A Historic Agreement

The United States and China announce a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. And China Strike An Ambitious Deal To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In a surprising announcement last night, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly revealed a broad agreement between the United States and China to curb the two countries’ carbon emissions. The agreement between the two nations, which are the two largest carbon emitters in the world, sends a clear signal to other countries that they must also get serious about addressing the man-made causes of climate change. It also directly undercuts an oft-repeated conservative argument against climate action: that the U.S. doesn’t need to act on climate because China hasn’t either.

What Is In The Deal?
The agreement marks the culmination of nine months of negotiations between the two countries, capped off in recent days by Obama’s visit to China. The pledge commits the U.S. to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. As for China, it is committing to peak its overall carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, and to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by that same year.

Why Is It Important?
No effort to combat climate change could succeed without these two countries. The United States and China are not only the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, they make up more than 40 percent of total worldwide emissions:

Global Carbon Emissions from Fossil Fuels

GlobalGHGEmissionsByCountry

CREDIT: EPA

For the United States, the commitment to cut carbon emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025 builds off the current target of a 17 percent reduction below the 2005 baseline by 2020. According to Climate Progress reporter Jeff Spross, “it could actually double the pace of emission cuts set by that initial goal — from 1.2 percent a year to as high as 2.8 percent per year.”

For China, meanwhile, this agreement is the first time it has made a serious commitment to address global warming by setting a goal for when its carbon emissions should stop growing. And its pledge to get 20 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2030 is enormous: it will require the country to generate 800-1,000 gigawatts of new carbon-free energy, the same amount as the total electricity the U.S. currently generates from all sources combined.

Climate Progress’s Joe Romm takes a deeper dive into the importance of the deal.

What Do People Think Of It?
Progressive and environmental groups agree that it is a critical step in efforts to combat man-made climate change. “This announcement is a game-changer,” said Melanie Hart, the Director for China Policy at the Center for American Progress. Jake Schmidt, director of the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, emphasized China’s commitment: “You’re talking about 20 percent of a huge economy being based on non-carbon-dioxide emissions sources. That’s significant.”

Yet, it hasn’t taken long for Congressional Republicans to already start freaking out about the deal. Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner blasted the deal as part of President Obama’s alleged “war on coal” that will hurt the economy. (In fact, the new deal won’t hurt the economy, as the GOP leaders suggest — and it may actually drive economic growth.) Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a climate denier who’s now set to become head of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, complained that China’s promise is “hollow and not believable.”

These are some of the same people, along with many other Republican members of Congress, who previously have pointed the finger at China’s inaction as an excuse for why the United States shouldn’t address climate change on its own. Now that China has made this commitment, they want to have it both ways. Their reactions are the ones that are “hollow and not believable” — as well as being deeply threatening to the health of future generations and the health of the planet.

BOTTOM LINE: The new climate agreement between the United States and China is a historic step that marks the first time that China, the world’s largest polluter, has agreed on targets to limit its greenhouse gas emissions. While climate deniers continue to search for ways to avoid taking action, this agreement solidifies America’s leadership on the issue and underscores the importance of the United States, China, and the rest of the world taking meaningful steps to slow climate change’s effects.

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