China at Copenhagen


Obviously “blame Barack Obama for everything” is the order of the day in certain segments of left-wing politics, but it’s worth observing that this interpretation of the shortcomings of the Copenhagen Accord is about ten times dumber than this interpretation of the shortcomings of the health care bill. Not only is it not possible for Obama to use his magic elf powers to force the United States Senate to agree to measures the IPCC deems optimal, the stumbling block in Copenhagen was clearly China.

Via Kevin Drum, a good Mark Lynas item in the Guardian makes the point:

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

….Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again….Here’s what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors….

Western leaders put on the table the sensible idea of developed countries agreeing to more stringent measures in exchange for China agreeing to more robust verification of its own targets and . . . China said no. How is that Obama’s fault?

The other thing about this is that people need to compare the Copenhagen Accord to some other baseline. Pre-Copenhagen, the situation was that China had agreed to nothing at all and, in turn, the United States had agreed to nothing either. The Kyoto Protocol did some good as far as it went, but an agreement that didn’t ask China, India, or Brazil to do anything and didn’t include the United States was much, much, much more worthless than even the flawed Copenhagen Accord. What Obama brought back from Copenhagen was an agreement, that involved reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that includes all the countries that matter. Given that China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, how much progress can be made is ultimately bounded by the Chinese government’s assessment of how much this matters.

Last, the idea that the non-acceptance of the deal by a rejectionist coalition comprised of Sudan, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua somehow discredits it is bizarre. I’m not a fan of anti-Chavez hysteria, but that’s obviously a coalition looking to screw around with the USA, not some kind of serious ecological alternative.