Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Obama-China deal gives new life to Copenhagen

The Obama-China deal announced 16 Nov 09 gives new life to the Copenhagen process. China is also a lever to move the recalcitrant Senate and G20. Andrew Revkin of the NYTimes gives us the US-China statement and details of its joint plan.

Reading between the lines, we see:
1. The Copenhagen treaty must be "comprehensive" and "immediate" -- this means setting by 19 Dec 09 binding emissions targets for major polluting countries (Annex 1 and BRIC), and promising adequate mitigation funding to poor countries. There is bound to be a lot of slipping and sliding. I will update my summary frequently.

2. Obama's Plan A is ACES legislation, but if blocked by red&bluedog Senators + lobbyists, his Plan B is unilateral Clean Air enforcement by EPA under the SCUS Massachusetts ruling. His deal with China removes one of the favourite Senate excuses, that a China without emissions controls would suck energy intensive industries out of USA. Anyway, the excuse is obsolete: GM and General Electric (and doubtless others) just announced expansion plans there that dwarf their current US operations. Corporate decisions have already been made. Corporate feet have moved, no matter what lips say.

3. There will be subsidies and boondoggles to make US fossil and nuke lobbyists* drool; their "China market" is estimated to grow to $1 trillion a year:
  • $150 million/5 yr for a bilateral US-China Clean Energy Research Center, including CCS and syngas by Peabody, GE, AES
  • a slowdown? (hopes Revkin of NYT) of Chinese coal liquefaction projects (see Wikipedia)
  • Electric Vehicles Initiative: joint fuel emission standards, demos in 12 Chinese cities, electric vehicle production & export (probably joint projects with US automakers). Revkin sayspowering EVs with dirty-fuel electicity is the great danger.
  • new nuclear generators: the gold rush is on with Bechtel, Areva, GE, Hitachi and others (see my list of participants)
  • Energy Efficiency Action Plan: joint green-building codes, tests and inspector training, joint Forum yearly [=exports]. For details see CSEP. A comment on Revkin's report blames inaction within USA on mortgage lender rules not building codes.
  • joint Renewable Energy Plan: tech transfer to states and regions, smart grids, joint Forum yearly [=exports]
  • jojnt solar-power projects with Suntech in Jiangsu etc; Suntech solar panel production and joint First Solar powerplant in AZ
  • joint wind-power projects in Arizona (previously planned by Pickens for Texas)
  • China Greentech Initiative including CISCO, Westinghouse and 80 other companies
  • DOE government research (free to corporations, not to taxpayers): ARPA-E at Sandia, fusion and maglev at Livermore; U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; USAID.
*Here's an incomplete list of major US players in the above: Bechtel, Goldman Sachs, General Motors, General Electric, Duke Energy, Peabody Coal, American Electric, AES, Aqua International, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Lexecon, Bradbrook, Applied Materials, First Solar, CISCO, Westinghouse, Weyerhauser, American Wind Energy Association, ACORE, Gore's Repower America, Pew Center Climate Tech (and its Feb 2009 Roadmap report by Pew with Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, Brookings Institution, Council on Foreign Relations, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and Environmental Defense Fund), NRDC, ACCORD, China-U.S. Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Duke U's Nicholas Institute.

4. huge renewables subsidies (labelled "mitigation") from US cap-and-trade will flow apparently to poor countries, but flow right back (via patents, tech transfer, project management, etc) to US-China manufacturers who hope to dominate world market share**, squeezing out Europe which so far leads the field in renewables. This also marks a strategic move away from oil dependency, so the Chinese Peoples' Army, CIA and Pentagon will be onboard.
** cf. Anna Fahey in Grist 17 Jul 09; GE on export strategy 22 Oct 09.

5. a fight for control of $trillions in world "green" financing among Wall St (via bilateral agreements), World Bank carbon funds, over-the-counter offsets, EU-ETS, or a reformed GEF to replace CDM. My guess is that they will cross the finish line in that order. Very bad news. Worse news: part of the pie will be REDD with little MRV -- for example the "conservationist" offsets promoted by CELB in its CCBA Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.

6. GHG emissions by China are now the world's highest, exceeding US. Also, China's and India's rate of GHG increase is the most rapid in the world, says the latest scientific study by Corinne Le Quéré et al. (see her 17 Nov 09 abstract, and a more readable resume by Bristol U). In a personal interview Le Quéré says 6 degree warming is now possible, because sinks are failing, emissions rising ever faster, tipping points come sooner. This Business As Usual (BAU) path will lead to a "die-off" of 6-8 billion people, 85% of humanity (says James Lovelock, Revenge of Gaia, p.141).

Click on this graph for more visible text and full-screen display

Environmental groups will be happy with the "renewables" in the US-China deal, but not with the (oxymoronic) "clean coal" and nukes, and cap-and-trade boondoggles. NGO watchdogs must bark loudly at the worst of these. If ecojustice groups want to have any influence at all they will have to understand the details, where the devil is, and be willing to sup with the "better" corporate interests, using a long spoon. Are they willing and able to make the effort?
See also previous posts on Copenhagen negotiations and Environmental Networks, with links to summary documents which are updated frequently.

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