Current Events: China/US Climate Agreement Good…But Not Great

On Wednesday, Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping vowed to do their individual parts in curbing global carbon emissions – a step forward, for sure, but not necessarily a leap.


Both nations will readily admit they are among the biggest in the world – in population, in wealth, in technological advancements, in the military. What neither has really owned up to – until now – is the impact these superlatives have on the environment. Sure, climate change and the myriad issues attached to the phenomenon are acknowledged and acted upon, but in the past it’s been phrased more as “this is a global problem that needs a global solution.” True. And every actor plays a part. But some roles are bigger than others – and the leaders are not always the good guys.

But this week, China and the US have finally admitted that their sizes geographically and population-wise have made them the leading nations in emitting carbon. Each economy has grown accustomed to, even reliant on, the burning of fossil fuels for energy. However, as leaders of the first world, both nations also have the ability to change their habits and switch to renewable energy. Xi Jinping has promised China’s emissions will peak by 2030 and steadily decrease from there; Obama claims a 28% drop by 2025. What’s remarkable about this agreement – other than people in power finally making strides toward addressing climate change – is that the conversation between the Presidents only began a few months ago. This is proof that climate change is real and that solutions are urgent. What’s unfortunate is that it took so long to have a conversation like this, especially one where the answer was so clear thus making an agreement so simple to make. Why couldn’t this have happened sooner?

Another issue brought on by the chosen deadlines is that, according to some experts, they are easily achievable. Why is this bad? Because we should strive for more. It’s not an accomplishment to meet these goals, but rather a necessity that the fate of our world relies on. Why not create even stricter policies and make theses changes in the near future rather than decades from now? Certainly China could benefit from burning less coal this instant, its smog rates and related health problems plaguing the population. Yet we all know that in the US there will be drawback from the Republicans, concerned about the economy and how employment will stay afloat – and hopefully improve – when energy dependency switches from non-renewable to renewable. And without the US taking big strides, China won’t budge either, because they are still world leaders in the economy and are afraid to make the bolder, braver move that may seem unstable at first but in the end will literally save their nations.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that the goals set are ambitious enough? Should we make the deadlines sooner or the rate changes larger? What do you think about US Republicans not backing the agreement? Do you think the economy will suffer or prosper if we switch to renewable energy? Share your thoughts here, I’d love to make a discussion out of this!

 

Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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