The United States and China struck a deal that may be the first domino to fall in the process of getting governments around the world to commit to reducing their carbon emissions by lessening their dependence on fossil fuels. A recent report from the United Nations stated that man-made carbon emissions have been a key contributor to global warming, and that if immediate actions aren't taken to cut them, we may see irreversible damage to the environment.
The report strongly suggested that the world's governments start making plans to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels and replace them with clean, renewable energy sources. And not just in part – the report stated that if we are to effect a meaningful reversal of the rising global temperatures, we must phase out our use of fossil fuels completely by the year 2100. In their place, the report stated, we must start using renewable energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal and others to power our societies.
Why the U.S.-China deal is historic
The U.S. and China are the top two consumers of energy in the world – it only makes sense that they would lead the way in this new climate initiative.
"As the world's two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change," President Obama said Wednesday in a joint news conference with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
But what makes the deal truly historic is that for once, it's not just business as usual. Both the U.S. and China are widely seen as representative of the developed and the developing worlds respectively.
As the Bellingham Herald noted, previous climate talks stalled because U.S. officials would complain that they can't reduce carbon emissions alone, while Chinese officials pointed out that fossil fuels are driving economic growth in their country. The developed world got to pollute their way to prosperity, they argued, so why can't anyone else? The battle lines in the climate argument were drawn along these lines, with developed and developing countries arguing and preventing any meaningful efforts to flourish.
This deal may mark the end of the bickering, and with the U.S. and China's leadership, we can be optimistic that the rest of the world will take note and follow suit.
U.S.-China deal may be the first step toward more renewables
The UN Report didn't mince words when it came to the importance of renewables. It said that we need to reach a point where 80 percent of our power comes from renewable sources by 2050 if we want to have any chance at mitigating ongoing climate change. Fortunately, the latest deal between the U.S. and China seems to have taken some key ideas out of the UN playbook.
CNN reported that under the terms of the deal, the United States would cut its carbon emissions by 26-28% of its 2005 level before the year 2025. China would reach its carbon emissions by 2030 and set a goal to get 20% of its energy from renewable, clean sources by the same year. While these terms haven't set goals that are exactly in line with what the UN prescribed, they are still far-reaching enough to set a solid foundation that can be built upon in the future.
According to a White House press release, the deal will also involve joint research initiatives for clean energy innovations, shared funding, joint feasibility studies for widespread renewable use, creative financial innovations to lower the upfront cost of solar power and other renewables, and other measures geared toward increasing the role that renewables can play in the U.S., China and the rest of the world.