US and China Agree to Tackle Climate Change in Landmark Agreement

With two of the world’s most influential nations agreeing to reduce their carbon emissions in the coming years, a new era of environmental policy cooperation could have lasting global effects.

At a conference held in Beijing, China in early November 2014, the United States (U.S.) and China announced their joint cooperation on a mission to reduce the total amount of carbon pollution each country emits.

Dr. Wenze Yang, a research assistant with the University of Maryland (UMD) Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and a native of China, explains that he is glad the two nations have embarked on a common mission and believes it will have a profound impact.

“It would be beneficial to the whole mankind, so it is warmly welcomed,” Yang said.

Collectively, these two global powerhouses produce more than one third of the world’s greenhouse gases, with China as the planet’s current leader.

For his part, U.S. President Barack Obama plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 26 to 28 percent below the country’s established 2005 levels.

Obama hopes to achieve this goal within 10 years, which could signify major changes in environmental policy for many Americans.

As for the Chinese government, this is the first time the country has agreed to cap its carbon emissions.

“As far as I know, China seldom makes commitment of international affairs. Yet once China makes a commitment, the nation will do the best to reach the goals,” Yang said of his native country.

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to expand China’s zero-emissions energy consumption to around 20 percent of the country’s total energy needs by 2030.

To reach this target goal, China will need to generate from 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-emission energy; e.g. nuclear, wind, and solar power.

The two countries have also pledged to renew their commitment to the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC), by extending the CERC mandate, renewing funding, and launching a new track on the interaction between energy and water.

“Now, facing the common issue, like [being] in the same small boat, [the] nations are forced to fight together, which calls for better ways of thinking and doing things, “ Yang said. “To reach the goal to cutting carbon emission, systematic efforts are needed, which include new energy sources, new transportation patterns, and even new living styles.”

Looking forward, the U.S. and China must successfully work to enhance their relationship, as they simultaneously decrease their own carbon emissions; a goal that could ultimately impact not only global climate change, but also set a new standard for international cooperation.