U.S. and China Agree to Battle Climate Change – 9/14/16

The presidents of the U.S. and China have recently agreed to make a joint effort to battle climate change. Together, the two countries represented roughly 38% of global emissions in 2015.

The new effort includes formal adoption the international climate-change agreement reached in Paris by both nations, as well as a road map for achieving emissions reductions in commercial aircraft and for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, which aren’t covered by the Paris agreement.

How committed the U.S. remains to meeting the goals will depend on the outcome of November’s presidential election. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump support and reject climate change, respectively. Since the agreement was largely a project of the Obama administration, the next administration will be able to continue or dismantle efforts to reduce emissions as they see fit.

Despite criticism from the European Union and other countries that wanted binding targets, the final Paris deal only requires countries to issue targets and disclose their progress along the way. Without the binding targets, which Obama shunned as a means of avoiding getting approval for the agreement from a hostile Congress, the main deterrent for cheating on targets is peer pressure.

The two countries also agreed to negotiate a freeze and phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons, which are thought to have a major role in depleting the ozone layer. The deal would be an amendment to a pact known as the Montreal Protocol, which many entered into after the effect HFC’s had on ozone was discovered.

Agreement on climate change comes as a rare sign of cooperation in an otherwise tense relationship between the U.S. and China on trade, human rights, influence over the Pacific, and a myriad of other issues. With even the Chinese president acknowledging a need to reduce emissions, it appears as though world leaders are reaching a consensus on the dangers of cataclysmic climate change.

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