U.S. and China Reach Historic Climate Agreement

490381838_e0d6618ed7_zA surprising announcement came out this morning as President Obama concluded his visit to China where he’d been attending a conference of Pacific Rim economies. The President, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an agreement for the two countries — the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution — to work together to limit emissions.

The agreement, which was over nine months in the making, has China committing to reach peak carbon by 2030, with emission declining after that date. The U.S., on the other hand, has agreed to a 26 to 28 percent reduction by 2025 relative to 2005. This was the first time the U.S. pledged to reduce its emissions more than the 17 percent target by 2020 first declared in 2010 in anticipation of the Copenhagen accord.

On China’s part, Xi Jinping said that clean energy sources such as solar and wind would constitute 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030. Nuclear power is also expected to be part of the mix. In order to meet this target, China, which is still adding a new coal plant every eight to ten days, must complete roughly 1,000 gigawatts of new clean power over the next sixteen years. That’s roughly twice the current world total for renewables.

On the American side, we need to pick up the annual pace of carbon reduction from the current percent to somewhere between 2.3 and 2.8 percent.

Although China is currently the number one carbon emitter, the U.S. is responsible for more of the carbon currently in the atmosphere than any other country.

“We have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,”said Obama at a joint news conference. “Today, I am proud we can announce a historic agreement.”

The agreement needs no Congressional ratification, though the newly Republican-controlled Congress could still try to undermine the deal.

Not surprisingly, Republicans were quick to criticize the deal. Mitch McConnell said, “Our economy can’t take the President’s ideological War on Coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners. This unrealistic plan, that the President would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.”

John Boehner also chimed in, calling it, “…the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families.”

These statements are disingenuous if not outright false. Numerous studies have shown that a shift to renewable energy will lead to increased jobs. While some coal-exporting states, notably Kentucky and West Virginia, could see some losses, the overall impact will be positive. As for the War on Coal, lower natural gas prices due to fracking and falling renewable prices are contributing far more to coal’s decline than any policy measure. Figures compiled by the EIA earlier this year already show the levelized cost of natural gas, wind power, geothermal and hydro significantly lower than coal with solar dropping rapidly.

Finally, both of these gentlemen are completely ignoring the paramount issue of climate change, as if not talking about it will make it go away. If only it were so. At a time when even the Defense Department is calling the issue a threat to national security, this head-in-the-sand approach is patently irresponsible.

[Image credit: sharply_done:Flickr Creative Commons]

RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the successful eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP, who is a regular contributor to Triple Pundit and Justmeans, sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand.

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

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