US, China reach surprise deal on climate change

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Beijing | November 12, 2014 7:10 PM

The world's top carbon emitters, the US and China, today reached a surprise deal on climate change...

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and U.S. State Secretary John Kerry (R) listen during a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014. REUTERSChinese President Xi Jinping speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and U.S. State Secretary John Kerry (R) listen during a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Reuters)

The world’s top carbon emitters, the US and China, today reached a surprise deal on climate change calling for ambitious action to limit greenhouse gases, in a move that could lead to India de-linking itself from China at future global climate negotiations.

In a major breakthrough, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama, announced respective post-2020 goals of coping with climate change after a comprehensive round of talks here.

Under the agreement, US intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26 – 28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 per cent, a joint statement issued at the end of the talks here said.

For its part, China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 per cent by 2030, it said.

This is the first time China has agreed to peak its CO2 emissions, US officials said.

The surprise agreement between the top two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases came amid a debate in Indian official circles about the need for

India to de-hyphenate itself from its long association with China on climate issues.

According to a 2012 survey, the biggest contributors to fossil fuel emissions included China 27 per cent, US 14 per cent, the European Union 10 per cent, and India 6 per cent.

New Railway Minister and India’s “sherpa” for the G20 summit, Suresh Prabhu has called for India and China to go their own ways on climate issues as India’s near-complete alignment with China at global climate talks has been hurting New Delhi’s interests.

In a recent media interaction, Prabhu had argued that while India and China may have some similarities in terms of social indicators China is way ahead of India.

Also India’s greenhouse emissions are far lower than that of China, he said.

India at present is part of the BASIC group in the climate change negotiations. Its other members included China, South Africa and Brazil.

Commenting on Prabhu’s comments, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said his ministry will articulate a stand and this matter would be discussed in the next two weeks before the climate talks to be held in Lima in December.

Elaborating on today’s US-China agreement, American officials said US expects that China will succeed in peaking its emissions before 2030 based on its broad economic reform programme, plans to address air pollution, and implementation of Xi’s call for an energy revolution.

China’s target to expand total energy consumption coming from zero-emission sources to around 20 per cent by 2030 is notable, they said.

This will require China to deploy an additional 800 – 1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030, more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in US, a fact sheet circulated by the White House said.

Their agreement came ahead of next year’s make-or-break global climate conference in Paris.

Both US and China hope that by announcing these targets now, they 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, the joint statement said.

The two presidents resolved to work closely together over the next year to address major impediments to reaching a successful global climate agreement in Paris, it said.

They will also jointly push international climate change negotiations for a new agreement to be reached as planned at a conference in Paris next year.

Addressing a joint press conference after their talks, Obama said the agreement is “a major milestone in the US-China relationship”.

“It shows what’s possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge,” he said.

The two sides also announced steps to increase technological cooperation on climate related issues.

The two countries have established the US-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG), under which they have launched action initiatives on vehicles, smart grids, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas data management, forests and industrial boilers.

They also agreed to work together towards the global phase down of hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), very potent greenhouse gases and created the

US-China Clean Energy Research Centre, which facilitates collaborative work in carbon capture and storage technologies, energy efficiency in buildings, and clean vehicles.

They have agreed on a joint peer review of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies under the G-20, the joint statement said.

These will include expansion of the cooperation on “smart grids” that enable efficient and cost-effective integration of renewable energy technology through private sector commercial agreement of a first-of-its-kind 380 MW concentrating to build a solar plant in China, the White House fact sheet said.

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