US and China jointly announce ambitious targets in 'historic' climate accord美國和中國共同宣布在“歷史性的”氣候協定的宏偉目標
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, smiles after a group of children waved flags and flowers to cheer him during a welcome ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday, Nov. 12. (AP)
November 13, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
U.S. President Barack Obama said the joint announcement on the two countries' emissions targets was a “historic agreement” and a “major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship.”
At a Beijing summit, the leaders of the world's two biggest polluters put their stamp on attempts to breathe new life into action against global warming ahead of international talks in Paris next year.
BEIJING -- The United States and China on Wednesday announced ambitious targets on greenhouse gas emissions as part of a “historic” pact that climate scientists acclaimed but U.S. Republicans denounced as a job-killer.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said the two had “agreed to make sure that international climate change negotiations will reach an agreement in Paris.”
Attempts to deal with climate change, which scientists warn is approaching a potentially catastrophic point of no return, have long been stymied by the unwillingness of the United States and China to work together on the problem.
But China set a target for its greenhouse gas output to peak “around 2030,” which Obama commended as a commitment to “slow, peak and reverse the course” of its emissions.
And Obama, who faces scepticism as well as outright denial about climate change in the U.S. Congress, set a goal for the United States to cut its own emissions of greenhouse gases by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
“We have a special responsibility to lead the worldwide effort against climate change,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Xi.
China and the U.S., which together produce around 45 percent of the world's carbon dioxide, will be key to ensuring a global deal on reducing emissions after 2020 is reached next year.
'A new day'
But after the 2009 Copenhagen Summit nearly ended in fiasco, salvaged only by a last-minute deal brokered by Obama and China's then premier, Washington and Beijing have started to move closer towards agreement.The two countries have long been at loggerheads over global targets, with each saying the other should bear more responsibility for cutting emissions of gases blamed for heating up the atmosphere.
Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) organizing the Paris negotiations, welcomed the announcement as providing “both practical and political momentum.”
Environmental advocates hailed it as a “breakthrough,” with the U.S.-based World Resources Institute president Andrew Steer saying: “It's a new day to have the leaders of the U.S. and China stand shoulder-to-shoulder and make significant commitments to curb their countries' emissions.”
But while it was the first time China agreed to an approximate target date for emissions to peak — officials have previously only spoken of doing so “as soon as possible” — the commitment was qualified, leaving considerable room for maneuver.
China has trumpeted its efforts to reduce dependence on coal and oil in the past, and is the world's largest hydropower producer, with a growing nuclear sector.
But economic growth remains a vitally important priority and has seen demand for energy soar, with coal use a significant source of Beijing's notorious pollution.
Opposition in Congress
Much of Obama's action on climate change meanwhile has been carried out with executive orders rather than cooperation from an often confrontational legislature.
The deadline for Obama's new pledge is in more than a decade's time but he only has two years left in his presidency. He faces a Congress now set to be controlled by opposition Republicans in both houses after this month's mid-term elections, making passing environmental legislation even more difficult.
In an early portent of the battles to come, the U.S. Senate's new Republican leader was quick to slam Obama's proposed greenhouse gas reductions.
“This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” Senator Mitch McConnell said.
This year is the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Washington and the People's Republic, and the joint announcement was a rare moment of common purpose from the leaders of the world's two largest economies, which regularly clash on issues from trade to rights and are increasingly seen as competing on the world stage.
北京 - 美國和中國週三宣布對溫室氣體排放的宏偉目標，作為一個“歷史性”協議一部分的好評氣候科學家，但美國共和黨人指責為一個職業殺手。
美國總統奧巴馬表示，聯合宣布兩國減排目標是一個“歷史性協議”和“美國 - 中國關係的重要里程碑。”
不過，雖然這是中國第一次同意以近似目標日期的排放峰值 - 官員先前只說出這樣“盡快”的 - 承諾是合格的，留下相當大的迴旋餘地。