The United States and China have long been seen as the largest contributors to climate change as they boast the highest CO2 emissions of all other countries. China in has been the greatest overall emitter of CO2, while the US is by far the largest per capita emitter. However, on Wednesday, November 12, these two greenhouse gas-emitting powerhouses have finally reached an agreement that describes both countries’ goal in reducing emissions.
The hopes of this agreement are twofold. While both China and the U.S. aim to combat climate change, they also hope that this agreement will work to spur other global leaders to make similar plans. They hope this agreement will result in efforts toward an international climate agreement by 2015. The common thought is that unless Beijing and Washington can resolve their differences, few other countries will agree to mandatory cuts in emissions, making any meaningful worldwide pact likely to fail.
As part of the agreement, President Obama announced that the United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005, which is double the pace of reduction the US targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020. As a part of the agreement, China would pledge to reach peak emissions by 2030. To reach that goal, China claims that clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, will be implemented, which will account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.
Given the outcome of the recent election to create a Republican-controlled Congress, President Obama may encounter some setbacks in the coming years with this agreement. While the agreement with China needs no congressional ratification, lawmakers could try to roll back President Obama’s initiatives, undermining the United States’ ability to meet the new reduction targets.
The climate agreement has changed the agenda for the G-20 summit that started Saturday, November 15. The U.S.-China pledge announced in Beijing caught Australian summit planners off guard. Australia is a large per capita emitter of carbon.
In addition to the agreement with China, Obama will announce a $3 billion U.S. contribution to the United Nations Green Climate Fund that facilitates poorer countries' investments in clean energy. This contribution demonstrates the US’s desire to reach across traditional divides to tackle climate change.
The question remains as to how the U.S. plans to fully reach its stated goal of reducing total carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent. However, officials still believe that this agreement, along with the other steps the US is making, provides a good example for other nations to follow.