China, USA set post-2020 climate targets

12 November 2014

The USA and China have jointly announced separate targets for greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10-15 years. They hope other countries will follow their lead so that a global climate agreement can be reached next year.

Obama-Xi Nov 2014 460
Presidents Obama and Xi announce their climate targets (Image: Chinese Government Network)

US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping announced their respective climate targets today on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing. The two countries are also to expand their cooperation in developing clean energy technologies, including nuclear energy.

Obama announced that the USA aims to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 levels in 2025 and "to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%." In a statement, the White House said the new goal "will double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2% per year on average during the 2015-2020 period to 2.3%-2.8% per year on average between 2020 and 2025." It said, "This ambitious target is grounded in intensive analysis of cost-effective carbon pollution reductions achievable under existing law and will keep the United States on the right trajectory to achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80% by 2050."

The USA plans to submit its 2025 target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an "intended nationally determined contribution" no later than the first quarter of 2015.

Meanwhile, China plans to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and "to make best efforts to peak early." It also intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to some 20% by 2030.

The USA noted that this is the first time that China has agreed to peak its CO2 emissions. It said it expects China to succeed in peaking its emissions before 2030 "based on its broad economic reform program, plans to address air pollution, and implementation of President Xi's call for an energy revolution." It described China's target for 20% clean energy by 2030 as "notable," saying that it will need to deploy an additional 800-1000 GWe of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by that time.

The two countries also said they intend to continue strengthening their "policy dialogues and practical cooperation," including cooperation on advanced coal technologies, nuclear energy, shale gas and renewable energy, which will "help optimize the energy mix and reduce emissions, including from coal, in both countries."

Global goals

Together, the USA and China account for over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. The White House said, "Today's joint announcement, the culmination of months of bilateral dialogue, highlights the critical role the two countries must play in addressing climate change."

In their joint statement, Obama and Xi said, "These actions are part of the longer range effort to transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the global temperature goal of 2ºC."

China and the USA will "work together, and with other countries, to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in 2015," the statement said. The two countries said they are "committed to reaching an ambitious 2015 agreement that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances."

China and the USA hope their announcement can "inject momentum into the global climate negotiations and inspire other countries to join in coming forward with ambitious actions as soon as possible, preferably by the first quarter of 2015."

Last month, European Union heads of states agreed targets for the EU to reduce CO2 emissions, raise efficiency and deploy renewables by 2030. Coming on top of targets for 2020, a new binding goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030, while an "indicative" and non-binding target should raise efficiency to 27% against the same baseline. Renewables should be deployed to make up a total of 27% of EU energy by 2030 under another binding target.

UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres welcomed the joint statement by China and the USA, saying: "These two crucial countries have today announced important pathways towards a better and more secure future for human-kind. Allied to the European Union's recent announcement, this signals in an increasingly positive way a determination towards addressing the climate change challenge from a growing number of key economies." She added, "This positive momentum opens the door for all major economies and in particular all other industrialized nations to bring forward their contributions to the Paris agreement in a timely fashion over the coming months."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News