by Christina Cilento
President Obama announced Tuesday night that the U.S. and China had reached a historic deal to cut carbon emissions and address climate change.
The agreement, which comes from the world’s two largest polluters, sets specific reduction goals for each country to reach. President Obama committed “to cut U.S. carbon pollution by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025,” according to an official blog post from the White House. China’s president Xi Jinping has pledged to peak China’s CO2 emissions by 2030 at the latest, and to increase its share of non-fossil fuel energy to about 20 percent.
The decision comes at a critical moment, one year before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where world leaders hope to create an international climate change agreement. The commitments the U.S. and China have made could prove instrumental at the conference in encouraging other nations to sign on to the agreement and set specific carbon emissions goals.
It is likely that in the U.S., Republicans, having just gained Congressional control in the midterm elections, will attempt to block any action to follow through on this agreement. Meanwhile, China will face the challenge of decreasing the size of its coal industry, which in 2011 supplied almost three-quarters of the nation’s energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
But unless other countries buy in and make similar commitments, it seems unlikely the agreement by China and the U.S. will have much of an impact. The White House blog acknowledged this, saying “achieving that global outcome will require global ambition and commitments from all economies.”
All eyes are now turning to India, the world’s third largest polluter, to step up to the plate and commit to emissions reductions. But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated that his government won’t be announcing a plan for specific cuts any time soon, believing it should not be India’s sole responsibility to pursue emissions reductions.