UPDATE: Here's an interview with China's chief climate negotiator on the US-China deal.
In case there is any residual euphoria left over the China-US climate agreement, here are a couple of pieces to put a dampener on it. First, here's Alex Evans, a Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University, writing at Global Dashboard:
The policies and measures unveiled in yesterday’s US-China announcement are awfully thin. There’s a “renewed commitment” to technology cooperation, with no funding numbers attached. Some stuff about a demonstration project on carbon capture and sequestration, which people have been talking about for over a decade now – it’s starting to sound like nuclear fusion. More cooperation on reducing HFC emissions, which do have massive global warming potential, but are incredibly easy for China to reduce – cynics like me think that China was actively inflating them so as to score Clean Development Mechanism permits, and is only now talking about a phase out because demand for CDM permits has collapsed along with EUETS prices. There’s a “climate smart low carbon cities initiative” which is basically a plan to convene a summit. And that’s pretty much it.
This was an eye-opener:
I was talking last night to a veteran climate negotiator from a developed country government, who observed that the climate priesthood has, for years, been having far too nice a time meeting up every six months for drinks and per diems. No one wants the party to end. There is no sense of urgency. No real deadline. She’s absolutely, 100% right. I started going to UN climate summits when I was a student. Next summer I’m 40. And the conversations in Warsaw last winter had basically not moved on since the first one I went to in the Hague a decade a half ago. The only way this will ever end, she continued, is if policymakers give them six months to work out a solution, and make clear at the outset that at the end of this period, they can all piss off home.
The second article is by two engineers at Google who worked together on the company's now abandoned renewable energy initiative called RE<C. They discovered that even if this plan had succeeded, it would not be enough:
Suppose for a moment that (RE<C) had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change. This realization was frankly shocking: Not only had RE<C failed to reach its goal of creating energy cheaper than coal, but that goal had not been ambitious enough to reverse climate change. That realization prompted us to reconsider the economics of energy. What’s needed, we concluded, are reliable zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over soon—say, within the next 40 years.
The piece seems unduly pessimistic to me, given that it barely mentions the effect carbon pricing would have on the economics of renewables.