The New Climate Change Deal Between the U.S. and China Explained

The whole world is talking about a deal that China and the United States reached regarding curbing emissions, but what does it really mean for our future?

What is the Pact?

The United States has promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 27% (compared to 2005 rates) by 2025. It’s a more ambitious rate than the Obama administration had previously announced a few years ago, and will require significant environmental policy change to achieve. As for China, the country agreed to begin reducing its pollution rate by 2030. Additionally, China will harness 20% of its power from renewable energy sources by that same year.

While environmentalists aren’t jumping up and down because the world is now saved, these pledges are definitely steps in the right direction toward addressing climate change.

Is It Set in Stone?

The agreement has not been “formalized” yet, so there’s still room for the numbers to shift, but political analysts say the countries probably wouldn’t announce these figures if they didn’t intend to solidify the deal. Since they’ve been negotiating this agreement since February, there’s been plenty of time for both sides to feel comfortable with the proposal.

Of course, whether or not they’ll realistically be able to meet these numbers a decade from now is another matter entirely.

Why Does This Particular Alliance Matter?

Combined, these two countries alone produce more than 40% of the carbon emissions for the entire planet. Frankly, as the top two polluters in the world, reduction pledges really need to start and focus on these two nations in order for change to even matter.

It all boils down to each country’s economy. China is currently relying on coal and non-renewable energy to develop into an economic powerhouse. The United States, meanwhile, is afraid to back off of traditional energy sources and get left behind in terms of the economy. By making this decision jointly, both countries can do the right thing environmentally without worrying about getting left behind economically.

Will the Rest of the World Follow Suit?

That’s part of the hope. Again, some countries have waffled on a commitment to alleviating climate change due to a lack of significant action by the world’s two largest polluters. If China and the United States can broker a deal, ideally other countries will agree to follow suit on an international level next year.

Honestly, it’s hard to say whether the United States will be able to follow suit. The Republican party is already criticizing even this modest environmental reform. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “This unrealistic plan that the President would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.” While Obama has the power to get the ball rolling on climate change, it’ll be up to subsequent political leaders to actually keep the promise.

Is It Enough to Make a Difference?

Long-term reductions of carbon emissions are obviously important, but, no, easing off pollution is by no means enough to put us in the clear. Scientists don’t even expect these alterations will be enough to prevent the average global temperature from rising by 2 degrees Celsius, the agreed upon goal in Copenhagen five years ago.

Some economists believe that based on current trends, the demand for pollution-causing businesses in China will peak in the country by 2030 anyway, so the timeline they’ve created won’t force too much action on their part. If China were to move up their goal to 2025 like the U.S., however, that would require real sacrifice. Experts chalk up the decision to China being “realistic” about what it can achieve rather than making a pledge it wouldn’t keep.

89 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

Meme W. 20 billion tons of CO2 yearly which is not absorbed by natural systems ends up in the upper atmosphere, staying there an average of 100 years. It is not harmless it's effects, follows the laws of physics. Your picture of fingers in the ears is perfect to signify the deluded millions of humans who oppose reality.

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Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z4 years ago

Having to depend on "political leaders to actually keep the promise," that sounds promising.


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Meme Mine
Paul Merrifield4 years ago

How close to the point of no return from unstoppable warming will science take us before they finally say the are “100% certain” an actual crisis “will’ happen?
Are the science gods you bow to like bible thumpers also only 99% certain the planet is flat and that Human CO2 could flatten it?
Climate blame exaggeration has made neocons out of all of us in the history books.

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Rhonda B.
Rhonda B4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Rhonda B.
Rhonda B4 years ago

noted.

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni4 years ago

Thanks

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Ben Oscarsito
Ben O4 years ago

And, WHY the hell don't we some ACTION - YESTERDAY...???

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Ben Oscarsito
Ben O4 years ago

The United States has promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 27% (compared to 2005 rates) by 2025...holy crap!
China agreed to begin reducing its pollution rate by 2030...It's a bloody joke right???

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Winn Adams
Winn Adams4 years ago

Thanks

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