After months of talks, the United States and China announced they have reached a climate change agreement that would cut both countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by almost a third over the next twenty years.
Reduced Greenhouse Gas Pollution
Under the agreement announced at the end of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in China, the US would reduce its GHG emissions by 27% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2015. China said it would do the same by 2030.
“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers, and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” US President Barack Obama said Wednesday, November 12, in a joint press conference with Chinese President XiJinping.
The groundbreaking agreement is the result of months of secret negotiations between the two countries. The deal includes a first-ever commitment by China to keep its GHG emissions from increasing entirely after 2030. The US, meanwhile, would double its carbon reduction pace, from 1.2% a year through 2020, to 2.3%-2.8% a year afterward.
‘An Ambitious, but Achievable Goal’
“This is a major milestone,” added Obama. “This is an ambitious goal, but this is an achievable goal.”
POTUS added he hopes this major breakthrough will spur other nations to address climate change and come up with their own way of tackling the global problem.
“We hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious — all countries, developing and developed — to work across some of the old divides, so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement next year,” Obama said.
The ultimate target, the White House said, is to “achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80% by 2050.”
Climate Change as Domestic Issue
The new deal is likely to reignite domestic debate in the US over environmental regulations, which the Republicans have been attacking following their recent victories in the midterm elections.
Democrats were quick to hail the climate agreement, calling it a major breakthrough not just for the US, but the whole world.
“Now, there is no longer an excuse for Congress to block action on climate change,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The biggest carbon polluter on our planet, China, has agreed to cut back on dangerous emissions, and now we should make sure all countries do their part because this is a threat to the people that we all represent.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is seen to be the next Senate majority leader, slammed the climate deal, saying it would hurt the American economy.
“Our economy can’t take the president’s ideological war on coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners,” McConnell said in a statement.
“This unrealistic plan—that the president would dump on his successor—would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” he said.
“The president said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them. It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress,” continued McConnell.
A senior White House official, however, said they are prepared should the GOP try to stop the climate initiative.
“Congress may try to stop us, but we believe that with control of Congress changing hands, we can proceed with the authority we already have,” said the official.
“This is really the crusade of a narrow group of people who are politically motivated and have made this a cause célèbre, but we believe we will be successful.”