So, while Obama was in Paris pushing his Clean Power Plan designed to rid his country’s consumers of a major source of affordable energy, China’s leaders were there negotiating in the interest of the Chinese people. Since the president’s plan achieves no meaningful environmental benefit, it’s little more than a hate crime against coal. And this from the country with more coal than any other. “Encroyable,” the French might say.
That difference dramatizes the Gulf dividing countries and their views toward coal as the U.N. climate conference wrapped up in Paris in early December. China is protecting consumers, but all the while trying to grab headlines with soothing commitments to curb its rampant emissions. Its pledge to curb CO2 emissions by 2030 is no different than its prior position that growth comes first. Just last month, it admitted under-reporting coal consumption by 17%. The only difference now is that China’s leadership has learned the value of words like “transparency,” “reporting” and “monitoring” to lard its aspirations with “commitments” that mollify global greens and governments.
Of course, China will spend more to scrub emissions of particulate matter, SO2 and NOx — much as we have done since 1990. Why not? After all, it is those pollutants, and not CO2, that are responsible for pictures in your newspaper of gasping Beijing residents enveloped in a brown haze. Readers don’t appreciate that distinction any more than they distinguish bad weather from El Nino. No matter. From Washington to Paris, it’s all about climate change. The White House wants to turn the page from ISIS and the priority threat it poses. If you “deny” climate change is the world’s top priority, you’re a cretin. So shut up.
The other CO2 emitting power house, India, has been less accommodating to the Obama Administration’s desperate bid for a climate deal. The Modi government cares little about our president’s legacy, and like China more about a swelling population of peasants who lack access to electricity. Coal, said India’s energy minister, will “remain the backbone” of its economy. The developing world will either continue to use coal, demand to be paid for using less of it — or both.
That brings us to that clever U.N. term of art, buried in its climate pledge, “shared but differentiated responsibilities.” Meaning, nations that got rich using fossil fuels must do more to reduce future CO2 emissions than poor countries “emerging” from darkness. The chief means by which this will be accomplished, said the U.N., is to transfer wealth from the haves to the have nots. That makes climate change a global pay-to-play operation, as African, Latin American, Asian and Island nations line up, hands extended, for their take from the U.N. climate fund.
Our president has generously offered your tax dollars to pay these countries for various climate mitigation projects. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an $800 million down payment on the $3 billion the president promised. We’re sure ministers from Benin to Burkina Faso will be cheered on by this generosity as they contemplate how best to spend that lucre. We’re less sure how they’ll spend it since audit reports on these expenditures show that, to date, both the money and the projects are missing.
One place where more money could help to arrest a warming planet would be on low-emissions technologies. World Coal Association Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton told Paris negotiators that carbon capture and other low-emission technologies are needed for all fossil fuels, not just coal, to reach the U.N. emissions targets. That sensible argument, endorsed in findings by the U.N.’s own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, doubtless fell on deaf ears in the White House. Until that crowd is driven from office, regulation, not technology, will be the hammer for all our nails.
Luke Popovich is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry’s trade group based in Washington, D.C.