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Unites States and China announce new actions to reduce carbon pollution

US to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, while China announced targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030.

Earlier this month President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made history by jointly announcing the United States’ and China’s respective targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change in the post-2020 period. Specifically, after 2020, the United States pledged to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. China announced targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030. China, meanwhile, announced targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030.

According to a White House press release, this announcement is a unique development in the US-China relationship. The world’s two largest economies, energy consumers, and carbon emitters are reaching across traditional divides and working together to demonstrate leadership on an issue that affects the entire world.
By making this announcement well in advance of the deadline set out in the UNFCCC negotiations, the two leaders demonstrated their commitment to reducing the harmful emissions warming our planet, and urged other world leaders to follow suit in offering strong national targets ahead of next year’s final negotiations in Paris.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the US National Climate Assessment stated. “Without additional mitigation efforts…warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes.
In Copenhagen in 2009, President Obama pledged that the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. According to the Obama Administration, the US is on track to meet that goal while growing the economy and creating jobs. The Administration credits the historic fuel economy standards enacted during the President’s first term; the measures to reduce carbon pollution, deploy more clean energy, and boost energy efficiency through the President’s Climate Action Plan; and the leadership demonstrated by a growing number of US businesses, who have increased their investment in clean technologies and pledged to phase down the potent greenhouse gases known as HFCs.
Chinese President Xi announced for the first time his intention to peak Chinese CO2 emissions around 2030, and further committed to make best efforts to peak early. China also announced a target of expanding the share of zero-emission sources in primary energy, namely renewables and nuclear, to 20% by 2030. To achieve that goal, China will have to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of zero-emission generation capacity by 2030, about the same as all their current coal-fired capacity and nearly as much as the total installed capacity in the U.S. energy sector today.
Market response
According to Point Carbon analysts at Thomson Reuters, the US-China climate target announcement represents only a modest increase from “business-as-usual”, but marks a huge step forward for the climate deal to be agreed at the UN Summit in Paris next year. The targets are only slightly more stringent than the Point Carbon team expected given existing policies and trends in both countries and are not expected to significantly improve the chances that global warming will be limited to 2°C. 
“Emissions from China and the US combined will likely rise for at least another decade with these targets, locking in almost 40% of worlds emissions up to 2030”, notes Frank Melum, Senior Point Carbon Analyst at Thomson Reuters. “We calculated how the announced targets will affect the chances to meet the 2°C target, concluding that the carbon budget will run out in 2042 – only 5 years later than a business- as-usual scenario without a Paris agreement. Global warming is still on course to significantly exceed the 2°C target.”  
Point Carbon does not expect these new targets to significantly alter the world’s trajectory for emissions growth, but concedes that the joint announcement will probably alter the pace of negotiations.
“The announcement is a game changer for the negotiations towards an international climate agreement in Paris next year and dramatically improves the atmosphere at the upcoming talks1 in Lima,” said Hæge Fjellheim, Senior Point Carbon Analyst at Thomson Reuters. “The fact that the targets were announced jointly by the two presidents speaks to a sense of mutual trust between the world’s two largest emitters. It ends the political staring contest between the US and China which has characterised the international climate negotiations for years, and injects a much sought momentum on the road to Paris.” 
Critics of the deal believe otherwise, citing the lopsided nature of the agreement as well as a general ideological disagreement about the strategy to support clean energy jobs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply criticized the announcement of the new climate deal between the United States and China.
“I was particularly distressed by the deal [the President] reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which, as I read the agreement, it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states across the country,” said McConnell, who is in line to become the new Senate majority leader in January. (McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is heavily dependent on its coal industry.)
Boehner denounced the agreement as “the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families,” according to a Washington Post article. Furthermore, Boehner pledged that Republicans would continue to make blocking Obama’s energy policies a priority for the rest of his term.
In defense of the agreement with China — and in support of the Obama Administration’s larger Climate Change initiative — Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said the President has emphasized the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change for months. “The President has been very clear in the direction in he is moving,” McCarthy said. “He is not changing at all.”
While there is little lawmakers can do to block the US-China climate agreement House Republicans could block or even delay implementation of theEPA’s proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, which is set to become final next June. Rather than pushing for an outright reversal of the rule before it’s finalized, according to individuals familiar with these deliberations, Senate Republicans are looking at passing language that would give states the option of not complying with the EPA mandate until litigation on the issue is resolved, or that would bar federal authorities from enforcing the rule, the Washington Post reported.
Congressional Democrats are standing firm in support of the agreement with China. “There is no excuse left for inaction,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a prepared statement. “No nation can escape the impact of climate change — nor can any nation shirk its responsibility to confront this shared challenge. We must come together and take bold and ambitious steps to avert the climate crisis before us.”
Looking at the big global picture, UNFCCC Parties have agreed to put forward their “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDC) by the end of the first quarter of 2015. With this announcement adding to the EU agreement for a 2030 climate target last month, three of the world’s major emitting economies have announced post-2020 ambitions ahead of the March 2015 deadline.  
“The joint US-China announcement will put pressure on other countries to step up ambition and come forward with national targets by the end of March 2015”, Point Carbon’s Fjellheim stated.
1. Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are gathering in Lima from 1-12 December for the final Conference of the Parties (COP) before the climate summit in Paris next year.

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