PRESIDENT Barack Obama pledged deeper US cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions and China will, for the first time, set a target for capping carbon emissions under a historic agreement the two countries announced on Wednesday.
In the culmination of months of quiet negotiations between US and Chinese officials, Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping outlined the accord, which they said would help drive other nations to seriously negotiate a global pact next year in Paris.
“This is a major milestone in the US-China relationship,” Obama said at a news conference with Xi in Beijing. The two nations, which account for more than a third of greenhouse-gas emissions, have a “special responsibility” to lead efforts against climate change, he said.
The climate deal capped two days of meetings and announcements of deals that Obama and Xi said marked a high point for US-China cooperation. Officials from both countries also negotiated a breakthrough in stalled talks to eliminate tariffs on communications and technology products from printer cartridges to magnetic resonance imaging machines and vowed greater military-to-military coordination.
Obama is setting a new target for the US, agreeing to cut greenhouse-gas emissions at 26 percent to 28-percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The current US target is to reach a level of 17 percent below 2005 emissions by 2020.
Xi committed China to begin reducing its total carbon-dioxide emissions, which have been steadily rising, by about 2030, with the intention to try to reach the goal sooner, according to a statement released by the White House. China, the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, also agreed to increase its nonfossil fuel share of energy production to approximately 20 percent by 2030, according to the White House.
The agreement by the two countries, often at odds on policy issues, is a boost for international negotiators in advance of the 2015 United Nations climate conference in Paris.
“This is critically important because it’s starting well in advance” of next year’s climate summit in Paris, Martijn Wilder, head of global environmental markets at law firm Baker and McKenzie, said on Wednesday by phone from Sydney.
“These are big emitters, and these are very aggressive targets.”
Jake Schmidt, director of international programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based environmental group, said no other countries can have as big an impact on the climate debate as the US and China.
At the two biggest economies, “they shape how the market invests,” he said. “They’ve also been two of the most difficult players in the history of the climate negotiations so the fact that they are coming out and saying they are going to take deep commitments will be a powerful signal to the rest of the world.”
Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, based in Arlington, Virginia, said the agreement “will help get other countries on board and greatly improves the odds for a solid global deal next year in Paris.” Obama and Xi were personally involved in the discussions. Obama sent Xi a letter earlier this year on the issue, according to administration officials, and the topic was a central theme during the more than five hours of meetings last night in Beijing. Obama is in China for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Image credits: AP/Andy Wong