There's no doubt, this is a historic deal. The US and China are now committed to far-reaching goals to cap greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The US will cut its emissions by between 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. This marks the first time the US has agreed to cuts greater than the 17 percent reduction that Obama set as a goal in 2009.
China agreed that its emissions of Earth-warming gases would peak by 2030 or earlier. This is also the first time China has made any kind of pledge to stop its rapidly growing level of greenhouse gas pollution, the highest of any country in the world. Up until now China has resisted calls to cut emissions, saying that “as a developing country the pollution is necessary to its growth.”
Back at home Republicans attacked the deal. Mitch McConnell blasted the deal as unrealistic. “Our economy can’t take the president’s ideological war on coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners,” he said adding that and last week’s election showed how unpopular Obama’s environmental policies are: “The president said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them,” McConnell concludes.
McConnell made it clear shortly after the election that he and his colleagues would fight the Obama administration’s environmental policies head-on. But it's not only the Senate, controlled by Republicans that by and large campaigned against new rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, that opposes the deal, so are several state legislatures. And of course, there are a sizeable number of Democrats who are also wary of the EPA. And state cooperation with the EPA is the key to making the EPA power plant rules work.
Nonetheless, this deal with China is a big deal and we should be optimistic, primarily because the simple fact that the Chinese have completely changed their position on the issue. This is excellent news a year before an international conference Paris, where the global community will once again try to hammer out an international climate change agreement.
Second, this agreement will likely push climate change to the center of discussions for the next Group of 20 summit in December. The progress made between the US and China not only puts pressure on Australia, but also on India that refuses to make any sort of promise regarding emissions cuts.
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