Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama and Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping announced, on Wednesday, an unprecedented agreement between the world’s leading carbon emitters, promising tighter regulations on waste and emissions, as well as investments in renewable energy.
According to the White House, Mr. Obama promised that the United States will cut carbon emissions down to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, twice the pace of current plans aimed through 2020. The new goals fall in line with the long term plans to reduce carbon deduction by 80% for the year 2050.
Mr. Jinping pledged that China would reach its peak carbon emissions in the year 2030, with the intention of peaking early, and thereafter keeping its levels at or below that ceiling. The Chinese also agreed to increase the country’s capacity of renewable energy by 800 to 1,000 gigawatts, more than double current levels and increasing non-fossil fuel share of energy production up to 20% of the total.
The White House has stated that the agreement between the world foremost two polluters lays the groundwork for real progress to be made next year at the 2015 Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, the 21st such conference revisiting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (U.N. FCCC) Change, which was adopted in 1992.
The announcements has received rave reviews from most media outlets here in the United States, but opponents were quick to point out that the agreement sets no specific level of emissions for China’s peak and that whatever promises there are, are still non-binding.
Though it is true that these agreements are not legal resolutions, the 2025 target will be submitted to the U.N. FCCC “as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution no later than the first quarter of 2015,” according to the White House.
The announcement is also the first time that China has agreed to any peak in CO2 emissions, and both nations fully expect to see that peak reached even before 2030, due to Mr. Xi’s economics and pollution reform plans, as well the implementation of his plan for an energy revolution.
Scientists and environmentalists have had a much more optimistic view of the agreement, noting that the biggest shortfall of the Kyoto Protocols, of 1997, was the lack of participation by the U.S. American politics has long been loath to the idea of submitting to any international regulations, and the same reluctance that doomed the League of Nation has served as an excuse for many other nations to delay implementation of the Protocols.
It seems unfair to other nations that America has used to burning of fossil fuels, over the last century and a half, to advance to unseen peeks economically, yet they should be the ones to make the sacrifice of moving away from cheap, known energy. And then to add insult to injury, even now the U.S. refuses to agree to the same sacrifices. Most of the world has acknowledged that China, and other late emerging economies, should be held to a less stringent standard than Western nation, as they weren’t given the same head start in the early 19th Century.
Many in the U.S. have argued that, because China, the world’s largest polluter, has not reigned in their emissions, regulation increases domestically would fail to achieve anything substantial, other than hurting the economy at home.
That argument is undeniably weakened by Wednesday’s announcement and many hope to see pressure extend beyond the two countries involved, but to nations around the world, including India, the world’s #3 emitter.
Many experts predict the most noticeable growth will arise from clean energy companies advances in efficiency, both in terms of cost and technology. “This will enable India to access these technologies in a few years, and to be honest I think this impetus will actually help the world reach its overall targets,” said Prodipto Ghosh, of The Energy Research Institute in New Delhi.