What the US-China climate change deal really means

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I wrote yesterday that the new US-China climate change deal basically means that China will have peak per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, with a Chinese peak of 10 tonnes of CO2 per capita probably being as good as it gets.

But here is probably the best summary of the deal, from the Times of India:

“It is a self-serving deal in which both countries have agreed to converge their per capita emissions at 12 tonnes in 2030. This is a high level of emission and not in line with meeting the 2 degree Celsius temperature target mandated by IPCC.”

That puts it as crisply as possible.

If you had told people in 2000 that China’s per-capita CO2 emissions would peak around 12 tonnes per-capita, people would have told it would be a disaster. Today it is being treated as some form master-stroke of diplomacy.

I also must give credit to David Steven, someone I’ve talked about with China regularly on Twitter. He has often said that the long game is for China and America’s per-capita emissions to converge. And this now seems to be what is being laid out. But we should be under no delusions that this is a happy scenario, or that it sends a good message to other developing economies. India’s per capita CO2 emissions were only 1.5 tonnes. Can we now tell India to limit its CO2 emissions any time soon when its neighbours per-capita CO2 emissions are going to peak perhaps 8 times higher than India’s are today?

These deals confirm that global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will blow past 450 ppm. Perhaps it is time scientists stated the basic numerical facts.

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