At an historic joint press conference with Barack Obama in Beijing last week Chinese President Xi Jinping signalled that China would continue to increase CO2 emissions until 2030.
China is currently increasing emissions every year by the equivalent of Australia's total emissions, and Xi's statement means this will continue to be the case. The announcement was warmly welcomed by the world media.
Xi said that by 2030 fossil fuels would still represent 80 per cent of China's energy usage. Renewables such as wind and power would produce just 3 per cent of output. Xi implied that it was important that Europe continue to take the lead in renewables as they seemed to be able to tolerate low levels of growth and high levels of unemployment.
Lame duck US President Obama signalled the US would not take any leadership role on climate change action.
While he suggested the US would reduce total emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2025, everyone knew he could not deliver any legislative backing for measures to do this.
However, he was confident the shale gas revolution and a spluttering US economy may be sufficient to reach this goal. When questioned on the depth of commitment the US had to this target, officials referred to past commitments.
The Clinton administration in 1998 did not submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification (a position supported by a 95 to nil vote in the Senate) but vice-president Al Gore committed hand-on-heart to a 7 per cent reduction by 2008-12. US emissions increased by 9 per cent over this period.
Both Obama and Xi implied that any reduction in emissions beyond business as usual would be brought about by direct action measures. There was no mention of a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme at the press conference. They implied this was a European disease.
The leaders seemed unperturbed about a possible negative reaction to their do-nothing announcement. Officials believed the majesty of the occasion and the semi-religious approach to climate change by most of the global media would tranquillise any response. They felt confident, for instance, that China's promise to stop increasing emissions after 2030 would be routinely reported as China reducing emissions. As an example, they cited China's 2009 Copenhagen promise to reduce emissions as a percentage of GDP, which was quickly portrayed as an actual reduction.
For a lame duck president, Obama seemed very comfortable on the world stage. He could build his legacy by delivering speeches dripping with moral virtue to gullible students who (according to one official) "didn't know shit from cake!"
Despite the big swing to the Republicans in the recent congressional elections, he was confident the future of the Democrats was assured. As one official explained, the long-term goal of the Democrats was to increase the number of people who depended on the government for their livelihood to over 50 per cent of the population. "These people would never vote Republican because of a mortal fear that Republicans might seek to balance the budget!"
The above is an example of an alternative media report that might have come from a non-progressive correspondent attending last week's historic climate change media conference by US and China presidents.
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