SOTU and the U.S.- China Climate Change Agreement

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On Tuesday, January 20, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union 2015 address. We at NRDC were excited to see President Obama focus so much attention on climate change in his speech, which the White House made available via Medium.

"No challenge -- no challenge -- poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change ... 2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does -- 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century."

It is vitally important for the U.S. president to make the case so forcefully to the American public, and thus signal to the rest of the world the need for strong climate action. NRDC's President Rhea Suh has made this case eloquently here.

In his speech, President Obama highlighted the recent US-China Climate Agreement:

"I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement -- the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world's two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we've got."

The White House further emphasized this critical agreement between the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters:

"The Obama Administration has made climate a high priority by working hard to reduce carbon pollution here in the United States and by bringing other countries along to forge an effective global effort to combat this problem. Two months ago, President Xi of China joined President Obama to announce a historic step for climate change action. President Obama announced an ambitious but achievable goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. And China agreed to peak its carbon emissions around 2030 - the first time China has ever committed to peak its carbon pollution - and to double the share of zero-emission energy sources to 20 percent by 2030."

Some American politicians might scoff at the idea that China is serious and committed to climate change, or even go so far as to suggest that all of China's climate actions and commitments are just another giant hoax. Yet I've watched China's climate programs in action, and they are very real indeed. I've seen how China's world-leading investments in, and commitments to, renewable energy, clean transportation, low carbon cities and energy efficient industries are already producing results. And as China continues to close down coal mines and order more regions to cut coal consumption, China's coal use has fallen for the first time this century and continues to drop.

As outlined in my previous blog posts, China is moving ahead rapidly to tackle climate change, and it is very gratifying to see the United States and China team up to face it. As the Paris climate meeting approaches, we believe there is room for both countries to extend their leadership to even greater levels of ambition.