US and China Reach Climate Agreement

Climate pictureBy: David P. Griscom

Barack Obama and Xi Jingping have agreed to critical deals on environmental policies. These agreements put both the United States and China in a position to lower their respective pollution rates. These two countries are the largest polluters in the world, and this deal recognizes their responsibility for the global climate shift. The recent concessions also show a degree of ‘thawing’ in the often icy relationship between the two leaders over the past few years.

China has agreed that by 2030 their carbon emissions will peak. What this means is that by 2030 20% of China’s energy production will be from green industry, according to a statement by the White House. In addition, China will be in the process of reducing their environmental impact even though they are still rapidly industrializing. This agreement is a major shift for Chinese domestic policy, because the environmental issue, up until now, has been framed as a western ploy to infringe on Chinese sovereignty and impede the growing Chinese economy, this change could symbolize a readdressing of that sentiment.

This deal also compels the United States to take a more significant approach to pollution. In the same White House statement the deal “will double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2 percent per year on average during the 2005-2020 period to 2.3-2.8 percent per year on average between 2020 and 2025”. This will mean a redoubling of efforts already put into place. There has however been no grace period between this announcement and an irate Republican response, with Mitch McConnell voicing his displeasure with the new agreement on Wednesday morning. Mitch McConnell claimed that “these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states across the country”. The Republicans have attempted to paint this deal as a symbol of weak diplomatic presence by the President who in their view, all too often bows to the wishes of the international community over the American people.

In many ways what this deal shows is that President Obama is planning on using his powers as president to push forward his agenda which he feels has been unfairly restricted by a toxic political environment. It is within the power of the President to make formal agreements with heads of state of other nations without congressional oversight. 

The Republican response to this plan has highlighted that it unfairly targets the United States and allows China to “do nothing”. This distinction is not based in reality. China, being the most populous country and the world, is rapidly developing and has now dedicated 20% of economy to green energy. This opening creates a huge market for the sector, and also sends a message to ‘dirty energy’ that it will have less presence in China. Going forward, this will encourage the growth of this energy industry on a global scale because markets will be favorable to green energy solutions.

Photo Credit:Motorito, Flickr Commons