You may also have awoken this morning to reports of a potentially ‘game-changing’ deal between the United States and China, which pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. [Note: the US media likes to use the sports-derived phrase ‘game-changing’ to refer to significant events.] This is certainly a significant development in the politics of climate change. Indeed, the two countries are the world’s largest emitters of GHGs and until today the two have been engaged in a game of what Paul Harris has called “you go first!” From the looks of it, they have both chosen to ‘go first’.
According to news reports, here are some of the details:
[President] Obama is setting a new target for the U.S., agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The current U.S. target is to reach a level of 17 percent below 2005 emissions by 2020…
[President] Xi committed China to begin reducing its carbon dioxide emissions, which have risen steadily, by about 2030, with the intention of trying to reach the goal sooner, according to a statement released by the White House.
China, the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, also agreed to increase its non-fossil fuel share of energy production to about 20 percent by 2030, according to the White House.
Is the negotiated agreement ideal? Not nearly. China will still be increasing its total GHG emissions until about 2030. Despite this, however, the deal has been met with some praise from environmental groups for the symbolic significance of the deal, which makes the potential for getting a positive deal agreed in Paris next year more likely.
Jake Schmidt, director of international programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based environmental group, said no other countries can have as big an impact on the climate debate as the U.S. and China.
“They shape how the market invests,” he said. “They’ve also been two of the most difficult players in the history of the climate negotiations so the fact that they are coming out and saying they are going to take deep commitments will be a powerful signal to the rest of the world.”
Of course, not everyone is happy. Soon-to-be US Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is outraged:
4 thoughts on “‘Game-changing’ news regarding climate change?”
In a class last semester we watched a documentary called “Born into Coal” that investigates the relationship between certain the USA and coal. It follows the story of a young girl competing in the Coal Queen pageant. I found the film both eyeopening and a little creepy. I also found that while you appreciate what it will mean for these men to lose their livelihoods, it is also undeniable that a reduced dependence on coal and development of jobs in relation to cleaner forms of energy would be better for both them and the globe as a whole. Here is a link to the trailer if you are interested.
I agree with the statement that this is symbolically important for the cause of mitigating climate change. Besides the symbolism it represents, which shows that reducing countries’ carbon footprints is important and should be part of the agenda, I would have liked to see greater commitments from China. It disappoints me that China will not take aggressive measures to mitigate climate change in the coming decades. While, this is a ‘good thing,’ I definitely think people should expect more meaningful actions and commitments.
Also, it surprises me that individuals like McConnell set all the well-being of the labour force and the middle-class in hands of the coal and oil sector. I think is too radical to attribute all the well-being of this sectors to oil and coal production. I think there are other ways to strength the economy, the labour force and the middle class through the stimulation of more sustainable economic sectors or public policy.
I agree with mma1393’s comments. Moreover, I wish that American politicians would not be so ignorant when it comes to creating job opportunities with mitigating climate change. McConnell is outraged by this deal because he thinks many Americans will lose their jobs. While I agree that the coal industry is one that provides many individuals with employment opportunities, steps to mitigate climate change can also create job growth. One such step is sustainable energy alternatives. Individuals are needed to place solar panels on houses for solar energy, for the maintenance of hydro plants and dams, and the construction of wind turbines and windmills. These are just a few examples. American politicians, like McConnell, need to change their mind set when it comes to job growth and climate change. An economy does not have to exclusively rely on fossil fuels that implement negative effects on the planet. In fact, many countries, like Germany, are placing more emphasis on renewable energy sources. Thus, although this deal is a step in mitigating climate change, I feel that the US should work on it’s citizens, making them more educated and open to steps that mitigate climate change while also providing new employment opportunities.
The word overly mentioned is “historic” while I believe it is merely a strong development in the politics of climate change. Not to downgrade this game changing deal but seeing as to how much green house gases these two countries emit, a step taken in mitigating climate change should not be highly praised. It simply something that should happen. It should be appreciated but this doesn’t mean that a dramatic shift has occurred. As mentioned in the blog “China will still be increasing its total GHG emissions until about 2030” and so will the United States. Civil society, activists and various nations should keep pressing China and the U.S for a more sound deal. Moreover, with soon to be Senators such as Mitch Mconnell; congress might be standing in the way again of any deal Obama decides to sign to, even next year in Paris. So unfortunately we might go back to square one as often in the Politics of Climate Change, because efforts to combat this issue will largely depend on who is in power. This deal by China and US is a significant development. But more needs to be done. We can infer the results of this deal when the Paris summit comes along.
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