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US-China landmark emissions deal met with criticism

December 2014

Businesses face challenging new carbon emissions targets set jointly for the next 15 years by the US and China.
The US is committed to cut its 2005 level of emissions by 26%-28% before 2025. China aims to peak its emissions and intends to generate 20% of its energy from zero-emission sources, both by 2030.

As part of its effort China agreed to increase its zero-emission energy generation from nuclear, wind, solar and other sources by 800-1,000 gigawatts by 2030. This exceeds the output of all China’s present coal-fired power plants and is almost the equivalent of all US electricity generation capacity.

The ultimate US objective is an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping stated the targets in an agreement reached at last month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Beijing.

Obama said afterwards: “As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change.”

He hoped all countries could endorse a global agreement before the UN climate conference in Paris in November and December next year.

Obama will encourage emissions reductions in the US by emphasising the energy cost savings and offering incentives to develop wind and solar power. A White House official said: “Consumers and businesses will save literally billions of dollars.”

Mark Kember, chief executive of The Climate Group, an international non-profit group dedicated to building a prosperous low-carbon future, said: “This is the news that many governments and businesses have been waiting for. It will help create the confidence for other national governments to follow suit and implement the measures needed to avert runaway climate change.”

Evan Juska, the organisation’s head of US policy, said: “Barack Obama’s commitment to reduce emissions by 26%-28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels, although it falls short of what the science requires, shows that the US hasn’t given up on its ambition to be a global climate leader.”

Ed Davey, the UK government’s climate change secretary, looked forward to discussions with the US and China on limiting the global temperature rise to less than two degrees.

Critics include Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who believes reducing coal use will squeeze middle-class US families and struggling miners, raise energy prices and cut jobs.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth had further criticism. Asad Rehman, its international energy campaigner, said: “This isn’t the major breakthrough the planet needs. The US pledge represents at most a woeful 15% cut on 1990 levels – a weaker target even than that promised by Obama in Copenhagen in 2009. Much greater ambition is needed to stop the worst impacts of climate change.” 

Global | Climate change


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