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Obama hails climate deal

Updated: 2014-11-17 10:57
By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington (China Daily USA)

US President Barack Obama continued to ride the success of the latest US-China climate deal in an Asia-Pacific policy speech on Nov 15 at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Speaking highly of his announcement in Beijing last week of ambitious goals in carbon reduction in the US, Obama described China's commitment as a historic step because it was the first time China agreed to slow, peak and then reverse the course of its carbon emissions.

"The reason that's so important is because if China, as it develops, adapts the same per capita carbon emissions as advanced economies like the United States or Australia, this planet doesn't stand a chance, because they've got a lot more people," he told a crowd of mostly students.

Obama, who was in Australia for the G20 summit, called on all countries at different development stages to overcome their divides and reach a strong global climate agreement next year.

"If China and the United States can agree on this, then the world can agree on this. We can get this done. And it is necessary for us to get it done," he said.

Under the climate change agreement announced by Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week, the US promised to reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, a move that will double the pace at which the US reduces carbon pollution.

Meanwhile, China will peak its carbon emissions around 2030, with the intention to peak sooner, and increase its non-fossil fuel share of energy to around 20 percent by 2030.

On Nov 15, Obama also announced that the US will contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing nations fight climate change, drawing enthusiastic applause from the audience.

While doubts remain about whether the US will be able to honor its commitment after a Republican-controlled House and Senate takes over in January, many pundits and climate scientists in the US have applauded the historic deal between the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The agreement came just in time before a United Nations climate change conference in Lima, Peru, early next month and another major meeting next year in Paris, where a global agreement on emission reduction is expected to be reached.

William Antholis, managing director and a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, described the US-China climate deal as "so compelling". He said the deep reductions pledged came well in advance of the pressure they will face in the two meetings. China and the US now account for 40 percent of global emissions.

"They also did so at a level deeper than many had expected. While both countries have already begun efforts to cut emissions, the timing of the announcement and the depth of the reductions went beyond what many diplomats, businesses and environmental groups anticipated," Antholis said.

Paul Joffe, a senior foreign policy counsel at the World Resources Institute, described China's commitment as a historic turning point.

He said China has in a few years gone from no international commitment on climate, to committing at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference to reducing carbon intensity, to now pledging to peak its emissions.

"Moreover, China is not just talking, but is putting forward targets that can be reviewed by the international community," he said.

Jake Schmidt, director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the specified targets signal that both countries are prepared to be bold and ambitious. He believes the commitments will help secure a strong international agreement next year in Paris.

Schmidt stressed in his blog that the important emissions reduction targets require strong action from both countries, pointing to China's continued reliance on coal as a major energy and climate challenge.

A report released on Nov 14 by Tsinghua University in Beijing showed that China can achieve economic development, energy security and reduce pollution at the same time. The report, China and the New Climate Economy, details a policy and regulatory framework that would enable China to meet its new climate change and air pollution targets.

Severe air pollution has become a source of frequent public complaints and has also garnered growing support in China for a move to a low-carbon economy.


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