So, it is good to know I am in good company in my lack of enthusiasm about the US-China climate agreement. Regulation scholar Marc Eisner offered this round-up on his blog today:
There are plenty of reasons why one should be skeptical as to China’s ability/willingness to meet its own commitments, as Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution) suggests.
With respect to the US, there is no binding treaty on climate that can be submitted to the Senate (for obvious reasons). Everything rests on historical trends in greenhouse gas emissions relative to GDP—the Bush administration’s “greenhouse gas intensity” much ridiculed by environmentalists—and the ability of the EPA to achieve reductions via rules grounded in decades-old statutory authority. Even if the Obama EPA is committed to climate policy, it is not clear that future presidents will appoint administrators with a comparable commitment. More importantly, Congress has proven unwilling in the past to pass new statutes to directly address climate change and quite willing to use the appropriations process to shape regulatory actions. See the Economist’s coverage here.
Bottom line: I find it difficult to conclude that the climate agreement will amount to much in the long run, despite the breathless claims of its historic importance. Ultimately, it is difficult to see how we bring about significant reductions in greenhouse gases without increasing the price of carbon-based fuels, and the most effective means of doing this is a carbon tax. In the currently political environment, the likelihood of a carbon tax is quite limited.
So Marc, Mckayla, and I are not impressed…