Superlatives for the U.S.-China Agreement on Climate Change, and what it Means for Canada

Media superlatives signal the importance of the surprising climate change announcement by the U.S. and China on November 11. President Obama pledged that the U.S. will emit 26 to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005, and will double the pace of reduction it had previously targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020. China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, and that clean energy sources would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.

See the White House press release and the White House Fact Sheet. For a summary of U.S. reactions, see the Blue Green Alliance at “What Leaders are Saying about the Historic Agreement”.

What is the impact in Canada? A Globe and Mail article stated that the agreement would put pressure on Prime Minister Harper to act on climate change, yet columnist Jeffrey Simpson wrote, “Leadership means a willingness to spend political capital on an issue, and in Canada’s case, there is no such leadership at the top. That this absence would suddenly shift as a result of a China-U.S. understanding is improbable in the extreme”.

Alberta’s new premier Jim Prentice announced that the province will “stiffen” its regulations for fossil fuel extraction. “It’s the desire of Alberta to be participatory in any sort of international agreement that we can arrive at, modeled on what the United States and China have been able to achieve”. When the U.S. – China agreement was announced, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne, accompanied by green business leaders, had just returned from a trade mission to China.

According to the University of Victoria PICS Newscan, Guelph’s Canadian Solar Solutions signed a $70-million deal to build solar energy plants in China, and China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group signed an agreement for future collaboration.  

James Hansen Challenges the 2 Degrees Target

A new paper by James Hansen and Jeffrey Sachs was published in the Open Access journal PLOS One, arguing that a global warming target of 2 degrees Celsius is not acceptable and will lead to disastrous consequences. According to a summary at The Climate Desk, Hansen has said that the paper is intended as “a tool for the courthouse, rather than the scientific debate hall”…”We started this paper to provide a basis for legal actions against governments in not doing their jobs in protecting the rights of young people and future generations.” See: http://climatedesk.org/2013/12/scientists-current-international-warming-target-is-disastrous/.  The full article, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations, and Nature” is at PlosOne at:https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/876989-hansen-plos-one.html.