others, and that is certainly not fair. The problem with this type of criteria is that it sounds great in theory but impossible to achieve in reality.
@ Allen #60: You wrote, “Definitely today’s world is not determined by slavery, imperialism, and colonialism. But a lot of its effects remains. The rich countries of today are mostly still the imperialists of a century ago. Yes – there is also South Korea and Taiwan and Singapore. But they are small – and have ridden on the backs of U.S.”
I disagree. Imperialism benefited England the most because England had the least amount of raw materials. None of those benefited Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Eastern Europe, etc. Slavery didn’t benefit anyone in terms of industrial development; it was related to agriculture. Imperialism probably resulted in a net negative benefit for the USA. If you think “South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore rode on the backs of U.S.”, then you’d also have to include Western Europe after the war, Japan and even modern China. The USA gave those countries a market to sell to and build up their manufacturing expertise so under your criteria, they’d all fall in that category. And this was bad for those countries in what way? They all went from poverty to wealth riding on the back of the USA. They also all went from poverty to wealth because they industrialized efficiently and could sell their products competitively. That had far more to do with it than past imperialist, etc. behavior.
BTW, I’m not blaming China for what happened in Copenhagen, since I think the entire exercise would have just created a very inefficient, meddling bureaucracy. There is no need for Kyoto or Copenhagen if you have a carbon tax/tariff. Everyone is on the same playing field, which is all that many of you are asking for.
I don’t buy the “historic greenhouse polluters” argument. If I start a fire in my fireplace, the earth can easily absorb the exhaust from my chimney. But if three billion people start a fire in their fireplace, the earth is unable to absorb that much exhaust. If I’m the only one with a fire going, then I’m not creating a problem, but if I’m one in three billion, I’m contributing to the problem.
For a very long time, the earth was able to absorb CO2 emissions so it wasn’t a problem. Once the levels moved beyond what was able to be absorbed, it became a problem. Jerry has documented this data pretty exhaustively. They key is what has happened since that critical point was passed. Who’s the main culprit and #1 enemy of CO2 emissions? In my opinion, it’s the USA. Why? Not only because the levels are so high both per capita and overall, but because the country hasn’t used available technology to lower emissions when that technology existed. China isn’t at fault for industrializing and increasing their standard of living, China is at fault for not enforcing the use of pollution and CO2 abatement equipment for their industrial base. In my opinion, China is far less at fault than the USA.
Charles, your coal numbers, while accurate, are also misleading. It’s not the use of coal per se, but what kind of coal is used and how that exhaust is scrubbed. The USA uses coal with lower sulfur content and scrubs the exhaust pretty thoroughly. Even with those precautions, the exhaust is still “dirty” relative to other forms of power generation. I sold to those plants at one time, including the two largest in the USA, so I’m pretty familiar with how they operate.
Unfortunately, China isn’t blessed with low sulfur coal. Theirs has a very high sulfur content and the amount and quality of abatement equipment isn’t anywhere near what is used in the USA or the EU. I wouldn’t expect China to suddenly move away from coal anymore than I’d expect the USA to do so, but I think it is reasonable for both countries to require the latest abatement equipment and monitor the output levels to make sure that equipment is being used and properly maintained. China has had problems with coal fired power plants turning off their abatement systems to increase profit. Outside the power generation company, no one else in China benefits from their doing this. In fact, everyone loses because of the pollution generated.
I hope I’ve answered everyone’s questions to their satisfaction. These are just my opinions and I’m certainly open to differing viewpoints.
Charles Liu says
Steve @ 71, “scrubs the exhaust”
You are mixing other pollutants with CO2 emission. Check wikipedia on your own to your satisficaton – scrubber placed in the stack gas path removes sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and ash.
Hard coal or brown coal (the COP15 doc cited has that statistics too), average American is still responsible for 3 times more CO2 release from coal power plant than average Chinese. That’s not historical emission but current state of per-capata energy consumption and corrsponding CO2 emission.
@ Charles: Yes and no. Sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxide and ash are far more worrisome pollutants than CO2 so they should also be regulated. Carbon reduction and sequestration technology is being used in the States though on a voluntary basis. Fortunately, most American companies are using this technology by choice, though it should still be regulated. The increased efficiency is relative to the method used in burning the coal, and unfortunately you can only go so far without building newer and more efficient plants.
The problem with American coal fired plants is that we aren’t building any new ones. Virtually all of our plants are old and are not using the latest technology. China is different. Their newest plants are VERY efficient! These plants turn coal into a gas before burning it, which results in the lowest levels of CO2 possible at this time. As each new plant comes online, an older, inefficient plant is shut down. China is to be commended for their responsible actions regarding using the newest and best technologies.
Right now, here are the pertinent numbers. Per this NY Times article, the “least efficient plants in China today convert 27 to 36 percent of the energy in coal into electricity. The most efficient plants achieve an efficiency as high as 44 percent, meaning they can cut global warming emissions by more than a third compared with the weakest plants.
In the United States, the most efficient plants achieve around 40 percent efficiency, because they do not use the highest steam temperatures being adopted in China. The average efficiency of American coal-fired plants is still higher than the average efficiency of Chinese power plants, because China built so many inefficient plants over the past decade.”
As the article also states, “Only half the country’s coal-fired power plants have the emissions control equipment to remove sulfur compounds that cause acid rain, and even power plants with that technology do not always use it. China has not begun regulating some of the emissions that lead to heavy smog in big cities.” This is a much larger problem if you happen to be Chinese and live near one of these plants.
Scrubbers refer to the nasty stuff and abatement refers to the CO2 problem. Both are important and need to be addressed both here and in China.
We are not talking about individual emission inequality, per capita means the average of emission per head within one country. Your denial of per capita emission cap is basically saying developing countries should not pursuit the same living standard as the developed countries. You live in china so you should understand most Chinese still do not have heating during the winter and far less mobile compare to US citizens. I don’t believe you mean people in developing countries should stay the living standard they are currently at now.
Universal emission per capita cap is the most fair way to deal with climate change, denial of this approach effectively create an economical caste system between the countries in the world.
Charles Liu says
Steve @ 73, “The average efficiency of American coal-fired plants is still higher than the average efficiency of Chinese power plants”
I’m going to ignore your conflating of other pollutants with CO2, not because they are not important, but they are not germain to COP15’s CO2 reduction goals.
Be as it may, unless you can demonstrates the efficiency of our coal plants are 300% higher than average Chinese plants, the fact we consume 3 times more coal powered electricity than average Chinese, can not escape comparison.
The truth is, based on some of the numbers in the NYT article, the difference in efficiency is a few percentages, negligable when compared to our 300% more per-capita consumption.
@ miragecity #74: I don’t believe in any caps, I believe in a CO2 tax/tariff system. I completely agree with you that individual Chinese citizens should certainly have access to heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, and the ability to own a car if they can afford one. With a tax/tariff system, no one is denied anything but there are strong financial incentives to use energy in a more efficient manner, no matter who you are or what country you live in. Everyone operates under the same parameters, so it’s a far more equitable system than any cap and trade.
If “per capita” doesn’t apply equally to everyone in a country, then within that country there is no equality. What difference does it make if a person is not treated equally if that treatment comes from within or without? The end result is the same. Why doesn’t it matter that some people use private jets that contribute far more CO2 than a thousand individuals in that same country? Why are private, inefficient jets even allowed to exist? Why are autos allowed to be sold that get poor mileage? That’s why I believe there should be horsepower to weight limits on cars and trucks.
@ Charles #75: Per your #67, you specifically brought up coal fired power plants. I addressed that post. I said nothing about 300% so I have no idea why you are now addressing that part of it to me. I never said coal fired plants in the States were 300% more efficient than similar plants in China. The article never gives a percentage difference, it just says that the plants in the States at this time are more efficient overall.
What I actually wrote was “China is different. Their newest plants are VERY efficient! These plants turn coal into a gas before burning it, which results in the lowest levels of CO2 possible at this time. As each new plant comes online, an older, inefficient plant is shut down. China is to be commended for their responsible actions regarding using the newest and best technologies.”
I also wrote, “Who’s the main culprit and #1 enemy of CO2 emissions? In my opinion, it’s the USA. Why? Not only because the levels are so high both per capita and overall, but because the country hasn’t used available technology to lower emissions when that technology existed.”
When last I checked, that was a compliment towards China.
As I think more about this Copenhagen thing, I think maybe we are stuck taking the moral high ground. Steve is probably right in #48 when he says that we are all just posturing behind moral grounds when in reality we are just taking a politically convenient position of one side against another.
While I do believe emission per capita or emission per gdp is a good way at looking at things, it is not the only way – or even necessarily the right way. Many of us have argued that since the U.S. emission per capita is so much higher than China’s, the U.S. is not in any position to lecture China. Implicitly, the unspoken assumption is that China has all the right to pollute until China’s emission per capita is on par with that of the U.S. – or at least Europe as a whole.
But the world is not flat or uniform. China has 1.4 billion people. It is developing at a time when there is rising consciousness of the effects of industrialization on the environment; at a time where CO2 may be reaching a tipping point leading to catastrophic climate change.
Some of my American friends ask: what’s the point of us making any sacrifice when every tonne of CO2 we save, China will probably go on to emit double or triple what we save.
They have a point. That’s really the inconvenient truth. If we are really nearing at a tipping point, China’s growing emission will only take us over the tipping point even if the Chinese people have all the rights in the world to develop its economy. If China does achieve economic parity with the developed world in 50 years, China’s emission will probably be greater than that of all of the West put together. That’s one scale and implications of China’s rise, among many others. Many things might have been possible in the past, but because China is a different scale altogether, China needs to be especially cognizant of the impact of its development.
So things are not as simple as emission per capita or emission per gdp. Every society develops in different contexts. In developing its economy, China has the benefit of learning from the past experiences of the West, but it also faces unique challenges of developing in the 21st century.
Overall, I still think China is doing as well as it could. Improving people’s quality of life and pulling out of poverty are still the primary duties of the Chinese government. The Chinese people deserve the same quality of life as people in the developed world. But because of the juncture of history at which Chinese is developing, China also has to deal with unique issues associated with global sustainable growth. I know China is willing and capable of taking the lead. Hopefully the West will be willing partner with China on this venture.
S.K. Cheung says
““that would be an ideal scenario. However, if private enterprise develops such technology, their duty is to look after the interests of their shareholders. ”
Incorrect. Shareholders are are only one class of stakeholders in an enterprise.” — you’ve got to be kidding me. You might separate shareholders into different classes based on the types of shares they hold. But if you think private enterprise is beholden to “the world’s people” moreso than to their shareholders, you are sniffing some seriously strong stuff.
To mirage #70:
Q1. good question. In fact, a carbon tax would introduce its own minefield of questions and points of contention. How punitive should the tax be? Should it be one rate for all things, or different rates for the same carbon usage put towards different purposes? Should it be a step wise system, with a base rate, and increasingly becoming more expensive at higher levels of carbon use? Who collects it (for example, if a Chinese made product is sold in the US, and the tax is applied on the sale of the final product, does that mean the US collects the tax when the carbon was expended in China, or en route from China? Probably not. I don’t have answers to any of these questions.
To generally answer your question, I don’t think this tax should go into a government’s general coffers. The tax is there to discourage carbon usage, and the proceeds should be put towards ways to reduce carbon usage ie investing in technologies to achieve that end.
Q2. Agreed. If you’re going to tax carbon as a means towards reducing its consumption, you have to tax all forms and sources of carbon ie there should not be any tax exempt consumption. I also agree that you should tax carbon consumption/production, but also tax activities that reduce the carbon sink (like cutting down forests).
Q3. “you can’t say developing world should consume less beef than developed world, should you?” — a tax would say nothing of the sort. There is no mandate or decree that comes with the tax. The tax, in and of itself, serves as the deterrent, as opposed to limits or caps. If you choose to ignore the deterrent, that’s your choice.
“again what target?” — a hard, non-intensity based one. Again, as I’ve suggested many a time, mother earth couldn’t give 2 figs about “intensity”; it’s the grand total that matters.
“Some of my American friends ask: what’s the point of us making any sacrifice when every tonne of CO2 we save, China will probably go on to emit double or triple what we save.”
So American will continue to emit CO2, expand it military base, build bigger house and car, eats lots of meat and junk, charge exorbitant fee for it stupid patent and technology, spend multi millions to produce a movie that talk about nature and native and of course the hero is always one repent America boy?
China should ignore the hypocrite West.
S.K. Cheung says
“So American will continue to emit CO2,: — and what will China do?
“expand it military base,” — and CHina?
“build bigger house and car” — I read that Audi and Ferrari do good business in China. They must be selling to American ex-pats.
“spend multi millions to produce a movie that talk about nature and native and of course the hero is always one repent America boy” — that is about as logical as an American complaining that the protagonist in Crouching Tiger is Chinese.
Sometimes I really wonder about you….
real name says
“Their newest plants are VERY efficient! These plants turn coal into a gas before burning it, which results in the lowest levels of CO2 possible at this time. As each new plant comes online, an older, inefficient plant is shut down.”
-> i really hear this first time
compare f.e. with “Although China is notoriously building one new coal-fired plant each week, most of them are more efficient than similar facilities in the UK. They are also better equipped to remove sulphur dioxide and other noxious gases.
But almost none of them remove carbon dioxide. The result is that local air pollution is finally easing in many places but emissions of greenhouse gases into the planet’s atmosphere are increasing.”
-> are they really also closing one plant per week?
“While I do believe emission per capita or emission per gdp is a good way at looking at things, it is not the only way – or even necessarily the right way. Many of us have argued that since the U.S. emission per capita is so much higher than China’s, the U.S. is not in any position to lecture China. Implicitly, the unspoken assumption is that China has all the right to pollute until China’s emission per capita is on par with that of the U.S. – or at least Europe as a whole.”
I don’t think that’s the correct way to interpret the per capita approach. We all know the earth can not afford 6 billion people to have the same living standard as US citizens currently enjoy. Why people in the west can’t think of scale back their living standard to save the earth? Your argument is like saying, Do what I say but not what I do.
We know the living standard in China is currently rapidly improving and in current trend Chinese emission per capita can increase significantly. If the west isn’t willing to change their lifestyle, how do you convince Chinese don’t pursuit the same lifestyle? Not to mention the science evidence of earth is on irreversable change is still weak! When people hailed the production of car exceed US market, I feel worry that the US living standard is not the way to go. But how do you sell something you yourself do not follow?
Even if the plants do not have equipments that remove carbon dioxide explicitly, efficiency does equal to removing CO2. Efficiency is a powerful approach to CO2 emission. It’s probably one of the most effective and cheapest way to do it. That’s why there is such a major push (from the highest level down) in China to improving energy efficiency.
real name says
i just nderstand they making new more efficient, directly closing old one (really?) and still there is increasing in greenhouse gases- right?
Charles Liu says
Allan, “the unspoken assumption is that China has all the right to pollute until China’s emission per capita is on par with that of the U.S. – or at least Europe as a whole.”
Is it not so? Especially when we in the West repudiate our historical role in pollution – why should the Chinese believe any differently, and more importantly act any differently than us?
If we realy want the Chinese to sacrifice their national perogative and achieve development differently, what are we willing to sacrifice? For starter would us the 5% ever willingly reduce our 25% over- consumption significantly, in order to give the developing nations more time and room to develop in terms of emmission?
How about not only be more green ourselves, but also enable others to be more green? I blame ourselves for not willing to put green technology transfer on the table during COP15. What right do we have to turn around blaming China, India for not doing more to reduce pollution/emission when we are not willing to help?
If the green technology is cost prohibitive in their eyes, surely the developing nations have the right to choose a more polluting, emission heavy path to development – the same perogrative and decision we have made ourselves in our own develoopment.
@ real name #81: That NY Times article stated, “China has begun requiring power companies to retire an older, more polluting power plant for each new one they build.” They typically fact check so the odds are good that it’s accurate, though I can’t say for sure.
@ miragecity #82: I seriously doubt that the earth has the capacity to generate the US living standard among 6.7 billion people. So that means one of two things have to happen; either there are less people with a higher living standard or more people with a lower living standard. The world population in 1950 was 2.521 billion so if we could get back to those numbers using modern technology that continues to improve, we should have the potential to achieve a very high living among the entire planet and still stay within safe environmental limits.
However, if the population continues to increase as it probably will do, the living standard would lower for everyone. It simply would not be affordable except for the very rich and one nation wouldn’t have any advantages over another unless that nation had more wealthy people. As long as there are no major wars, the relative economic differences between countries should continue to shrink.
Wealthy people aren’t going to lower their lifestyle, no matter what nation they belong to. Al Gore has a huge house, flies around in private jets, gets to conferences in stretch limos, yet is still considered to be a CO2 emission hero though his own carbon footprint is enormous. Same goes for Bono, Sting, Hollywood celebrities and most diplomats. In fact, I read an article in today’s LA Times about U2’s The Edge and his quest to build five enormous homes on the side of a mountain ridge in Malibu. Seems hypocritical, wouldn’t you agree?
No one is going to lower their own energy consumption, no matter where they live, until they have a reason to do so, either the cost is too high or a more efficient alternative presents itself. That’s just human nature, in the USA, China or anywhere else.
@ real name #84: You are correct. The newer plants, though more efficient, also produce much higher capacities. So the efficiency gains are more than offset by the increased power generation.
S.K. Cheung says
To mirage #82:
“Why people in the west can’t think of scale back their living standard to save the earth? Your argument is like saying, Do what I say but not what I do.” — I see that you choose to apply the argument on a country vs country basis. But as a “world citizen”, why is that so? I imagine there are high rollers in China who have a large carbon footprint. If you want to apply your per capita living standard argument adequately, you would also have to target those who consume to excess within China as well. At the end of the day, the earth’s ability to handle carbon is not based on where it’s coming from, but how much there is in total.
Besides, the point isn’t to directly suppress living standards. Part of the way towards net reduction is to reduce consumption, but the other part is to increase efficiencies.
“If we realy want the Chinese to sacrifice their national perogative and achieve development differently, what are we willing to sacrifice?” — that’s a good and important question. Everyone needs to do their part. Part of the problem seems to be the unending game of “you first; no, you first”. The Canadian Harper government is particularly pathetic in this regard. Their position is “all you guys first, and we’ll just do what the Americans are doing”.
“How about not only be more green ourselves, but also enable others to be more green?” — we should. But once we’ve enabled others, it’s reasonable to expect others to start performing. Part of the problem seems to be that some countries want to be enabled but not perform.
“I see that you choose to apply the argument on a country vs country basis. But as a “world citizen”, why is that so? I imagine there are high rollers in China who have a large carbon footprint. If you want to apply your per capita living standard argument adequately, you would also have to target those who consume to excess within China as well. At the end of the day, the earth’s ability to handle carbon is not based on where it’s coming from, but how much there is in total.”
Your argument is similar to Steve’s. But you forget that the agreement to deal with climate change will be reach on country basis. When head of countries sit together talking about the solution, would they care about how much GHG Bill Gates or Al Gore emits? Or how much GHG White House or ZhongNanHai emits? The answer is No! The agreement will only count on the total emission their country emits. How do you calculate how much total which country should be able to emit? The only fair way is a global per capita emission cap (calculated base on 2 degree assumption or whatever target COUNTRIES agreed to reach) multiply by population of that country. If that country has huge economic disparity, say one person emits 10 times above average, that’s only that country’s own problem. As long as the country as a whole meets its total emission target, the earth will be safe.
“Besides, the point isn’t to directly suppress living standards. Part of the way towards net reduction is to reduce consumption, but the other part is to increase efficiencies.”
Agree. I didn’t say someone MUST suppress living standards, I just say to be fair there should be a global per capita emission cap. If US can reduce their per capita emission to the global cap and still manage to keep their current living standard, I have not problem with that. I just say you can not ask others to emit less and live a poorer life while you yourself emit 4 times higher and enjoy a luxury life.
S.K. Cheung says
“The only fair way is a global per capita emission cap (calculated base on 2 degree assumption or whatever target COUNTRIES agreed to reach) multiply by population of that country.”
“As long as the country as a whole meets its total emission target, the earth will be safe.”
— it’s certainly one way. But whether it’s the only way, or a fair way, is very much in the eyes of the beholder.
First, any intensity-based target (and per capita is simply one such form) is dependent on the denominator. If the denominator increases, the total emissions can similarly increase without affecting the intensity. The planet doesn’t care so much about emissions per head as it does about the grand total. So unless your per capita target comes with a population reduction stipulation, this is as good an excuse to increase net emissions as any other intensity target. So the earth is hardly safe even if all the emissions-intensity targets the world over are met.
Second, let’s say we use an intensity-based target, the aforementioned issue notwithstanding. Where do we set such a target? Clearly, it should be at a level that compels “over-consumers” to cut back. But does it make sense to allow other people to increase their usage, when the problem is that the world needs less carbon emission and not more? Moreover, in a country with the oft-celebrated 1.3B population, any per capita increase becomes a significant net increase. As I’ve suggested many a time, the latter is what the earth cares about.
Third, if you agreed with my statement in the previous post, then your ultimate goal should not be per capita emissions. Surely that’s not what the average PRC citizen would wax on about. The goal is living standards. Rather than simply asking for the right to emit more, you should be asking for the right to emit more efficiently, or for whatever emissions that do occur to take you farther. Used in this way, I have no problem with China suggesting that she should get green tech for free. But the quid pro quo has to be that such technology be applied to show a net effect (and obviously not just an intensity-based one).
“If that country has huge economic disparity, say one person emits 10 times above average, that’s only that country’s own problem.” — and I do wonder if China has this problem in spades. Rather than just talking about “average emissions”, I wonder if there is data on interquartile range of emissions. I wonder if the average is low because the hundreds of millions of country peasants buffer a more “western-style” emissions level of city folk. That would be an interesting problem for China. As a world citizen, I’d be more interested that the peasants get picked up rather than a city-dweller pick up a second Fiorano.
All of the above notwithstanding, I’m for a carbon tax more than I am for a cap anyway. That does away with the intensity vs net emissions bit, for starters.
@ miragecity #88 & SKC #89: Miragecity, I wasn’t sure where you were coming from until this last post. I think you and I have been approaching this from two different directions so I’m going to break it down a bit more and maybe we can come to a consensus.
1. We both agree there’s a problem, and SKC also seems to be on board with that. No one’s sure of the size of the problem or where the cutoff line is on temperature rise, but we all agree that something needs to be done.
2. The problem can be approached from two different directions. One would be scientific and the other is political. This is where I think we got separated. I (and I suspect SKC) was approaching this from a scientific basis, in other words, what method would lower the CO2 emissions most effectively and in the shortest period of time. We both came to the conclusion that a carbon tax/tariff would be the best method. Neither of us believes cap and trade will accomplish much except create huge government bureaucracies and endless excuses for targets not being met.
3. From your comment in #88, it seems you were looking at the problem from a political viewpoint, a perfectly valid approach since so far, that seems to be what most political leaders want. The political solution has been to establish cap and trade, intensity numbers, reduction levels by percentage for individual countries, etc. It’s also where the whole “per capita”, “total numbers”, “developing vs. developed” arguments come in. I’ve stayed away from those arguments because I believe it is all political posturing, which has been the end result of the Kyoto Protocols. Those protocols have been entirely useless except in political terms.
4. So this all comes down to approaching the problem from two different directions. If we look at it from the “carbon tax/tariff” angle, no government bureaucracies need to exist to combat the problem since market choices will automatically lower the numbers, technology advances will take place because there’s a profit motive in doing so, etc. That’s where I’ve been coming from and I believe SKC feels the same.
5. If we approach it from the political side as in the Copenhagen Agreement, it’s all about political negotiation and cutting the best deal for your own country. So let’s talk realpolitik here. China has made it clear that she will not accept hard targets for CO2 reductions. She’s not willing to play the political game in any form. Why? Because public opinion counts far less in China than in democracies. In this case, I feel that’s a good thing and I’m on the CCP’s side all the way. China is not going to impose artificial constraints to her economy to meet artificially derived maximum CO2 emission numbers, nor should she. The Kyoto Protocols have already shown such treaties aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. They’re just for show so political leaders can act like they’re actually doing something without having to make any difficult choices that restrict their economies.
6. Being that this is a political morass, let’s look at how to set the limits. If we use the “per capita” approach, China and India will sign up without hesitation because it’s the best deal for them. Again, how convenient. But why should countries who have kept their population growth under control agree to “subsidize” countries that have allowed huge increases in population,either today or in their recent past? They can just as easily say “let’s set the limits based on land area, allowing “X” CO2 emissions per square kilometer”. China and India would scream bloody murder while Canada and Russia would jump for joy. And you know what? If the situation were reversed and both China and India were underpopulated, they’d undoubtedly take the Canadian and Russian position and most of our bloggers would heartily agree. I’m not condemning them for taking this position, since it’s their responsibility to cut the best deal for their country. That’s why the political approach doesn’t work.
7. So what kind of deal did Obama actually broker? One where everyone sets “voluntary targets”, which mean nothing, and developed countries will create a $100 billion kitty for developing ones. Of course, none of this means anything until legislatures around the world actually approve the agreement. Every time these kitties are involved, what usually happens is that the political leaders in those developing countries suddenly see major increases in their Swiss bank accounts and not much gets done otherwise. That’s the reality of political deals.
8. Verification – China has a sovereignty problem with outside verification of its industrial base CO2 emissions. Without some sort of independent verification, no substantive political deal is going to happen. If a deal is put together without verification, you can bet that China will always meet its emissions targets, just as Gansu or Guizhou provinces always meet their 8% growth targets or the air pollution in Beijing before the Olympics always seemed to be just below the acceptable line (they simply moved the monitors further away from the city center). When careers and party promotions depend on meeting targets, those targets will always be met. That’s just the way the system works.
You wrote, “If that country has huge economic disparity, say one person emits 10 times above average, that’s only that country’s own problem. As long as the country as a whole meets its total emission target, the earth will be safe.”
Doesn’t that blow your “equality” argument? In fact, China currently has the greatest difference between rich and poor, so the rich in China are about as unequal as anyone can possibly be. If the rich IN ANY COUNTRY don’t have to cut back on their ostentatious houses, luxury cars, private jets, etc., why should the poor in those countries forgo basic requirements? Why should a poor farmer in Sichuan or Kansas do without heating in the winter so a rich person in Beijing or Los Angeles can have a 10,000 sq. ft. house, two Mercedes and a Porsche parked in the garage? Saying it’s “that country’s own problem” is great if you’re a rich person in that country, but if you happen to be poor it ain’t so great.
So in the end, isn’t the tax/tariff system along with energy use regulations (auto horsepower to weight ratios, tough standards on home insulation, appliance efficiencies, etc.) the only way the planet can achieve meaningful reductions and/or lower increases in annual CO2 emissions? Isn’t all the other stuff just “politics as usual”?
S.K. Cheung says
great post. This whole business about country vs country, developed nation vs developing nation, hard vs soft vs intensity based vs useless targeting, all boils down to that “me vs them” mentality. Obviously, such a mentality enjoys great traction in these parts, since most folks seem to enjoy the “China vs western heathens” dynamic. But while the argument comes back to “the west should do this and that for the greater good”, few seem willing to walk the walk when it comes to China.
I agree that the carbon tax/user pay model is superior to all that other business. However, that’s not to say that implementation of such a strategy would not have its own pitfalls, over which the suits can undoubtedly occupy their lives and justify their existence for years to come.
But man, you’re big on the power to weight ratio limits. That’s a painful one. If you leave torque alone, maybe we can work something out. I agree with the insulation stuff. In fact, beyond just R number, there should be overall home efficiency assessments (I’ve had one done, kinda scary actually, but I’m working on it). New home construction should be to LEED standards. And the appliance issue reminds me of a line from The Incredibles (“if everybody is super, then nobody is”) — I’m not sure why they even make appliances that are not Energy-Star rated (I’m not sure if that’s a Canada-only rating, but it’s a threshold for efficiency).
Here is the Chinese version of the events during the Copenhagen talk: Chinese premier’s 60 hours in Copenhagen
@ Wuming: Thanks for that link. It’s good to also get the CCP side of things.
What a fresh of breath air and sanity. Compared to the self-righteous, dizzying, “morality”-laden spin and propaganda I read in all the Western press and from Western gov’ts (Australia, UK, US, etc.), we finally have a believable take of what happened.
For those who want to read the Chinese version (it looks similar enough), please see here.
Thoughtful discussion on Charlie Rose on Copenhagen (from an American perspective). I had meant to wait to post a link to video, but it looks like I’d have to wait 4-5 months for the link to show up. So here is a transcript. http://www.charlierose.com/download/transcript/10769
Except for DAVID FARENTHOLD of the Washingtonpost, who definitely appears out of place and outgunned (in terms of getting his facts straight and being articulate), the rest of the guests are respectable.
real name says
very interesting as part of mosaic but why dependable?
“Premier Wen was told that the United States would hold a small-scope” MYSTERIOUS “meeting between several countries’ leaders” “Why was the Chinese delegation not informed?”
“Premier Wen” “MYSTERIOUS”ly “proposed a meeting of the BASIC countries” AFTER he “made a prompt decision”
Why such “UNEXPLAINED DELAY”? How it is possible he already had prepared “tea table in the hall”?
“How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room.”
Interesting article about how China undermined the Copenhagen climate talks by Mark Miliband of The Guardian at
S.K. Cheung says
thanks for the link. Interesting to read the Chinese version. As for what’s believable and sane, it pretty much depends on whose Kool-Aid one prefers.
Copenhagen was a non-event. Yes, a “consensus” was reached, so naturally different governments want to position themselves domestically as having been the straw that stirred the drink. And that’s wonderful…until you look at what it is they actually agreed to. It appears that they agreed to agree that climate change is bad and that mitigation measures are required. Wonderful. So, what did they decide to do about it? Who is to do what, and how much? Oh, that’s for another time. Great.
To be honest, it’s baffling why anyone would want to take credit for a piece of work like this. And it’s even more baffling why some commenters would worry about which media is giving credit to whom. Such trivialities.
I’m happy that China’s determination to undertake mitigation action is unconditional and non-negotiable. But I guess that travelling media contingent wanted to stay away from the hard-hitting questions, like what those targets are, why they are what they are, what they plan to do to meet them, and how they will verify and prove that they’ve been met. Questions like those, i suppose, will also be for another time.
But I guess that travelling media contingent wanted to stay away from the hard-hitting questions, like what those targets are, why they are what they are, what they plan to do to meet them, and how they will verify and prove that they’ve been met.
I believe that China is firm on two things: first, it needs to increase the energy efficiency as part of the effort to increase its energy security. Second, it wants to take the lead on green energy technologies. If successful, both will benefit China regardless outcome of the global climate change question and solution. To the degree that these goals are also overlapping the goal of reducing GHG output, is what China is committed to do. Seeing in this light, the current stand China is taking on GCC makes perfect sense.
Wuming’s link is the official CCP position, a “puff piece” just as the State Department puts out “puff pieces” for our politicians. It’s not to be taken literally; if it was Wen Jiabao could probably walk on water as Barack Obama could walk on water when you hear reports from his own people. That’s not the purpose of these releases. They are designed to give the “official version” of events and of course these versions will be nothing but positive towards the governments they speak for. They’re important for analysis and perspective. Let’s not make them more or less what they are. It’s all part of the negotiation process.
Let’s give China some credit here. After allowing the population to get out of control, they took the necessary steps to bring it under control. After building very inefficient coal fired power plants, they changed their policy and are now building extremely efficient coal fired plants. China has a tendency to go all or nothing and right now they’re putting in a serious effort to make their plants more efficient.
Regardless of where you stand on China’s policies, I think everyone here is agreed that the USA has been horribly negligent for many years in improving efficiency. Hopefully this is changing under Obama but we’ll have to see.
The EastSouthWestNorth blog posted a follow up on Copenhagan with a fellow Guardian reporter Jonathan Watts. It includes another view from the inside on top of Mark Lynra’s op-ed last thursday.
From the “Western media” point of view the European angle is clear. The American angle is also somewhat represented. The “China” angle (this would also include Brazil, India, and other developing nations) has been muted.
One of the things I find odd is that the Western media cannot find anyone to argue for China, or any developing nation’s point of view. Surely there are plenty of people who believe the argument is that Western nations which went through the massive industrialization decades ago contributed to most of the damage which were done so far. One figure I read/heard is that 90% of the pollution across this planet were created by “Western” nations over the last century. Now that developing nations have been asked to sacrifice their own economies to clean up the mess which the more advanced nations created in the past, that simply does not make much sense to me unless the advanced nations also contribute to the developing nations to make up for the loss.
I find Western media’ attempt at pointing the finger at China for what came out of Copenhagen to be laughable at the best. The issues are far more complex than what the media has been describing and China should not have been singled out. I remember listening to NPR last week and this one lady with British accent (most of the segments talking on this issue came from BBC, I think the US media pretty much ignored this whole event) was saying that while she acknowledges that Western nations had contributed the most to global warming, China should still sacrifice its economy because we are all on the same ship and there is only one ship for all of us. While this lady wanted China to more, to me this only affirms the belief that the advanced nations (Europe and the US, for the most part) should start the cleaning up by themselves for the piece of global warming which they have contributed without asking developing nations to sacrifice their economies as well.
S.K. Cheung says
those 2 firm goals seem reasonable enough. I think increasing the efficiency with which energy used is a promising alternate means to an improved living standard as compared to simply increasing energy consumption. If control of GHG emissions is a byproduct of such advances, great. But if it’s not enough, then something more will be required. I guess we’ll see.
if China promises to “do something” regardless of whether the US does anything or not, that’s already a better position than what the US is putting forth. But unless we get something a little more tangible, it’s still on par with being “the tallest dwarf” as opposed to a giant step for mankind.
that op-ed seems fairly reasonable. As I suggested previously, there’s lots to be done, and no one wants to do much of it if any. It’s really time to talk taxes rather than caps.
Back to the basic, the goal is to prevent disastrous climate change. To achieve this goal:
we need to prevent the temperature rise 2 degrees till 2050 ( or other amount base on science study); to achieve this，
we need to cap total GHG emission until 2050; to achieve this，
we need to split the total amount of GHG emission to each countries on earth; that’s why we have COP15, from here we split:
since everyone live on earth has equal right on a good living standard and equal responsibility to cut GHG emission, we should divide the total emission target by total population on earth (per capita emission till 2050) . And since deal will be reached on country level, we just multiply the per capita emission till 2050 by population within that country.
This approach doesn’t discriminate or benefit any particular country, it’s simple and fair. I don’t see how “political” this approach is.
You and SKC suggest a more complex approach, the carbon tax approach. This method is unclear and has a lot of weakness for different countries to exploit.
First it’s hard to measure. It would be very hard measure which activity emits how much GHG. how to decide how much should we tax on manufacture a car? how much to consume a beef meal? how much to drive a load of truck or bus from New York to Washington? how much a winter of household heating should be taxed?
Second who own this tax money? If every country itself then the countries have no penalty to emit more so the target can be easily missed. And it will be unfair to countries which emit less.
Third if an organization manage the tax money how should it be distributed or used? This can be a huge bargaining issue and may never be able to reach fairness.
Fourth what currency should use to tax the emission? dollar? euro? or SDR? and at what exchange rate should each country to exchange?
The question can go on and it is getting more and more complex and hard to implement.
Our goal is to cap total GHG emission by 2050 therefore prevent climate disaster, and the per capita emission cap is to achieve this goal with fairness. Emission disparity is the reality and IT IS NOT CAUSED BY PER CAPITA CAP APPORACH. It will exist anyway no matter what approach you take, and each country are responsible to reduce the degree of disparity and clean their own house. So your argument does not stand.
Charles Liu says
hzzz @ 101, you are spot on with our media falling behind the party line to once again demonize China and help indoctrinate the unwitting public with “officical narrative”.
For example, this is about the only article I can find that actually focuses on America’s faling in “stalemate” in negotiation (it takes two parties to reach a stalemate) and the fundamental inequity in ignoring develped nation’s historical pollution:
Most other articles do not acknowledge the fact US offering of 17% reduction based on 2005 level is in fact a mere 4% reduction on 1990 level everyone else during COP15 talked about. Other Guaredian article also offer a more generous calculation of 6% – it’s from the same news organization and they can’t get their fact straight.
S.K. Cheung says
“since everyone live on earth has equal right on a good living standard” — but how and why does this equate to identical emissions? And again, if you really believe that, then you can’t hide behind “each country has to get their own house in order”. You would have to insist that every individual everywhere meet those standards. Again I direct your attention to the wide discrepancies within China. After all, if you’re thinking globally, “countries” are just man-made constructs.
“equal responsibility to cut GHG emission” — how does a CHinese increase in emissions fulfill this responsibility?
“You and SKC suggest a more complex approach” — you mean as opposed to the simple and easily-agreed-to “cap” approach?
“This method is unclear and has a lot of weakness for different countries to exploit.” — funny, this exactly describes the current “cap” approach.
“First it’s hard to measure. It would be very hard measure which activity emits how much GHG.” — wait a sec. How is it any harder than measuring a country’s emissions?
“how to decide how much should we tax on manufacture a car?” — figure out how much energy/carbon was involved in its manufacture.
“how much to consume a beef meal?” — figure out how much energy/carbon was involved in raising the thing and bringing it to the table.
“how much to drive a load of truck or bus from New York to Washington? ” — well, how much gas did it use, and how efficient was it’s engine?
“how much a winter of household heating should be taxed?” — how much oil/natural gas/electricity was used?
“The question can go on and it is getting more and more complex and hard to implement.” — I agree. Now, let’s compare to how many questions have been raised about caps, and how hard it’s been to implement a cap system despite the number of years invested. One definition of insanity, I believe, is to do the same thing over and over, and expect different results. I’d say it’s time to go in a different direction. Is a carbon tax the right answer? I can’t say for sure. Will it work? I dunno. But it seems at least to be a more sane approach at this point.
“the per capita emission cap is to achieve this goal with fairness” — you keep saying the same thing over and over. You’ve yet to address the questions I raised in #89. Rather than repeating myself in its entirety, I’d say that the only way a per capita cap reduces anything is if you reduce the number of heads. So at the very least, what’s your plan for population control/reduction on a global basis.
“Emission disparity is the reality and IT IS NOT CAUSED BY PER CAPITA CAP APPORACH.” — again, if you would be so kind as to address my argument, rather than what you hoped would be my argument, that’d be grand. I never said a per capita approach caused emissions disparity. But a per capita approach does not provide the global emissions reductions that is required.
“how does a Chinese increase in emissions fulfill this responsibility?”
Do you mean African people and some of Chinese people should live under poverty so US and west people can keep their luxury life emit several times more GHG? If your answer is yes, I have nothing to say.
About population, I have said earlier human being should think of future population strategy because earth can not afford the current population growth rate. But China have done very well on population control and have maybe contributed the most to GHG reduction already compare to any other country in the world if you factor population in. Actually lots of experts think China may lose to India in terms of development progress because her population strategy. Not to mention many so called human rights fighter accuse constantly against China’s one child policy. The fact of matter is, if you want to factor in the population growth within 2050, that’s quite okay to china. China have already think ahead compare to any other country and start the process 30 years ago. Let’s make a global population growth percentage and calculate the per capita emission cap with population in consideration. We still can meet the target at 2050.
Regarding your carbon tax method, you haven’t answer me who can collect, manage and distribute the tax money. What currency to use, and who should get how much and where to use this money. The fact of matter is average US or west country citizen emit several times more than developing country citizens. They certainly need to pay for their extra emission. If this money can not reach those who emit less to help them improving their energy efficiency to curb the GHG, this method is doom to fail.
S.K. Cheung says
“Do you mean African people and some of Chinese people should live under poverty” — nope.
“I have said earlier human being should think of future population strategy” — well, if you’re even going to start about per capita caps, then you better have a population strategy today, if not yesterday. A per capita model with no accounting of the number of caputs is as useless as yesterday’s newspaper.
“Let’s make a global population growth percentage” — what are you talking about? Population growth linked to per capita limits equals a progressive increase in emissions. Have you not been paying attention?
“The fact of matter is average US or west country citizen emit several times more than developing country citizens.” — the fact of the matter is also that there are many (probably millions) of Chinese citizens who probably do just as much. The fact of the matter is that the “low” Chinese average is on the backs of the country peasants.
“They certainly need to pay for their extra emission.” — true. Likewise for all the CHinese folk who live “western”-style lifestyles. And guess what? A tax would target all of them. You pay for what you use and what you can afford. It’s true of every other aspect of our life. I see no reason why carbon consumption needs to be viewed any differently.
“If this money can not reach those who emit less to help them improving their energy efficiency to curb the GHG, this method is doom to fail.” — actually, the money needs to go to those places who emit more, not on a per capita basis, but on a net basis. That’s right, China and INdia, for instance. The consumers pay to help the emitters emit less, so that eventually the consumers are consuming less as well.
I think this is off topic, but since the inequality within china has been raise couple of times, let me give some resource to you. The Gini index is the most mentioned method to refer to inequality within country. According to CIA fact book, in 2007 China’s Gini index is 47 while US is 45. It isn’t that big difference as you might think. Compare to other large size developing countries, South Africa is 65, Brazil 56.7, Russia 41.5, Inida 36.8. China isn’t particularly bad.
S.K. Cheung says
thanks for that. Never heard of this index before.
It’s a measure of the degree of inequality of distribution of income. I don’t know if it directly reflects the degree of inequality of the distribution of energy consumption, which is what is being alluded to.
Nonetheless, I’m surprised that China is only 8 places worse than the US in 2007, of those sampled. I’m even more surprised that the US is 56 places worse than Canada. But I’m not surprised that Sweden is the best among countries sampled…Sweden seems like a pretty good place to live.
Charles Liu says
John Prescott, one of the negotiators for Kyoto, points out the mistake of ignoring per-capita emission:
Prescott claims that Stern’s arguments “ignored the more transparent measure of pollution per capita, which shows the US emits 20 tonnes per person every year, compared to China’s six tonnes, whilst America’s GDP per person is almost eight times greater than the Chinese”.
S.K. Cheung says
that link is interesting for several reasons.
First, it seems not all “western media” is evil after all. Some are apparently palatable when they praise China and criticize the US and Europe.
Second, I’m so encouraged to see that you’re still worrying about who got credit for what. You know, someone should just say that China should be credited with salvaging COP 15 and for spearheading the push to come to an agreement that the participating countries really should do something (exactly what that something is, and how much of that something is required, will be determined later. I nominate China to spearhead that future meeting as well, since she seems to be really good at this sort of thing).
Third, I suggest you not read the last paragraph of your link, since (spoiler alert) it might be interpreted as not to be singing China’s praises.
From treehugger – an article on why blaming China misses the point. I’ll put this on the Recommended readings list also.
Charles Liu says
Allen, treehugger.com? Never heard of it.
Matter of fact, these obscure and singular examples are the exception that proves the rule – our media lines up with the “blame China” party line. I mean are people still talking about the fact Western nations tried to kill Kyoto Protocol?
@Charles Liu – How can you repeatedly quote the same newspaper (The Guardian – a British newspaper, not an American one) , in some places to support your argument and in others to point out what you see as bias and an attempt to create an “official narrative” (tip: look up the meaning of the word ‘official’ in a dictionary) at that paper? The Guardian has run many opinion pieces, from people on all sides, the one recently most widely quoted (“How do I Know? I was in the room”) was from an advisor to the government of the Maldives, John Prescott is a former British Deputy Prime Minister and Transport minister, Yang Ailun is with Greenpeace China – I simply don’t see where you get off with this kind of nonsense.
@ Allen #112: Good article; thanks for the link and putting on the recommended reading list.
Since the Copenhagen climate conference, a number of reports and commentaries in the Western press have blamed China for the perceived failure of the talks. This portends the perilous international political climate that China will increasingly have to face. Although China has always insisted that it is a developing country and proclaims solidarity with other developing countries, in fact, it may increasingly be portrayed as in a league of its own.
The narrative that China “wrecked the Copenhagen deal” is noteworthy in several respects. First, it papers over disagreements between developed and developing countries, which was a central theme of the conference, especially in the first week. Now it is just China against the rest of the world.
Second, while it is true that within the developing country camp there was also disagreement between large and small countries, China’s standpoint was shared by a number of other large countries, especially Brazil, South Africa and India, who together with China were called the BASIC countries. The draft final accord was proposed by the BASIC group and the United States, not by China and US alone. The “China wrecking the deal” narrative, however, only singles out China.
Finally, the narrative not only blames China, but also suggests that Copenhagen offers a worrying sign of how “the new superpower” may behave in international affairs in the future. Even if China’s negotiating strategy in Copenhagen was the cause of the “failure”, it can simply be seen as the largest developing country insisting on its right to pursue economic development and shirking its responsibility to the global community.
But no, the narrative goes beyond that and reminds the world how China is becoming “an uncontested superpower” whose “newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen.” It warns the world that if “this is how China intends to use its power, then we are in trouble.”
Clearly, although China continues to emphasis its membership in the developing world, Copenhagen suggests that a narrative that separates China from other developing countries is likely to gain more currency. Climate change is not the only issue that causes a rift between different developing countries and therefore facilitates such a narrative. On issues ranging from China’s trade policies to Chinese investments overseas, it will not be difficult for western countries to promote narratives that depict China as an emerging power that ruthlessly pursues its self-interest with total disregard for the interests of other countries, both developed and developing.
China certainly realizes the danger of such narratives. That is why it quickly attacked Britain’s climate change minister Ed Miliband for attempting to “provoke discord among developing countries” by blaming China. Beijing has also put forward a counter narrative that refutes some of the accusations against it.
However, as is nearly always the case, Beijing’s public relations counteroffensive appears to be too little too late. The “China hijacking the climate deal” narrative had been widely circulated and the world had largely moved on to other news by the time Beijing’s version of events was published—an indication, by the way, that at least in terms of soft power capabilities China is still far from graduating from developing country status.
For years, China has been able to counter Western criticisms of its policies and practices by claiming support from the developing world. Copenhagen suggests that western countries will increasingly challenge this strategy by promoting a new narrative that portrays China as the lonely rising power whose interest is at odds with that of everybody else. If it wants to defeat this narrative, Beijing will have to show more diplomatic and communications skills than it has displayed in handling the climate conference and its aftermath.
S.K. Cheung says
“the world had largely moved on to other news by the time Beijing’s version of events was published” — not on this blog, it hasn’t. Folks around here are still very much interested in finding out who, in fact, is the tallest dwarf.
Charles Liu says
scl @ 116
The article’s “the world has moved on” characterization is quite telling. This has been our media’s MO all along – help shape public opinion and indoctrinate the “evil China” party line and official narrative/POV as some form of “truth”, then ignore/deemphasize any subsquent facts to the contrary that surface.
Basically, once the damage is done, our supposed independent, responsible media has no intention to be objective, emphasis equally the other side of the story. Again based on prevlance of the initial “China wrecked COP15” reports – had they been state-sponsored would they have been any different?
That leaves us the little guys in the grassroot be stay vigilant and voice our objection to this pretence of independence by the military-industrial-MEDIA-complex. Here’re some popular quotes from mostly mainstream sources I found on Google News:
“Chinese government held the world hostage”
“A Tale of Chinese Deceit at Copenhagen”
“China doomed the Copenhagen talks”
“China — one of the lead culprits ”
“China and India played a significant role in ensuring the Copenhagen climate change talks failed”
“The truth is this: China wrecked the talks”
IMHO no equal of such viciousness can be found in regards to Western nation’s repudiation of historical pollution, effrots to eliminate Kyoto Protocol that provides fairness to developing nations, unwillingness to offer clean tech transfer, etc. – in all their press freedom to be biased.
Chuck, you’re insane.
OH NOES! MORE GOOGLE LINKS! IT’S ALL TRUE I TELLS YA!
Not sure what point you are trying to make.
I for one think the “headlines” provided by Charles do jive with what I sense are being reported in the Western (at least U.S., UK, and Australian) media and “talk shows.” I thought Charles went above and beyond to get the quote of the titles to make a point (instead of just saying there is bias). He should be commended not ridiculed.
However, I guess your point is also that there is a divergence of views reported in the Western media – and that the existence of some sensationalistic articles does not show the West is out to demonize China per se.
No doubt you are also right. I am sure we can go dig out some “balanced” reporting in the Western media on Copenhagen. But my sense is that the vast (VAST) majority is slanted against China – as it has been in so many other instances. Quoting “titles” of articles surely is one sane way to go about supporting that claim… No?
@104 Charles Liu
I found another article which gives a perspective from the developing nations. Motherjones is a fairly well known progressive mag in the US but is hardly mainstream.
The original NYT article titled “Poor and Emerging States Stall Climate Negotiations” can be found here, it’s under the sciences section rather than the Op-Ed section:
FORAP #114, 119
Can you at least be honest to yourself for once rather than acting like the usual partisan? The climate talk coverage is extremely biased against China, especially from the Brits. This is not surprising because the finger pointing at China also happens to be the official government stance originated from Ed Miliband. For all of this talk about the Western media’s ability to stand up against government BS, I find it odd that so few in the British press dared to challenge the Brit government’s ridiculous notion that China alone wrecked the fine “master plan” put together by a group of European nations act in its own self interest. Sure you can find a few articles which gives the view from the developing countries but the majority of the analysis stick with the Brit government’s spin. The British press could of at least acknowledged that the US put together an equally ridiculous and insincere offer on the table and was the other biggest benefactor outside of the BASIC nations, but apparently kissing Obama’s ass is a lot more important.
Lastly, one question remains: Even without US/China’s agreement, why can’t the European nations take the lead and stick with its own goals today? Why does it need other nations’ agreement in order to protect the environment?
S.K. Cheung says
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve suggested to people to distinguish between “news reports” and “opinion” pieces in the “western press”, I could probably retire. And if I had a million bucks for every time people have taken up that suggestion, i could probably do the same.
6 of the last 10 comments are still bemoaning how China was supposedly made to look bad at Cop15, so this story certainly has legs (at least among users here).
And yet, links have even been provided to opinion pieces that are more sympathetic of the Chinese government position. So it begs the question: what exactly are you guys complaining about, and what exactly are you folks looking/asking for?
First off, it seems once again that the majority of your griping is directed against opinion/synthesis pieces, rather than the factual/news reporting articles. So, assuming you recognize that opinion pieces likely reflect the opinion of the writer, how would you propose changes? Surely, even you guys wouldn’t suggest that a writer simply go against type and sing China’s praises when he/she feels no inclination to do so.
Second, if you acknowledge that it’s ok for a writer to espouse his opinion, then what you’re really pining for are more writers who generally take a pro-China stance. So then I’d ask, what percentage of “western media” consumers harbour such a pro-China stance, present company excepted? If you acknowledge/accept that probably the vast majority of people do not approve of how China does things, should it surprise you, and does it appear disproportionate, if the majority of opinion writers feel the same way?
Third, ignoring the sentiments of the consumers for a sec, what proportion of op-eds would need to be “pro-China” in order to satisfy you folks? Surely you’re not looking for 50/50. “western media” has no obligation to cater to a pro-China view. When China does something well, in the eyes of the commenters, they should receive praise. When those same commenters disapprove of something CHina has done, the logical expectation would be that they would criticize. Besides, if you’re looking for a pro-China view, there’s always xinhua.
Fourth is the chicken /egg scenario, which is about the only place I can see where there might be some basis for griping. Do media consumers develop and hone their perspectives because of the opinions they read? Or do they choose to read more of the opinions that are congruent with their own? Now, if you’re hook/line/sinker for the former, then I suppose you could argue that the current scarcity of pro-China opinions dooms China to always fall offside of public opinion (in the “west”). To that, i would say “so what”. Why would China care about “western” opinions (and it’s not like China has paid much heed to such opinions in the past). But it would also require the assumption that “westerners” can’t think for themselves (ie listerners to the O’Reilly Factor do so not because Papa Bear says what they like to hear, but because they need to hear from Papa Bear to know what to think). If that’s your assumption, I’m not sure that’s so healthy either.
As for “bias”, as has predominantly been the case since I’ve been around here, it seems to boil down to an opinion contrary to your own. But if that defines bias, then the only safe haven you have to take refuge from such bias is probably in front of your bathroom mirror in the morning.
Pure SKC ownage right there.
1) Once again, the use of Google searches to ‘prove’ the prevalence of an opinion based on the titles of editorials which may actually contain nuance not displayed in the header, and by deduction ‘prove’ the prevalence of that opinion relative to the opposing opinion, and by further deduction ‘prove’ that this shows bias in the media.
2) The fact that much contrary opinion has actually been carried (the Guardian pieces approving quoted above surely show that that newspaper is not in any way trying to game the system in the way Charles describes).
3) The total failure of Charles to ever engage in a meaningful fashion with those who disagree with his extreme views.
4) Complaining about an imagined campaign by the ‘western’ media to create an ‘official’ version, then approvingly quoting a CCP outlet as dispelling all contrary reportage. The mind simply boggles at this.
@Hzz – What exactly is it that you want the British press to do? Carry editorial pieces pointing out the hypocrisy of the British government and their failure to do enough – I guess you didn’t bother reading any of the editorials linked to above. Oh well, but just in case you were wondering, Charles above linked to an article in which John Prescott, former UK Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for transport, defended China’s role at the summit in the pages of The Guardian, a major UK broadsheet. I guess he must not have got the memo.
Guys, I’m done.
I suppose you are referring to my comment #94.
If so, let me clarify quickly. I don’t mean the official CCP version to be the end and be all. But if you read that piece compared to say piece cited in #97 (as just an example), you’ll see the language of the CCP is neutral (i.e. the two sides do not see eye to eye; some developed countries do not seem to understand needs of developing countries) – not the patronizing, moralistic tones typical of most reporting in the Western media (not just on this topic)….
Again I understand we won’t agree on this one, but thought I’d still clarify.
“you’ll see the language of the CCP is neutral ”
No, that’s not what I see at all. Even slightly. Even a cursory examination of this account shows it to be a highly edited, tendentious version of the events which many of those involved in dispute. Now, do I really trust Ed Milliband and the rest? No, of course not, Milliband himself is a member of a government in trouble who is desperately fighting to keep his job from almost certain defeat in the next years elections, and will say anything it get ahead, But saying that the Sina piece represents something different to that? Nonsense.
Can you find an article about the climate talks which is not an opinion? The link which I provided from NYT as from the Science section and not the Opinion section. Furthermore a lot of people think the whole global warming concept itself is an opinion not based on facts.
Both you and FOARP are also asking: What should the Western reporters/analysts do?
I know that I am repeating myself but for starters, how about the “western reporters” actually do a better job at researching their facts, and those who do not do a good job get bashed for doing a crappy job? I am not a journalist myself, but from all of the newspapers I read regularly I can tell you that even your average reporter/analysts tend to give perspectives on both sides, with the op/ed people actually addressing/rebutting the issues which they don’t agree with. That is always how I understood what good journalists should do. For some reason, and I would not be surprised if this is race related, when it comes to discussing Chinese politics this perspective is usually lost. The usual excuse which people like you made for the western journalists is that they should not be mouthpieces of Chinese propaganda. But that is a lame excuse, because propaganda is subjective and sometimes the Chinese government does speaks closer towards the truth. In fact, due to this fear of being labeled a Chinese muppet, the quality of Western journalism has been terrible as of late.
And no, finding one single opinion by one person on a major UK newspaper which strayed from the official British government’s lines does not refute the fact that most of the western journalists did a crappy job and over-politicized the whole event. To be honest I am not even sure why you two are so defensive. You should be happy that people are trying to get the truth out. Isn’t this what you want Chinese to have, the ability to do the same?
Now regarding the proposals which people have been putting out, I think the elephant in the room is the cost. The majority of the current proposals are more scientific but tells little about how this will effect the economy. Who should bare the blunt of the cost for cleaning up the environment? Those who have made the most amount of mess in the past but now are cleaner, or those who have been clean in the past but now are making more mess than everyone else. How should this affect/alter the proposals which have been put out? The way I see it, each country wants to minimize the cost of this to their economy and wants others to do this. That is the real reason why the climate talks have failed, and probably will always fail.
As a matter of policy, I usually do not challenge people here on “facts” – I only encourage them to articulate their views. However, if you don’t mind, can you cite languages or facts in the “CCP article” that you thought might be biased and should be challenged?
Charles Liu says
Allen @ 120, “But my sense is that the vast (VAST) majority is slanted against China – as it has been in so many other instances. Quoting “titles” of articles surely is one sane way to go about supporting that claim… No?”
I think the replies since then pretty much validates this. Admittingly some folks here ain’t into honest homework, but NOT ONE quote/link cited in 122, 123, 125 – it’s pretty obvious which side the vitriol is leaning.
Again, I stand by my opinion that the demonization, propagandic language near exclusively aginst China is yet another example of a pattern of bias by our supposedly independent, objective media.
Can anyone come up with ONE article that uses “wreck”, “deceit” in reference to developed nation’s role in the COP15 stalemate? I looked and I can not find one.
BTW, the report titled “A Tale of Chinese Deceit at Copenhagen” was NOT AN OPINION, but a Top Story by Joseph Schuman on AOL News repeating Mark Lynas’ claim. Can you say “Echo Chamber”, boys and girls?
S.K. Cheung says
“The link which I provided from NYT as from the Science section and not the Opinion section. ” — just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge an article by its title (this second part is an emerging skill for some of you). Likewise, you can’t judge an article based on the section of the paper/website in which you find it (BTW, it’s not the science section; it’s the environment section). If you’re going to judge it, you first have to read it. So, when you read that article, did it strike you as news reporting ie. this was the day’s events at COP15? Or do you think it was more a synthesis piece? To me, it was the latter. And as with all synthesis pieces, I take that as the author’s synthesis…to which he is entitled…but with which I also take with the necessary grain of salt.
“when it comes to discussing Chinese politics this perspective is usually lost.” — ok, so what you’re saying is that these commenters criticize the Chinese position without giving the reader at least a summary of said position? That would mean these writers are criticizing something without saying what that “something” is. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in the various articles on display thus far.
“because propaganda is subjective” — ain’t that the truth. And aren’t you folks sure quick to accuse others of it. Kinda ironic, really, when you’re defending the CCP.
“To be honest I am not even sure why you two are so defensive.” — my #122 was not a defense. It was a summation of the annoyance that comes with hearing you guys whine and complain ad nauseum. Furthermore, I raised 4 points/questions, which you have yet to address.
“people are trying to get the truth out.” — whose truth might that be? Hmm…let me guess…
Your last paragraph does hit the nail on the head.
To Charles #128:
My #122 doesn’t need any quotes/links. Admittedly you are the Google-meister in these parts anyway, so power to you. But my comment contained four points, and each came accompanied by a specific question. Since you seem to have read it, maybe you can show the gumption to address some of those questions, rather than just whining all the time.
Western media is crammed with bias opinion.
S.K. Cheung says
…as opposed to your brand of completely-neutral, perfectly-objective opinion?
Charles Liu says
Rhan, @ 130, “bias opinion”
Not only that, biased opinon is presented as “truth” by our military-industrial-MEDIA-complex to indoctrinate public opinion, manufacture consent.
well, I guess I should now call you the Bing-meister. And who knew you were a Chomsky connoisseur? I wonder why you and Jerry aren’t more similar….perhaps there is more to Chomsky than what a bing or a wiki can capture.
So, how ’bout giving those questions in #122 a go?
Let’s see… “manufacture consent” got 4,840,000 hits so it MUST be true. I wonder what else is true?
Oh look, my Bing search got 21,700,000 hits!! That must make it over 4x more true than “manufacture consent”!!!
Wow, that was kinda fun, and at least as relevant… 😉
S.K. Cheung says
I wonder what Chomsky thinks of vampires…or the Copenhagen Agreement, for that matter…
Okay Allen, here goes –
* It is disputed that two days was all the time given to consideration of the agreement, or that people were unaware of the proposals before coming to the meeting
* “The three industrialized countries, though ambitious in leading international cooperation on climate change issues, lacked understanding of developing countries and had therefore raised some unrealistic and unfair requests.”. This, apparently, is a reference to the proposed targets which were shot down, except that it does not refer to them at all. It is also editorialising in what is supposedly a news piece since it is not attributed to Wen (although almost every comment in the piece is).
* The account of the ‘secret meeting’ disagrees with that provided by other sources. This, of course, proves nothing either way, but it does show that a version of events is being put forward from a particular point of view with the blame being placed on the US.
* “Some countries were drafting announcement of the conference’s possible failure, and certain foreign leaders even made irresponsible criticism against China.” What criticism was that? Oh, you don’t need to know.
* The account of the Wen/BASIC/Obama meeting is disputed.
* “The BASIC leaders knew very well the U.S. stance since they all met respectively before. ” What position was that? Oh, you don’t need to know.
* “Copenhagen witnessed what a role China played in this complicated and tough process.
There have been different interpretations on the outcome over the past few days, but people have to recognize that international cooperation to cope with climate change has moved a step ahead on the right direction, through the joint efforts of the international community. It delivered hope and confidence to the world.
In this process, China showed the greatest sincerity, tried its best and played a constructive part. “. 1) Disputed. 2) Editorialising.
This is a fluff piece writing up what is generally considered to have been a colossal failure as a success, and glossing over any criticism. This is not to say that it is any worse than any of the other governments have put out, but to call it a ‘breath of fresh air’ compared to the reporting that came out of COP15 seems simply bizarre.
@Rhan – Deep, insightful analysis. I am utterly convinced. Really.
@Charles Liu – Yes, because I guess by now it is not actually legitimate to quote Mark Lynas, because . . . . .
In fact the piece is entirely about Mark Lynas’s piece, and takes the form of analysis of an editorial, and is therefore also an analysis piece.
An analytical piece on China Beat by Yu Zhou of the competing versions of events at Copenhagen.
S.K. Cheung says
interesting article, insofar as it offers a counterpoint to Lynas. However, whereas in the intro the author pledges to not take sides and to examine both Lynas’ and Xinhua’s accounts, the fine tooth comb treatment seems reserved almost exclusively for Lynas. BUt it’s Zhou’s article, and thus Zhou’s prerogative, claims of neutrality notwithstanding.
“In retrospect, conflicting interpretations of such a chaotic conference are unavoidable, especially given the very different positions held by people from different places. But what is unacceptable is the tendency to make grand statements while completely disregarding the other side of argument, in other words, delegitimizing any other positions by fixing labels and ignoring their own explanations, even if these are long-standing ones.”
— that sounds about right. It’s interesting that, even now, people are still writing articles examining the jockeying for the title of the tallest dwarf.
It’s at least the second time you wrote that.
As a reminder: this is a blog whereby people contemplate and discuss issues relating to China. We don’t just chase after the news to discuss what is the topic of the minute. We do not just concern ourselves with what is the latest, most sensationalistic news on the circuit. One thing good about this forum is that we don’t have the attention span of a three year old. If you feel this forum is moving too slow – or is devoted to topics not worthy of discussion, you may refrain from commenting – or read and actually try to understand what others are trying to say – instead of always trying to score by making general underhanded snide remarks (just my personal view).
S.K. Cheung says
“It’s at least the second time you wrote that.” — and judging by the proclivities of folks like you, probably won’t be the last.
BTW, unless you’re transcribing what someone else is dictating to you, it should be pretty clear that what you write constitutes your personal view. But thanks for the heads-up anyway.
“or read and actually try to understand what others are trying to say – instead of always trying to score by making general underhanded snide remarks (just my personal view).”
I recommend you heed that advise, S.K. Cheung. You seem to pride your ability to write in English, but as Allen said, I also think you comprehend very little of what people say here. Also, your words suggest you are into human rights and democracy and those type of things (okay, within the context of your hate for the CCP perhaps), but your underhanded sniding remarks covey the exact opposite.
S.K. Cheung says
“I also think you comprehend very little of what people say here” — methinks you have misconstrued general disagreement for “comprehend(ing) very little”. Let’s not kid ourselves, or yourselves. Most of what’s written here is not rocket science, or quantum physics. It’s not really all that hard to understand. Agreeing with what’s written…now that’s another matter altogether. On the other hand, if your motto is something like “to understand is to agree”, well then, you’re right, I’m not really catching your drift.
You folks have all the right in the world to air all of your apparently lofty ideas, but should not be surprised when they are sometimes shown to be less ethereal than originally intended. If getting shot down is your idea of an infringement of your human rights, then your metrics are in serious disarray.
OK – I’ve had enough. I am going to ask you nicely to bug off this board. Your snide remarks are not welcome. It’s not that we disagree with you; it’s just that despite profuse words – you contribute little to the discussions here.
I personally don’t understand why you spend so much effort on this board when you clearly have a very high disdain for this community. Life is really too precious for that, you know…
So – please – move on with your little life. “We folks” (as you say) will gladly move on with ours. I hope you will be adult enough to finish on this friendly term. But let’s be clear: you are no longer welcome.
S.K. Cheung says
[Deleted by Allen]
Allen, you can’t chase people off the blog. I’ve been slapped down for far milder comments. If you can’t cope with SKC you shouldn’t interact with him.
I don’t chase people off lightly. Everyone here is an asset – with people who disagree with me (that includes you) being bigger assets than those who agree with me (sorry guys, but it can get awfully lonely and boring without the commotions of real debate! 😉 ). But people who denigrate others on this board – well that’s not conducive to communication – and those people become liabilities.
I may end up ultimately regretting my choice here. We’ll see…
But people who denigrate others on this board – well that’s not conducive to communication – and those people become liabilities.
Oh come on. If SKC qualifies then so do at least half a dozen other people whose contribution to my threads is usually “OMG Raj the Chinabasher at it again, why do you allow him to post here FM?” or an attempt to derail the discussion with red-herrings because they don’t like the subject being discussed. They have nothing to say other than “four legs good, two legs bad”. So how come their destructive influence is ok yet SKC’s sarcasm warrants him being kicked off the blog?
You were also wrong to delete his reply without an explanation. I’ve done that in the past, though not recently. But you’ve taken a tough line against deleting posts, even when they contravened the conduct rules, so I can’t see the justification for denying someone the ability to respond especially when you’re in dispute with them. In such a situation you should have collapsed the comment and asked someone else to look at it.
I deleted #144 not because I disagree, think it’s ad homenim, or anything like it. I deleted it simply because I asked SKC to leave and he didn’t.
As for SKC’s sarcasm – it’s the persistent sarcasm, nitty gritty false formalism that got me ticked off.
As I said – we’ll see if I come to regret this. It’s not black or white. Maybe the rest of the editors will hammer me privately tomorrow when they find out about this. 😈
Good night for now…
I deleted it simply because I asked SKC to leave and he didn’t.
As far as I understand no one here, except the admin, has the right to insist someone leaves.
Maybe the rest of the editors will hammer me privately tomorrow when they find out about this.
I’m not sure whether that’s relevant given there are a set of established rules we’re all supposed to follow. The consent or silence of the majority can’t excuse the rules to be subverted. If you won’t follow them unless you’re forced to then no one will.
Not sure what you are talking about me violating the rule. Please read the rules again. This is a privately run forum, and the Administration (that includes me) has the final say. SKC violated rules 2, 4, 6, and 10. SKC is not banned because of opinions expressed on the topics of discussion, but his opinions of this forum and members of this forum, and his persistent tit-for-tat.
The rules are a guideline. The court of law is the Administration.
Admin (LC) may decide to give SKC a second chance, provided he changes his behavior. That’s something we are currently discussing.
I disagree. Person A fills of a commons pool with toxic liquid. Person B later joins. Person A is ultimately responsible for 80% of the toxic liquid in the commons pool. Person B the remainder 20%. When the pool finally overflows, how should the damages be assessed? I say 80-20 – depending on the extent of one’s pollution. A carbon tax (as currently proposed) would ignore this and charge only the current emitters as if there had been no commons pool.
Not sure what you are talking about me violating the rule.
I direct you to the section of the Rules for Enforcement.
All official comments will be identified with a poster name of “The Administration”.
You have never identified yourself in that way, so you cannot expect SKC to take an instruction from you such as to go away. Perhaps you would be so good as to e-mail me SKC’s “incident log”, as the rules also say admins need to log incidents.
I also can’t see a single comment that you’ve collapsed or deleted from SKC on this thread. If you want to cite some specific instances here where he has said something awful please do.
Otherwise the impression is that you’re abusing your powers, as I can’t see anything that bad here.
SKC violated rules 2, 4, 6, and 10. SKC is not banned because of opinions expressed on the topics of discussion, but his opinions of this forum and members of this forum, and his persistent tit-for-tat.
What about Wahaha and all those other trolls who have broken every one of those rules time and time again on my threads? You haven’t once intervened when they’ve broken the rules on my threads. You seem to have two sets of rules depending on who is breaking the rules or whose thread it is.
When people talk about population it’s a very sensitive issue. Some of the commenters above wrote about China being bad allowing its population to get out of control in the first place but then should somehow get some kudos for getting it under control. Is this the type of moralism we want to go?
Historically China’s population grew for a variety of reasons – war, instability, poverty being some of the major factors. My belief is that no country should be morally bashed for too much population. Once people are born, they are people. They deserve all the rights to live and thrive as people from less populous areas of the globe. Yes countries have a duty to keep population under control going forward since there are dire consequences if they don’t. But to make moralistic judgments on countries and populations based on how they have “allowed” their population to grow – perhaps even passing judgments on how much resources certain populations ought to be limited to simply because of the “illegitimate” size of their populations – that is a concept I have difficulty subscribing to.
We have thought about implementing a report abuse button. If that’s done, you are welcome to use those.
In the mean time, you know how to reach us for abuse.
As for consistency of enforcement – this is real life. If you really feel others are abusing, let us know. As you know, even in the best of justice systems, justice is rarely uniformly meted out. For every 10 bad guys, probably only 1 is caught.
Again in general, I don’t like to police people too much. In the heat of argument, a lot of things can be said that can be construed to be “personal attacks” when they really are not.
As for my abusing my power, you can definitely send LC an email. LC likes to think of himself as a facilitator of communications. I like to see myself as a lead in running the content side of this blog. We’ll have continual internal discussions about how we should run this blog. But as far as readers are concerned, consider me part of Administration.
Allen, I’ve kept LC fully updated with problems in the past. Despite a large number of reports no apparent action has been taken against such individuals, so I can’t see why SKC should be singled out.
As for your comment about “real life”, in the real world people escape prosecution because crimes go undetected or there isn’t enough evidence. What people other than SKC have done is apparent on the forum – it’s not a secret. So your position is illogical. Apply the rules consistently, or scrap them. Applying them only against people you’re in dispute with is an abuse, whatever you may try to argue.
The rules are a guideline. The court of law is the Administration.
The Rules are quite clear about enforcement – please show me where it is said the enforcement section is optional or only a guideline. You have no jurisdiction to rewrite them or reinterpret them by yourself.
You appear to be saying that you can do what you like as you are an admin, which is rule by the gun, not rule by law.
@ Raj #155: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Allen never said “I’m an admin and I can do what I like” so let’s not put quotation marks around that, OK? Let’s just relax for now and let the process work itself out. We’ve all read your opinion and thank you for it.
@ Allen #151: You’re comparing apples and oranges. CO2 is only a problem when the levels move beyond what can be absorbed by the planet. A toxic liquid does not have those properties. From 3000 BCE to the Industrial Revolution, China and India, with their larger populations, produced more CO2 than any other nations. Why? Because they simply had more people to generate CO2. Was it a problem? No, because the CO2 produced each year was within the planet’s capacity to absorb those amounts. Do we go back to 3000 BCE to determine total pollution? Of course not, because it produced no deleterious effects.
Toxic chemical spills aren’t quickly absorbed and rendered harmless by the earth. They can stay in the groundwater supply for centuries. They have a cumulative effect from the get go because there is no natural way for the planet to render them harmless. That’s why your analogy doesn’t really work for me.
As far as addressing the existing situation and how to contribute to helping countries that are experiencing the effects of CO2 emissions but didn’t contribute to the cause, I think it is certainly the responsibility of wealthy countries to help the ones in need. Aren’t we all familiar with that expression, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”? So why not use that same standard?
No matter what formula you apply, the USA must become the largest contributor to solving the problem. China, as the world’s biggest polluter, will also be heavily involved. The EU must play a major role. India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Japan… all these are important. The contributions from these nations are IN ADDITION to the carbon tax, not a substitute for it.
@ Allen #153: Overpopulated countries aren’t “morally” responsible for being overpopulated, since morals have nothing to do with it. Those countries dropped the ball on maintaining viable populations for their land mass and natural resources. If in this case, governments aren’t responsible for what happens in their countries, then why would you say they suddenly become responsible if it pertains to CO2 emissions or pollution? The dire consequence of overpopulation is a poorer living standard than if the population was more viable. If a government allows unsustainable population growth and is not held responsible for it, then who is? If you bring things down to a “per capita” basis without taking governments into account, then you end up with a “emission index per capita” limit where each individual, no matter what country they lived in, would not be allowed to exceed their limit. That’s not a practical option. So if it comes down to countries, then governments are responsible for what happens in those countries, and that would include CO2 emissions, population, pollution, etc. You can’t pick and choose what suits you, if you do your argument is inconsistent. When you only support what suits you, it’s in the “here’s my position, now let me find ‘facts’ to support it” category which makes it a political position, not a consistent one.
Where are you getting the data on CO2 from 3000 BCE? People living off the land (aka agriculture based society) do not produce net CO2. To the extent they produce CO2 – by consuming plant products – they are recycled back when plants are regrown.
Yes China may have produced a net CO2 gain to the extent that forests have reduced over the last 5000 years – but that’s a small amount compared to fossil fuel burning. The fuel we are digging up constitute the remains of many generations (millions and millions of years) of forests – and we are digging all that up and burning it off within a few human generations. This is why CO2 levels have really risen in the last few years – in the aftermath of industrialization. Comparing industrial and agricultural production of CO2 is comparing apples to oranges.
But I accept your criticism of my analogy of toxic pool. It’s an imperfect analogy. In any case, let me ask you this then. Instead of assessing a tax now, let’s not do anything now until we get real, verifiable adverse effects of human induced climate warming. Let’s say we have droughts in India, floods in Africa, and submersion of various island nations in 2050. Then we issue a tax in 2050 to help pay for damages in those nations. Should the tax be only on emission in 2050 or that from 2010 to 2050 – or 1990 to 2050 – or earlier…?
To me to assess the CO2 only that year misses the point. As we’ve discussed, temperature is a time lag indicator. Weather change in general is also a time lag indicator. So we need to assess the tax on CO2 emitted earlier. But how early?
The air is a commons. Even if we assume (for sake of discussion) that all the CO2 emitted up to 1990 (or pick any other year) would not have caused dramatic problems in climate had not any more CO2 been emitted afterward 1990, to assess a tax only on CO2 emitted after 1990 assigns a disproportionate burden on those newly emitting since 1990 since it gives a free pass to CO2 emitted by those before 1990.
The CO2 emitted up to this threshold is not benign per se; it caused real problems. It inexorably changed the atmosphere in a permanent fashion. Prior, the air could buffer against CO2 emission. Now, the air – saturated with CO2 emitted earlier from developed nations – can no longer. When developing nations industrialize later, this air – damaged thus by prior emissions – now causes climate change instead of absorbs CO2. A straight forward-looking (from 1990) carbon tax now assessed a disproportionate cost on the developing nations.
This is why I don’t think a CO2 tax is the end all and be all. I like CO2 tax for many reasons that you subscribe to. A CO2 will incentivize economies to develop in a less fossil fuel dependent way, both on the supply (proceeds from the tax can be used as subsidies) and demand side (consumers of fossil energy would look for alternative sources of energy). It appears to be simpler than a CO2 cap and trade system. It will in general force all of us to be more aware of the consequences of CO2 emission by internalizing part of that in price signals. But I think even with a CO2 tax, there is still the issue of the developed nations helping developing nations industrialize in a way that is less carbon intensive. The developing nations need to do that not simply because (as you say) they can, but also because they need to help “pay” for the damage they have already done to the environment (air can no longer absorb CO2 without causing climate change).
In #157, you also wrote:
Perhaps you are right. Going forward, I believe governments should be responsible for population growth. But it won’t be easy. But in the past, I don’t think so. (Was it really in the power or responsibility of Qing emperors in the 19th century or the various warlords of China in the early 20th century to control population of peasants in the countryside?) People have become aware of population problems really only in the last half of the 20th century – and even then a lot of it is alarmist. Some used to think we could not support 6 billion people. I read somewhere recently that with current technological advances, we can sustainably feed at least 10 billion people. Of course, to have them all live a industrialized life style, we’d need more advances – especially along the clean tech front.
Also when you mention responsibility – there may be a connotation that if you fail to carry the responsibility, there will be consequences. Let’s say India doesn’t control its population, does that mean future Indians should not deserve as much right to development as people elsewhere simply because today’s Indian gov’t failed to reign in – dropped the ball in controlling – population growth?
[last two paragraphs re-edited slightly for readability on Jan 8 2010]
Charles Liu says
Allen @ 158, “People living off the land (aka agriculture based society) do not produce net CO2.”
Great point on why going back 100 years is different than going back 3000 years or blaming the dinosaurs. The pivotal event that changed things is Industrial revolution – thus accumulation of over-polution for the past 100 year should be considered.
IMHO is it irresponsible for developed nations to repudiate our historical pollution and at the same time point finger at developing nation, or insist that we have the right to maintain our development achieved thru pollution while denying others the same perogative in pursuing development.
Why do you think we didn’t sign Kyoto? Moved to kill Kyoto that was fair to the developing nations? Killed cap & trade that would’ve subsidized green development for poorer nations? Unwilling to put clean technology transfer on the table? Made empty promise in emission reduction pledge (17% based on 2005 level = 4% based on 1990 level) while asking China & India to cut more? When our per capita emission is 6-10 times more than theirs currently?
We Americans, 5% of world population, consum 25% of the world’s energy. That is a historical fact, and continues to be true today.
(BTW, sorry to stir the OT mud, but I seem to recall earlier conclusion was the author has editorial discretion to the direction of comments. Allow me to quote someone: “policy is that people who writes articles have editorial control”.)
To the CCP apologists: would you both eat your cake and have it too?
By all counts, Copenhagen was a huge success for China geopolitically. And I don’t mean Lynas’s Obama snubbing theory. China reinforced her leadership position among developing nations without budging an inch from her self interest. This is no easy task given the diversity of the grouping. China then proceeds to ignore the lot of them and form the BASIC grouping, in effect leading a bloc of five of the six nations that came up with the final result. It’s like a G2 less the responsibilities. Again, this isn’t trivial considering the China India rivalry. Below is a take on that particular angle:
China’s position was clear. Much like the US, she announced, to great fanfare, a unilateral action prior to the “negotiations”. Then, during the meeting, both countries would refuse further action without concessions they knew they wouldn’t get.
Under this light, the blame game is silly. Contrary to what some seem to think, negotiations are not about morality or fairness but about give and take. If there were genuinely a net gain to be had (which would required the major sides to give and take), and such a gain was not achieved due to one party’s greedy bargaining, then the negotiation can be said to have failed, and that party to be blamed.
But for those who believe that the unilateral 45% intensity cut is a sufficient contribution from China, then the summit’s outcome is to be expected and should be considered a success, for China cannot expect to trade nothing for something. From what I read, a majority of the Chinese public support this view.
The Western critics then, is correct to say that China caused the summit to “fail” since China was not genuinely prepared to offer anything new during the meeting, at least in so far as taking “caused to fail” to mean “precluded success”. The fact that other parties may also have precluded “success” is beside the point.
For the apologists, then, to expect Western public opinion to favor China is to eat the cake twice. You already have the geopolitical victory and domestic public support, why the angst?
A broader issue here is how some people seem to think international public opinion is free. They see hypocrisy everywhere they look and expect the media and bloggers to be objective. If you want the approval of others so much, then be prepared to sacrifice what will be in your view an “unfair” amount. In addition, if you were truly objective, you would not expect the West to give up something for nothing.
P.S. S.K. Cheung has a good point about the arbitrary use of national borders when calculating per capita emissions. By that logic, the US can reduce its carbon obligation by taking over Africa. His separation of Western news and opinions and the supposed objectivity of the former, on the other hand, are quite laughable.
If you think that the Chinese position has “… a majority of the Chinese public support …”, then why do you call people here and elsewhere defending the Chinese position “the CCP apologists”?
I also can not accept your conflation of “preclude success” with “failure”. It certainly can be argued that the conference failed, but from where you concluded that the Chinese positions “precluded success”? As far as I can see, Obama genuinely had nothing to offer since he did not have the legislative support even for the promise he made before the conference. On the other hand, the failure of extracting further concessions from China in this particular case does not mean Chinese positions are inflexible, only that the proposals on the table failed to impress them.
My third objection is your conflation of “want the approval” with reaction to “disapproval”. Nobody from the Chinese side said much about the conference until China was targeted by Western politicians and media as the main culprit for its failure. In general, I have great problem in the line of argument where: China has to be PERMITTED to join the civilized world … China has to SEEK approval from the civilized world … the whole thing seems to be contained only in the heads of the self-appointed membership committee.
If you think that the Chinese position has “… a majority of the Chinese public support …”, then why do you call people here and elsewhere defending the Chinese position “the CCP apologists”?
CCP apologists are typically people who almost always support/deflect criticism away from the CCP/Chinese government as a default response, regardless of whether the CCP is right or wrong. Whether the CCP has popular support has no relation on whether someone can be an apologist or not.
@Raj #162, #147
So it’s ok to blanket label people as “CCP apologist” but not ok to call people “Chinabasher”?
By “apologists” I simply mean those who defend China or CCP’s position, and whom I believe, are choosing the side subjectively. Like Raj said, there is no conflict with whether the position has popular support in China or not.
There is, of course, the negative connotation, and for that I stand guilty as charged. I would use “China defenders”, but that sounds overly PC for me.
As for the second semantic point, in that context, by “fail” I mean failure to establish legally binding targets blah blah blah. This is the definition used by the Western media and blogs in question. I say that China precluded success defined as such because the demands were unrealistic and not in good faith. At no point did China offer additional cuts, support caps or taxes in exchange for something else. By all accounts, including China’s official one, China feels satisfied at the conclusion and feels it is doing enough. With such a position, no “success” as previously defined would have been possible. Hence, the preclusion, and the validity of the Western opinion is established. Whether others also made it impossible is only relevant in so far as for a “hypocrite argument”, which is always a weak one.
For the third semantic point, the difference between “negative reaction to disapproval” and “want approval”, well… the relationship should be clear.
Lastly, the idea that China needs to be permitted, or needs to seek approval, is pervasive not just among the “membership committee”, I see it all the time from pro-China writers such as James Fallows, pro-China commentators and many Chinese netizens. There is, of course, significant selection bias in this; if one truly didn’t care about approval, one wouldn’t be posting about it online.
I think this “China seeks approval” has been misunderstood somewhat in the West.
Yes – China does seek approval from the world – in particular from the West – in the sense it sought approval from the world in its handling of the Olympics – or will seek approval in its handling of the World Expo later this year. China is doing so because it is eager for the world to see how far it has moved away from the shackles of colonialism, of civil strife, of “backwardness” associated with the last century or so. The CCP in particular also wants validation from the world that it has accomplished so much. From engaging in guerrilla resistance to forming a shaky government that (arguably) misgoverned China in the early days of the PRC to engineering one of the biggest economic miracles of mankind to presiding over the birth (potentially) of the next Superpower, CCP seeks attention and recognition.
But this does not mean China is seeking permission – or moral validation or even guidance – from the West. In China, there is tremendous energy on pushing China to develop – to modernize – to catch up with the developed world. But China has an internal compass of where it wants to be. It’s easy to misunderstand this to mean China wants to become Western.
China wants recognition from others that there is a new renaissance taking place in China. But China does seek approval from others on how GOOD (as in “good boy”) it is behaving.
Charles Liu says
Zepplin @ 164, Whether others also made it impossible is only relevant in so far as for a “hypocrite argument”
Disagree with this claim. “Others also made it impossible” (citations in 159) at a minimum contributed equally to whatever “failure” our media is blaming the Chinese in totality.
That, is why I am critical of my own government (I’m American, ain’t never been citizen of the PRC a day in my life) and the media bias I observed.
I say that China precluded success defined as such because the demands were unrealistic and not in good faith. At no point did China offer additional cuts, support caps or taxes in exchange for something else.
The point of contention between US and China during the conference was not on a hard carbon cap but on the future verification of Chinese compliance of its own target. At the end of the conference China indeed compromised on the issue enough at least to satisfy the US delegation. If other members of the civilized world considered the issue not as important as the carbon cap, they certain chose to be silent during the conference. Were they also in on the “trap”? Or was it a double trap, first the verification then the hard cap?
If people think the “CCP defenders” are the only people still contending for the “being the tallest dwarf”, check out the latest issue of The Economist. This unproven allegation of western opinion makers simply added to the older and newer allegations in creating the image of a menacing dragon. How interesting!
@Allen – So Charles Liu making exactly the same point that he has made on every single thread that this website has ever published is OK, but SKC gets banned?
[Flagged for unsubstantiated personal attack]
Charles Liu says
Hey Admin, is patently untrue personall attack now allowed in FM?
For example what I wrote here is completely different than the subject at hand here. I only need one factual example to prove the above personal attack to be false, so please do something about such pattern of abusive behavior.
“Exactly the same point” and “every single thread” make a pretty high standard. Are you sure you really want to stand behind you are saying?
I think there is a consensus that I probably should have warned SKC before booting him – I guess my “booting him” from this blog constitutes only a warning. Let ‘s leave it at that. If you have any questions, send me or Admin an email. I also remind people of Rule #10:
Let me also remind people that if we are grossly unfair to our readers, the people who will ultimately pay is us. We (especially Admin) have spent a lot of time (and the Admin also a nontrivial amount of money) to set up and maintain this forum. If you have problems with the forum – or have recommendations on how we can improve – send us an email – or drop a constructive note in the open thread. Do not keep questioning, debating, or otherwise raising hell about our judgments.
@Charles Liu #169,
I have flagged FOARP’s comment for making a (small) personal attack. But in general (I included) – when people make claims like that, I’d reflect a little on what the other guy is really trying to say. Obviously to FOARP, you have been saying similar things too often. Whether that’s true or not we have to look at the specific instance.
Raj has said I can be too emotional sometimes. That’s true – though that doesn’t take the right away from me from commenting here.
So – I wouldn’t get too indignant about FOARP’s comment. I’d use it as an opportunity to improve the effectiveness by which we can all communicate with each other. And from both FOARP and Raj’s comment, I know I need to watch out from becoming too partial if I am going to get into moderating (assuming I really do get started into it).
For an interesting take on the Copenhagen Agreement, here’s an article from Kenneth Lieberthal of the Brookings Institute, the director of their John L. Thornton China Center.
There should be little surprise that the Copenhagen Conference fared as badly as it did. For far too long, major governments refused to recognize the reality that achieving a global treaty at Copenhagen would not prove feasible. No later than early this past summer, the goal for the conference should have been changed to working out an agreement on the basic architecture of a final treaty and the processes that should be followed to put that architecture into place. That approach might have produced a conference that accelerated momentum toward a final agreement. But no major country wanted to be the first to lower expectations – and thus expectations remained unrealistically high. The broad, nonbinding, generally vague agreement that satisfies none of the participants was the unsurprising result.
This conference put China in a position it generally seeks to avoid – as a central, highly visible player on a major global issue. Given China’s rapidly growing global importance, it is a position in which Beijing will increasingly find itself. It is of interest, therefore, to reflect on how well Beijing handled this situation.
As both the largest greenhouse gas emitter and the country expected to account for the largest percentage of increased emissions between now and 2050, China inevitably played a critical role at Copenhagen. Beijing apparently had three major goals: 1. to maintain the structure of the Kyoto Protocol and the principles of the Bali Roadmap, which placed major responsibility for emissions reductions and contributions to developing countries on the shoulders of the Annex I countries; 2. to avoid all legally binding international commitments in favor of preserving China’s own freedom of action in the future; and 3. to avoid becoming the target of criticism should Copenhagen “fail.”
Beijing prepared very seriously for this conference. Chinese officials caucused ahead of time with their counterparts in Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia and elsewhere in order to work out compatible approaches. Beijing announced its own greenhouse gas emissions intensity targets in advance of Copenhagen. And the Chinese set up an extensive press operation at Copenhagen, holding frequent briefings not only for domestic but also for international media.
All of that proved insufficient to attain Beijing’s core goals, however. China’s rejection of the effort to have Copenhagen adopt any specific targets for industrialized or developing countries by 2050, its refusal to support a call to develop a binding international treaty during the coming year, and its unwillingness until the very last minute to accept any language that might produce international verification of its performance or registration of its own national goals in an international document produced much negative reaction. And, not surprisingly, given the vast array of situations faced by different third world countries when it comes to costs and capabilities related to climate change, the Chinese – among others – were the target of criticism of some of the world’s poorest countries, especially the small island states who fear inundation from rising seas.
This came to a head for Beijing in the final Friday night negotiation with President Obama and the leaders of Brazil, South Africa, and India. At this meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao acted as an international statesman, and he worked to bring the meeting to agreement on compromises that would at least prevent a complete breakdown at Copenhagen. But his agreement on language to open the door to some international verification and to register China’s targets in an international document produced, by informed accounts, startling and open dissent from top members of his own delegation. And while Wen acted as an international statesman at this crucial meeting, he, at the same time, played a role that China has always sought to avoid – making a deal that basically protects China’s interests among major players in a small meeting that would then be rammed through a larger body, most of whose members are developing countries less powerful than China.
Chinese diplomacy at this meeting overall was somewhat puzzling. Second-level Chinese officials showed up at critical meetings of heads of state on Friday afternoon – the kind of clumsy tactic that Beijing is usually far too smart to employ. The open dissent at the Friday evening meeting – including having one member of Wen’s delegation shout and wag his finger at President Obama – suggests that Wen had lost control over his own negotiating team (Wen told the translator not to translate this official’s initial outburst and then simply ignored him the second time he raised his voice). Was Wen going beyond the limits of his negotiating authority? Were members of his negotiating team protecting their personal flanks back in Beijing? Whatever the explanation, this initial Chinese foray into the middle of a global conference with extremely high stakes highlighted that Beijing still has some work to do as it assumes more central roles in global negotiations on financial, nuclear and other issues.
The Copenhagen meeting on balance produced some good news for U.S.-China relations. Much of the press coverage over the two week period focused on sharp disagreements between the American and Chinese delegations. But in the crucial final meeting Friday night, Wen Jiabao and Barack Obama managed to bridge their differences and craft solutions that avoided overt failure and resulting finger pointing. Given the enormous tensions and complexities, that is good news for the ability of the two countries to work together on major issues.
The fact that the countries in the room that shaped the final compromise consisted of the United States and four developing countries – no Europeans, Japanese, or others – highlights that the old world order is changing in very consequential ways. Very likely, on other major global issues, different groups will be at the table (but each will include the United States and very likely China, too). Copenhagen highlights that, at the end of the day, it is the major players on an issue that will disproportionately shape the outcomes – and that the major players are not the same ones who automatically had a seat at the high table as recently as a couple of years ago.
It appears on balance, moreover, that the Copenhagen outcome, despite avoidance of total breakdown, may mark the effective end to prioritizing the use of a global conference to obtain agreement on a climate change regime. If so, then the effort to deal with climate change possibly will now revert to some combination of national, bilateral and regional initiatives, along with negotiations among the group of major greenhouse gas emitters (about 15 countries account for over 90 percent of global emissions). This latter set of negotiations may take place in the G-20, the Major Economies Forum, or some other body particularly constituted for this task.
Insofar as this change moves away from the rigidities of the Kyoto Protocol in favor of devising pragmatic ways to promote reduction of carbon emissions by the major emitters as a whole, China will have failed in its goal of preserving the principles of the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap as the climate negotiations move forward. But at the same time, the Copenhagen “failure” may in fact have put the world on a more effective, practical approach to addressing the core issue of constraining future greenhouse gas emissions. Other important issues, such as capacity building in and providing adaptation aid to the many poor countries who will suffer dramatically from climate change, also need to be addressed urgently – and developing the best approach to accomplishing this should now be one of the high priority issues on the international agenda.
Thanks for the article. I maintain that the CCP should be pretty happy about the results, they couldn’t have gotten anything better.
If China only seeks acknowledgement of its progress, then there wouldn’t be any issues. Almost every article on China begins with China’s economy, poverty alleviated, etc. Of course, those article then goes on to talk about the “buts”: but the environment, but the human rights, but the political prisoners, but the despotic allies, but the mercantilism, but the lack of political reform, but the corruption, but the rural peasants etc.
If China did not care about the moral approval, then it should be satisfied. Its progress has been recognized and all that other crap is not relevant. But a glimpse at the comment section of those articles shows this is clearly not the case. Any major news portal will always have a disproportionately (whether by population or economy) large amount of comments going to the China stories.
The thirst for approval goes beyond the recognition of progress.
I would go further than you and say that there really wasn’t any point of contention between the US and China. The point of contention here is between the Chinese who seeks moral approval and the Western media and blogs who want much more than what the outcome achieved.
I came across this article today from Alex Wong who is the Senior Attorney and Director of the China Environmental Law Project in Beijing. He felt a lot of good things came out of the meeting and the media has judged it against unrealistic expectations. He also felt judgment should be reserved for the future because it’s still too early to know where this is headed. Here is the article:
China and Copenhagen: Resolutions for 2010
Senior Attorney; Director, China Environmental Law Project, Beijing, China
This blog was co-authored with Barbara Finamore and Alvin Lin.
The thrust and parry of the post-Copenhagen blame game reached a fever pitch just before the holidays with a number of media articles suggesting that China was responsible for an unsatisfactory outcome at the climate meetings.
The article that has gotten the most attention has been one by Mark Lynas entitled: How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room (Guardian, Dec. 22). In the days after the article was published it was virtually the only article being “retweeted” under the #COP15 tag on Twitter. The central premise of the Guardian piece was that China, despite presenting itself as a constructive player, intentionally played the spoiler in the climate negotiations. In Lynas’ view, this is why China vetoed the efforts by developed countries to set a target for reducing their own emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and engaged in a variety of other tactics.
Was the Copenhagen Accord a Failure?
The spirit of the holiday season seems to have calmed the rhetoric down over this past week. Nonetheless, we still felt it important to weigh in on what to make of Copenhagen because our take on the dynamics of the negotiations and whether or not the Copenhagen Accord was a “failure” is a bit different than Lynas’. What happens in 2010 will be critical to whether we can effectively meet the challenge of climate change, so it is imperative that we start off on more constructive footing.
Let’s keep in mind what had happened in the lead-up to Copenhagen. Realistically, a full, legally binding agreement was extremely unlikely after Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s proposal for a “one agreement, two steps” process at the APEC meeting in mid-November had gained support from many world leaders. Instead, the expectation was that some form of “political agreement” would be reached in Copenhagen, with a final legally binding treaty to be worked out in 2010. So, in our view, the proper yardstick for evaluating the success of Copenhagen is whether progress was made that will (i) get us closer to a fair and ambitious global agreement in 2010, and (ii) facilitate passage of comprehensive U.S. climate legislation.
The Copenhagen Accord had at least three steps that pushed us forward based on this yardstick, which our colleague Jake Schmidt blogged about here:
* First, in the run-up to Copenhagen countries representing more than 85% of the world’s global warming pollution set forth plans to reduce or slow the rate of growth of emissions, and these will be brought forward as commitments that are part of the accord by the end of January 2010.
* Second, the announcement of a significant ramp-up in funding ($100 billion by 2020) from developed countries to developing countries was important. This funding needs to be greater and a number of scientists and groups have already said so. But this is a good start.
* Third, the agreement to biannual reporting on mitigation actions and emissions, subject to “international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected” was another important step.
These advances will obviously need to be elaborated through further negotiations, and how well they are implemented will be critical to judging the ultimate success of the accord. But in the near-term we think the agreement on transparency will help get the climate bill through the Senate. Moreover, passage of climate legislation in the United States next year would be a major game changer (which the Copenhagen Accord would have helped nudge along) and will lead to a much more productive dynamic for addressing climate change in the G20, Major Economies Forum, and COP16 in Mexico. This dynamic will have its first boost in little over a month as countries associating with the Copenhagen Accord set forth the mitigation targets and actions they will commit to ahead of the January 31, 2010 deadline. Of course, the step forward on transparency is also important because, assuming the details are worked out consistent with the spirit of the accord, it will help to move us toward a better sense of how the largest emitters in the world are doing to reduce their emissions.
Did China Play the Spoiler?
British media coverage has pressed the “China wrecked the deal” angle, suggesting that China acted in bad faith by such actions as vetoing any long-term 2050 targets for the accord. But this judgment fails to consider the negotiating perspective that China and other developing countries have consistently espoused, namely that developed countries have used up most of the global “carbon space” and so should bear the bulk of the responsibility and cost for mitigating global emissions. Taking into account this perspective, China’s reported actions could be seen to reflect its disagreement with developed countries on how future mitigation burdens should be allocated considering historical responsibilities, rather than a flat-out desire to block any long-term deal as Lynas suggests. One might also ask why the U.S. and other developed countries have not faced similar outrage from the press for not offering up deeper emissions cuts and greater support for developing countries, given their historical contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and much greater per capita emissions. This was despite criticism that environmental groups leveled at the U.S. and other developed countries for insufficiently ambitious proposals. These are substantive differences among the countries that need to be worked out, and we do not get any closer to resolving these differences with accusations of bad faith. In any case, China and the rest of the world will have an opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of their commitment to addressing climate change in the coming year, as countries work toward completing a final climate agreement before the end of 2010 and begin to implement their climate targets. The proof of how constructive each of the countries has been will be in whether we have an effective, binding climate agreement before 2010 is through.
In the end, we know that China will need to be part of any effective global climate change deal. The hard work has really just begun and every country will have the opportunity in the coming year to rise to the occasion. So we should put aside the recriminations and get on to the business of forging a new climate agreement in 2010.