Industry says agreement would help China, ruin U.S. economy

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2014

If President Obama hoped that his joint announcement with China of new emissions-reduction pledges would put to rest conservative claims that China is doing nothing on climate change, he has reason to be disappointed.

Anti-regulatory advocates from industry and on Capitol Hill cast last night’s release of post-2020 reduction commitments by the world’s two top emitters as yet more evidence that Obama is willing to unilaterally slash U.S. emissions — and economic productivity along with it — while China’s growth continues unabated.

The agreement calls on the U.S. to cut its emissions by between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025. China’s emissions must stop growing no later than 2030.

But while the announcement is the first firm commitment by China to stop increasing its carbon dioxide output, opponents of CO2 restrictions say it will lead to an uneven playing field that places U.S. industry at a crippling disadvantage.

Returning to the Senate floor for the first time since last week’s election all but assured that he would become Senate majority leader next year, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Obama seemed to be ignoring the voters’ demands for more cooperation across branches of government.

Obama had agreed — without consulting Congress — “to essentially give China a free pass on emissions while hurting middle-class families and struggling miners here in our country,” McConnell said.

It was a theme that industry groups sounded, too.

“The president’s carbon agreement with China provides a boost for China’s economy while putting the brakes on U.S. growth,” said Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, in a statement. “Like [EPA’s] proposed costly power plan, this agreement is another symbolic but expensive gesture that will be paid in the currency of lost jobs and global competitiveness for the United States.”

Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, blasted the White House’s efforts led by senior adviser John Podesta as “secret negotiations” carried out behind the backs of Congress and the public.

“President Obama has agreed to a deal that would handcuff U.S. industry while allowing China an unlimited increase in emissions over the next fifteen years,” she said in a statement.

“If actually implemented, this agreement would give an unfair advantage to Chinese manufacturers while forcing dramatic changes to America’s energy supply that will raise prices, threaten reliability, and increase the burden on hard working American families,” she said.

Fact sheets provided last night by the White House did not say what new regulatory actions would be needed to allow the U.S. to meet its targets, though it touted EPA’s steps to curb emissions from new and existing power plants. The new steps laid out in the agreement focused mainly on trade and technology sharing, including the expansion or extension of existing programs for advanced energy technologies and research sharing and the establishment of a major new carbon capture and storage project based in China.

But fossil fuels advocates said the agreement asked too little of China in return for the United States’ promise to cut carbon emissions twice as fast in the next decade — moving from a current rate of 1.2 percent a year CO2 reductions to between 2.3 and 2.8 percent per year after 2020.

“While China makes empty and non-binding promises that it ‘intends to try’ to halt its emissions growth a decade and a half from now, President Obama promises to accelerate the pace by which his policies raise our energy costs and harm our economy,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the pro-fossil-fuels American Energy Alliance, in a statement.

Pyle also noted that the administration has yet to forge a similar agreement with India — the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

“India, one of the fastest growing emitters, is noticeably absent from this deal because its leaders refuse to sacrifice its economic well-being at the altar of climate change,” he said.

Climate change was a topic of discussion during Obama’s late September meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two released a statement calling the issue a “strong priority” but making little news (ClimateWire, Oct. 1).

But green supporters of efforts to curb emissions said last night’s announcement should allay fears that the U.S. would have to go it alone on climate. And it should help pave the way, they said, for an international agreement next year that would obligate all major emitters to reduce their carbon outputs.

“This agreement removes the biggest stumbling block to a global climate accord, namely the unwillingness of the United States to act without a commitment from China (and visa-versa), and the unwillingness of other countries to act without strong commitments from both countries,” said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell in a blog post on the accord.