Copenhagen Blog

Wall Street Journal – Editorial Nonsense?

My emotions and response to this COP will follow in another post, but for now I just want to respond to some of the drivel that’s coming out in the media. This morning, The Wall Street Journal printed an editorial called “Copenhagen’s Lesson in Limits“. If you read this piece, it is misleading, utterly inaccurate and devoid of meaning. It’s just a political potshot that has no basis for its claims. There are major problems with this editorial. For example:

“We can’t wait to hear Mr. Obama tell Americans that he wants them to pay higher taxes so the U.S. can pay China to become more energy efficient and thus more economically competitive.”

What is the WSJ talking about? This is just ludicrous!

1) Pricing carbon is a way for AMERICA to get more energy efficient and competitive. Our industries are inefficient, sluggish and polluting (though carbon intensity is trending downward). Instead of continuing to subsidize dirty, inefficient production (by feeding them cheap coal), putting a price on carbon is a way to encourage our industry to get leaner and more fuel efficient/energy efficient. Let’s accelerate the transformation. We can develop cleaner, greener jobs! Furthermore, in addition to ramping up efficiency of our manufacturing, the US should be getting into a leadership position on clean technology developing innovative new industries.

2) China is most likely not even going to get funding from the United States; the primary recipients of assistance are the LDCs. The American delegation was pretty clear on this throughout the COP15 negotiations. (Even though China was not very happy about it — they called the US lead negotiator some names. However, they eventually admitted this would probably be true and agreed that funds should be focused on the most needy.)

3) A carbon market is where China is more likely to participate and receive international funds. I thought the Wall Street Journal loved markets!

4) Some funding will be used for mitigation activities, but a lot more will be used for adaptation and forest management. See Clinton’s speech at COP15 on Thursday.

5) China already stated its intention to go ahead unilaterally with its carbon intensity target regardless of the outcome at Copenhagen. It doesn’t need U.S. aid to retool its industries and get even more competitive. It doesn’t even particularly want U.S. aid, because that would come with MRV stipulations. China’s not counting on American funds, since it knows it’s not the likely recipient, and because increasing efficiency is a smart move for their own industry, so they’re willing to go for it on their own.

6) As Thomas Friedman said on the CNN+YouTube debate on Wednesday, “WE’RE ALREADY PAYING A TAX!”

Watch the clip here (start at: 6:00):

We are funneling money to the Saudis and Russians and all manner of authoritarian regimes overseas that don’t like us very much, because of our addiction to fossil fuels. So in terms of taxes — we’re already paying one, and it’s just a matter of which treasury it goes to. Friedman says he’d prefer paying it to our own American treasury, to fund U.S. schools, hospitals, roads and research, as opposed to unfriendly governments.

Another paragraph that is extremely problematic:

“No doubt under the agreement China will continue to get a free climate pass despite its role as the world’s No. 1 emitter. At Copenhagen the emerging economies nonetheless proved skilled at exploiting the West’s carbon guilt, and in exchange for the nonconcession of continuing to negotiate next year, or the year after that, they’ll receive up to $100 billion in foreign aid by 2020, with the U.S. contributing the lion’s share.”

1) The United States ALWAYS got a free climate pass “despite its role as the world’s No. 1 emitter.” We aren’t even covered in the Kyoto Protocol! We have no commitments under Kyoto, which is why there was a scramble in the COP process to find a way for the US to also make commitments to reduce emissions outside the KP track, while the rest of the Annex I countries made commitments in an extension of Kyoto.

2) “Carbon guilt”?
Uh … if you were even paying attention to the negotiations, the US delegation repeatedly insisted that the funding was NOT for reparations, but for assistance. The US categorically REJECTED the notion of carbon guilt. (This position was a source of tension and made many other delegations angry, since people thought the West should take on more historical responsibility and pay for it.)

U.S. sees robust climate talks, no “reparations”

3) Aid of $100 billion through 2020.

Er… what’s wrong with that? The low-lying coastal countries, small-island states, and LDCs are the most vulnerable to the damages caused by climate change. We are essentially screwing them over. This money is for help with adaptation, as well as mitigation and forest management. So yes, they SHOULD be getting this money, because we are going to continue to pollute and emit and not change our ways. Nature will not be so kind while we dither. Oh, and is the US *really* going to take up the lion’s share? We’ve been extremely stingy so far. The EU has been ponying up a lot more cash. Anyway, rest easy, Wall Street Journal, it will be from public and private sources of finance, so you’ll get your cow to milk.

The WSJ needs to get out of the way, and let American industry rise up to meet the challenge of becoming more efficient; cut its emissions and resource usage; and pursue opportunities in new industries. The SAME OLD WAY is unsustainable and headed for failure. Why do we want to preside over the old economy of the 20th century when we could be leading the new economy of the 21st? Take it from someone who lives in Silicon Valley; being on the cutting edge and innovating is actually a good thing.

– Posted by Kevin Hsu, Atmosphere/Energy Program, Stanford University

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16 Responses to “Wall Street Journal – Editorial Nonsense?”

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