United States and China find common ground on climate change

Last Saturday President Barack Obama and President of China Xi Jinping committed the world’s two largest superpowers to the Paris climate agreement

The United States and China, are two countries often at odds, whether over matters of cyber-warfare, human rights or naval security. Last Saturday, however, the two superpowers agreed to work together to combat climate change, which demonstrates the importance these two place on green initiatives. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President China Xi Jinping have adopted a pragmatic point of view, setting aside their competing interests for the benefit of future generations.

Both countries will now formally adopt the international climate-change agreement that was first reached in Paris back in December of 2015. This is a culmination of three years of efforts by the leaders, who first met in 2013, and is likely their last meeting before a new U.S. president assumes office.

The two presidents hope this monumental first step will bring the rest of the world into the fold. Countries totaling 55 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions must formally ratify the accord before it can come into effect. Ratification by the United States and China alone already cover 40 per cent of the world’s emissions.

“Despite our differences on other issues, we hope our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire further ambition and further action around the world,” said President Obama. The agreement places specific conditions on the United States, requiring them to reduce emissions to 75 per cent of 2005 levels by 2025. Meanwhile, China is only required to peak their emissions by 2030, as the country is still largely behind the United States in terms of renewable energy and relies largely on coal plants.

“The story of the past eight years is not mainly to pivot or the re-balance; it is the very substantial increases in Chinese capacities since 2008,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, Obama’s chief advisor on China during his first term. “How has the U.S. dealt with that? How has the U.S. confronted that?”

The accord could be in jeopardy depending on who wins the upcoming November election. Hillary Clinton has said she will continue Obama’s strategy on curbing harmful emissions while promoting sustainable energy. Donald Trump has instead promised to revoke Obama’s efforts and doubts the scientific consensus on the reasons behind climate change.

Much to the dismay of the European Union and many other countries, the accord has non-binding targets Binding targets would have required consensus from a congress currently under Republican control. Instead, the accord aims to use peer pressure to ensure compliance by requiring countries to regularly disclose their progress.

Advocates for environmental protection hailed the agreement, calling it the brightest moment in relations between the United States and China.

“When the two largest emitters lock arms to solve climate change, that is when you know we are on the right track,” said David Waskow, International Climate Director for the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank. “Never before have these two countries worked closely together to address a global challenge.”




Luiz Brasil, External News Editor

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