Historic Announcement Shows US and China Are Serious about Fighting Climate Change

President Obama and President Xi Jinping have announced ambitious new plans to reduce climate change pollution. This marks a turning point in the fight against global warming. The world’s two largest emitters of carbon pollution have come together to set firm targets for cutting emissions. They each recognize that combating the climate crisis requires action at home and collaboration abroad.

Their joint commitment will help protect our families’ health and shield future generations from unchecked climate change.

And it will set the stage for next year’s international climate conference in Paris. It shows the world that the US and China are serious about tackling climate change and willing to commit to specific reductions.

The agreement should also quiet obstructionists in Congress who used China’s emissions as an excuse not to clean up our own pollution. That pretext was never valid: waiting for someone else to solve a problem harming our nation is not the kind of leadership that made America great. Yet opponents tried to make that claim for two decades.

Now Republican leaders are complaining China’s new targets aren’t strong enough—even as the GOP tries to block US climate action at every turn. Wednesday’s announcement is an important breakthrough, and no amount of spin from opponents can hide that fact. The agreement confirms that China and the US can move forward together to reduce pollution.

Here’s what the new plan calls for. The US will cut carbon pollution to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. This is a significant commitment: it doubles the pace at which the US is reducing carbon emission. And it is fully achievable under existing law.

The US can meet the goal thanks to dramatic expansion in renewable power, breakthroughs in energy efficiency in buildings and cars, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants—the largest contributor of US emissions.

Meanwhile, China pledged to hit the peak of its carbon emissions around 2030, while striving to peak even earlier. It will also boost its share of non-fossil fuel energy to around 20 percent. These plans build on progress already underway in China.

China’s demand for coal declined in the first three-quarters of this year as its GDP continued to grow, and some analysts predict that coal use in China may peak as soon as this year.  It is planning to create a nationwide carbon market in 2016. And it has installed more wind turbines and more solar power last year than any other nation. NRDC’s team in Beijing has been working with Chinese partners to cap coal consumption by 2020, confirming that China is ready to address its damaging air pollution problems.

China and the US are poised to meet their targets for reducing carbon pollution. Indeed, NRDC analysis shows both countries can clean up even more pollution—and grow their economies, protect people’s health, and shield communities from the hazards of extreme weather at the same time.

NRDC will continue encouraging American and Chinese officials to set more ambitious targets. But today we celebrate this breakthrough. And we thank President Obama and President Xi Jinping for honoring our obligation to provide future generations with a safer, more stable environment. 

About the Authors

Frances Beinecke

Former President

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