At the end of the APEC Trade Summit in Beijing on Wednesday the United States and China announced a new climate change agreement that sets new targets for curbing emissions and strengthens their commitment to combat global climate change.
The climate change agreement is a boost for environmentalists who have long complained about the slow pace of reform measures undertaken by governments in Beijing and Washington to limit carbon emissions as both countries emit the largest amount of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere as measured in metric tons.
“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,” Obama said in a joint press conference along with President Xi Jinping.
Under the terms of the new climate change agreement, the United States intends to achieve an “economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26-28 percent below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent.”
The United States was previously working towards hitting an earlier target of reducing its emissions by 17 percent before 2020.
“China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early.”
China aims to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.
In a joint statement issued by China and the United States both countries affirmed that the global scientific community has made clear that human activity is already changing the world’s climate system.
The joint statement mentioned that the two nations hope that momentum will build for other countries to adopt more ambitious emission targets.
“The United States and China hope that by announcing these targets now, they can inject momentum into the global climate negotiations and inspire other countries to join in coming forward with ambitious actions as soon as possible, preferably by the first quarter of 2015” the statement reads.
The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on the new climate change agreement, these energy sectors will face more scrutiny as a pathway is being searched to achieve a more optimized energy mix that lowers emissions.
“The two sides intend to continue strengthening their policy dialogue and practical cooperation, including cooperation on advanced coal technologies, nuclear energy, shale gas and renewable energy, which will help optimize the energy mix and reduce emissions, including from coal, in both countries” the joint statement reads.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have been highly skeptical of climate change research and oppose enacting tougher environmental regulation in the energy sector and business community.
Republicans will control both houses in Congress beginning in January and have vowed to oppose President Obama’s environmental agenda as well as approve the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline that pumps oil from Alberta and sends the oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast region of the U.S.