US and China Take Historic Step in Tackling Climate Change

The source of this photo is Own work.  The author is Nederlandse Leeuw. From Wikimedia Commons.

Climate change has been an insidious problem in recent years, clouded by more imminent issues such as war and the economy. It is though, nonetheless, of great importance.

Huge steps have been taken recently as China and America have formally settled the Paris Climate Agreement. This essentially means that, as the Guardian detailed in December 2015, the “fossil fuel era is over.” Governments at the Paris Climate Conference last year pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions and now both President Obama and President Xi Jinping have formally agreed to this and to await other leading countries to follow suit.

Why is this such a breakthrough?

America and China’s role at the forefront of this movement – as the two largest producers of carbon emissions – is not to be ignored. According to 2014 estimates, China emitted 10,540,000 kt of CO2 whilst the United States generated around half of that at 5,334,000 kt.  This is 40 percent of global carbon emissions. Therefore, as immense contributors to the imbalance in the carbon cycle – the cause of the ‘greenhouse effect’ – the finger of blame could rightly be pointed towards these two industrious countries.

The source of this photo is Flickr. The author is Caelie_Frampton from Vancouver, BC, Canada. From Wikimedia Commons.

The source of this photo is Flickr. The author is Caelie_Frampton from Vancouver, BC, Canada. From Wikimedia Commons.

However, the new Paris Treaty hopes to tackle this issue. To bring it into action, 55 countries constituting 55 percent of emissions have to sign. Fortunately, the omniscient presence of both Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping has exerted a positive influence upon proceedings. In late 2015, during the Paris talks, more than 190 nations agreed to the document, although it won’t be signed until April 22. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to the ceremony in New York and it is expected that 120 countries will be present and sign. Yet the United States and China have not only been acting as ‘whips’ to encourage other countries to sign. The White House statement outlined somewhat vague but nonetheless necessary changes that have been made since the signing. China has strengthened its low carbon and other green policies, whilst the United States has worked with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The US and the OECD set the standard among nations for the support of coal-fired power plants using export credit. Whilst not a hands-on solution, climate change is being brought into the political sphere more prominently.

Furthermore, the White House statement claimed, “The joint efforts by China and the United States on climate change will serve as an enduring legacy of the partnership between the two countries.” But have we left it too late? Will it be enduring? Meaningful? Transitionary? Maybe not. But, the move towards lower carbon emissions can only improve our environment. The largest world powers have played a positive role in this issue – if we ignore the fact that they are the largest carbon producers. China and America have used their global power to bring an often ignored issue to the forefront of modern politics. Perhaps the common purpose of protecting our planet could be a unifying issue, which is this treaty’s legacy.

Global Seven News

Catherine McNaughton



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