US and China strike climate change agreement in push for global pact

US and China

Creative Commons: The US Army, 2009 & Republic of Korea, 2014

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced what is being described as a “gamechanger” for the climate on Wednesday when they revealed that the world’s two biggest economies and greenhouse gas emitters will partner closely on a broad-ranging package of plans to fight climate change.

The US announced it will reduce its carbon emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 -nearly doubling its current plans.

The US plans to do this without imposing new restrictions on power plants or vehicles.

For the first time ever China has set a date – 2030 – for when it plans to “peak” its emissions and begin decreasing how much carbon pollution it emits.

China also pledged to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to around 20% by 2030, from less than 10% in 2013.

While this goal is historic it could still be improved upon, as one expert says this pushes China just a little further than “business as usual.”

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said:

These landmark commitments to curtail carbon pollution are a necessary, critical step forward in the global fight against climate change. We look forward to working with both governments to strengthen their efforts–because we are confident that both can achieve even greater reductions.

Still, this surprise announcement between Obama and Xi looks to “inject momentum into the global climate negotiations” with all signs pointing to a global agreement coming together in Paris in 2015.

Together the cuts show the rest of the world that the world’s two biggest carbon emitters are getting serious about cleaning up their acts.

Li Shuo, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace East Asia said:

The two biggest emitters have come to the realisation that they are bound together and have to take actions together, over the past months, communications between Beijing and Washington on climate change have been carried out in a very extensive manner. This extensive engagement highlights a clear sense of collective responsibility.

Embarrassingly for Australia, this announcement comes on the eve of the G20 meetings in Melbourne, where the host nation tried its hardest to bury climate change on the agenda when clearly nations like the US and China feel it should be prioritized.

But while this latest step between the US and China to fight climate change is certainly a gamechanger, there’s still a long way to go.

As one campaigner put it, these announcements “should only be the floor and not the ceiling of enhanced actions.”

Nic Clyde, Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior Climate & Energy campaigner said:

Both sides have yet to reach the goal of a truly game-changing climate relationship. There is a clear expectation of more ambition from these two economies whose emissions trajectories define the global response to climate change. Today’s announcements should only be the floor and not the ceiling of enhanced actions.

According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the most comprehensive climate change report ever produced, carbon emissions need to drop to zero by 2100.

And many NGOs say that the world has to phase out fossil fuels and phase in 100% renewables by the middle of the century, to keep the global warming under 2°C.

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