President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping announced a breakthrough agreement on climate change on November 12, 2014. The bilateral deal took many by surprise as the two super powers agreed to CO2 emissions target stretching out to 2030. This means that for the first time, the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases – the European Union, the United States, and China – have publicly committed to targets that combat climate change.

The EU started working to reduce emissions almost ten years ago as a result of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU commitment is a 40 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2030. It is already about halfway there. By comparison, the new US agreement is to reduce its CO2 emissions to between 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. China has agreed prevent its carbon emissions from growing by 2030. The difference in how China’s target is phrased relates to the fact that China is experiencing exponential growth in its rate of emissions. A target to eliminate that exponential growth is significant, in part because if means considerable management of China’s growing middle class. China has committed to 2030 as the year that China’s emissions peak. As an indicator of how China will get there, President Xi pledged that 20 percent of China's energy will come from clean sources like solar and wind by 2030. 

Giant steps like this from the top two carbon polluters on the planet set an example for the rest of the world. They also reflect movement on the issue of how to set emissions budgets that are fair as between developed and developing countries.

After 9 months of preliminary talks, the US-China achievement came out of 2 days of meetings between the leaders. Officials see this cooperative result as a positive step for the future, but admit that Obama might face opposition from a Republican Congress. For now there are clear goals set and a precedent for other countries to join in the fight against climate change. 

Here’s a good article about the implications of this US-China agreement and details about how the agreement ties into the goal of keeping global warming from passing the 2°C benchmark.

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Update: Obama Follows Through on Pledge to Cut Emissions

On March 31, 2015 President Obama officially submitted the U.S. pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 to the U.N. The president detailed the policies being used to carry out these goals as well as upcoming regulations to reduce emissions even further. These commitments are leading up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference being held in Paris at the end of November 2015.  The ultimate goal of the conference is to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celcius.  You can read the original post by the White House here.