The U.S. – China Climate Agreement

Less than two months after the historic People’s Climate March, when 400,000 people marched for climate justice in New York City, world leaders listened to us and stepped up to the plate.

On the night of November 11th, 2014, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing, United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a a new U.S.-China climate deal. President Obama stated that by 2025, the United States will lower greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% compared to 2005 levels. President Xi stated that China will reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, and then decline. To reach that goal, 20% of China’s energy will have to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

The agreement was crafted in secret over the last nine months. Officials hope that it will inspire action at the climate talks in Paris in 2015. Prior to this ground-breaking agreement, many believed there was not much hope for a firm commitment in Paris. This is because the United States and China are the two largest economies, as well as the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and without leadership from these two countries, other governments do not have as much incentive or obligation to cut greenhouse gases.

Although this agreement is an important step in the right direction, it has no enforcement mechanisms, and will not keep the world below the 2 degrees Celsius tipping point beyond which catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Bill McKibben provides interesting thoughts about the significance of the climate deal: what it is, and what it isn’t. McKibben notes that this agreement is an important victory for the grassroots and that it indicates that the grassroots should continue to put pressure on the international community. The Council on Foreign Relations also weighs in.

Let us hope that this agreement will push the world, especially the biggest polluters, towards climate solutions and a binding treaty in Paris.

2014 UN Climate Summit

climate_summit_2014

This Tuesday, September 23rd (two days after the People’s Climate March), world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York City for the 2014 UN Climate Summit. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called world leaders to New York City in order “to raise political momentum for a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015 and to galvanize transformative action in all countries to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.” You can read the Final Summary of the Summit, written by Mr. Ban, here.

Many countries committed to strong action, such as Costa Rica (100% clean energy by 2016), Iceland (economy completely powered with clean energy), and Nicaragua (90% renewable energy by 2020). You can read more about the major commitments or check out this cool interactive map.

However, the Climate Summit did not push us forward, toward decisive international action, as much as some would like. The scientific community has been educating the general public about climate change for decades, and yet no international legislation has succeeded in curbing emissions. In fact, this year the world will produce 65% more carbon emissions than it did in 1990.

As many of the protesters chanted at the People’s Climate March, “Hey, Barack, you talk the talk, now walk the walk!” (You can see President Obama’s full speech here.) Climate change is an issue that all world leaders should be focusing on. If they do not start “walking the walk,” and take serious action on climate at COP21 next year in Paris, the future of human civilization will be in jeopardy.