In Beijing, 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.
This announcement is a unique development in the U.S.-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.
President Obama believes we have a moral obligation to take action on climate change, and that we cannot leave our children a planet beyond their capacity to repair. Over the last year, a spate of scientific studies have laid out the scope and scale of the challenge we face in the starkest of terms.
These key findings about climate change have been endorsed by every major national academy of sciences in the world, including those of China and India, as well as the World Meteorological Organization and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate change is already causing harm in many parts of the world.
“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. If other leaders follow suit, if more businesses step up, if we keep our level of ambition high, we can build the safer, cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous world future generations deserve.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important greenhouse gas emitted by humans. In 2012, about 90 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions came from fossil-fuel combustion and cement production (40% coal, 30% oil, 16% natural gas, 4% cement) and 10 percent from deforestation and other land-use change. Of the “industrial” (fossil fuel and cement) emissions in that year, China accounted for about 29%, the United States for about 15%, the 27 countries of the European Union for about 11%, India for about 6 percent, Russia for about 5 percent, and Japan for about 4 percent.
Chinese energy demand doubled between 2000 and 2011, something which few accurately predicted. Because almost 80% of its electricity comes from cool. (for U.S. 39 percent). These relatively few countries alone, then, accounted for about 70 percent of global industrial CO2 emissions in 2012 data.
The world’s two biggest emitters U.S. and China– stood together and committed to tackling that threat head-on and 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.