President Obama returned from meetings with his counterpart Narendra Modi this week without the kind of historic climate deal the U.S. and China announced in Beijing two months ago. That is apparently surprising some, who expected Modi and Obama to keep the bilateral climate agreement momentum going. The new New Republic reports:
Instead, the U.S. and India issued a modest joint statement that set equally modest goals on clean energy and climate change…It’s notable that, unlike China, India has made no promises to cut its emissions, and Indian officials say they won’t back away from coal. The country is also unlikely to make that promise when it submits a domestic climate plan to the United Nations by June, ahead of the Paris summit.
No one should be surprised at this; if they are, they’ve been hitting the green kool-aid too hard and don’t understand why China made its announcement last November in the first place. The fact is, the U.S.-China climate deal isn’t, from the Chinese point of view, a deal about the climate at all. Sure, Xi got to package it that way and win some international goodwill in the process, but those emissions targets have nothing to do with the world’s collective greenhouse gas problem, and everything to do with China’s costly (and deadly) pollution problem, its need to streamline its economy and the way it consumes energy, and its desire to wean itself off of foreign sources of energy.India doesn’t (yet) have the hunger of China’s citizens for less coal and pollution in the air, and it doesn’t have China’s concerns about energy independence. Besides, coal remains India’s largest and cheapest domestic energy source. Hunger to deal with that can only come later, when more Indians are worried about the air they breathe and fewer are worried about whether their kids are eating enough food.So to the greens of the world who were shocked to see Obama return from New Delhi without a climate deal, we say ‘wake up’. Beijing’s savvy decision to wrap its domestic goals in green trimmings doesn’t put us closer to a meaningful global climate treaty.