Obama – Xi Jinping Agreement: A Gamechanger For the Climate?

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced what is being described as a “gamechanger” for the climate earlier this week when they revealed that the world's two biggest economies and greenhouse gas emitters will partner closely on a broad-ranging package of plans to fight climate change.

The statement is ground breaking; the two nations accounting for 45% of the world’s total emissions are now coming together to put their commitments on the table changing the stagnated discussions and giving hope to the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris. Together with the EU, who last month announced 40% of emission reduction by 2030, there is new hope for the climate negotiation since the end of 2009 when the negotiation reached catastrophic results in Copenhagen.

The highlights of the statement include China agreeing to an emission trajectory peaking in 2030 and a raise of share of non-fossil fuels to around 20 percent of primary energy consumption by 2030, while the United States agreed to cut economy-wide emissions by 26-28 percent below the 2005 level by 2025. The statement also included plans for future technology collaboration in the field of clean energy.

However, for those who are closely following energy policies in the US and in China, the commitments in the statement might not be ambitious enough for a paradigm shift which is urgently needed. Many of the issues is simply about re-shuffling existing policies and confirming the long-debated emission trajectory. Nevertheless, the statement itself has a great political value. It moves the two biggest global emitters from finger pointing towards collaboration. And hopefully this gives the signal needed to move forward with the upcoming climate negotiations. With climate getting back to the political agenda, there is much to be expected in the next year’s climate summit in Paris, which we will keep a close look at and report back.

Liming Qiao

China Director, GWEC

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