Saturday, September 26, 2015

Today's U.S.-China Announcement is the Most Significant Milestone to Date for Battling Global Climate Change

Today’s joint announcement by President Obama and President Xi represents the second time in two years the leaders have met to make significant climate commitments.

Last year’s meeting focused on setting aggressive goals that reflect each country’s unique situation. This year’s meeting moved decisively to implementation commitments intended to deliver these results. The message is clear: the time for talking about climate is over. The two largest economies and emitters must lead in action.

The commitments by the countries are sweeping and perhaps the greatest cause for hope yet in international attempts to address global warming—especially looking forward to COP21 in Paris this upcoming December. Among the outcomes are the creation of the world’s largest carbon market, market reforms within China that will help support accelerated renewables development, redoubled support of the Clean Power Plan initiatives to reduce carbon intensity of the U.S. electricity grid, codes and regulations to improve energy efficiency in buildings and transportation in both countries, and a commitment by both countries to control other important greenhouse gases including methane and HFCs.

Importantly, both countries also committed to ongoing research on necessary global warming solutions, as well as the promise of more than $6 billion in financing to support developing countries in their adoption of similar solutions.

China’s strategy for delivery is an audacious combination of top-level reforms and bottom-up implementation. Specific highlights from the announcement include:

  • Creation of the world’s largest carbon market: China has committed to use a national cap-and-trade system to efficiently limit and price carbon pollution starting in 2017. The system will cover all the largest emitting sectors in China, including power generation, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, chemicals, cement, and pulp and paper. This market will build heavily upon the experiences learned from its seven city-level carbon market pilots. Given its expansive scope, this market will likely cover approximately 60 percent of China’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, which were roughly 10 billion metric tons last year. More