US-China emissions deal: Industry reaction

Earlier today the world's two most polluting countries unveiled a climate pact which will see China cap its emissions output by 2030, and the US cut its emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

The industry reaction was vociferous and diverse, as experts shared different views, even from within the same organisation. The agreement was described as a massive symbolic step, an empty unambitious gesture and everything in-between.

—Read full coverage of the agreement here—

John Sauven – Greenpeace UK executive director

“This is a major political breakthrough that many thought impossible. The world’s biggest economies – China, the US and the EU – are now firmly set on a path towards a low-carbon economy and there’s no looking back.

“The case for global co-operation around the transition to a low carbon economy, including huge opportunities for those willing to move decisively at home and to promote leadership abroad, is overwhelming.

“The targets announced are not yet as ambitious as scientists say they should be if we are to stop the worst ravages of climate change, but this a solid foundation stone for world leaders to build on. The EU should now lead the charge for greater ambition, building on its historical leadership and in the interests of its own clean tech sector.

“For the UK government, this should be a wake-up call. The global race to a clean energy future and its huge rewards is on, and it won’t be won by pandering to the fossil fuel lobby and a minority of anti-wind and anti-solar Tory backbenchers.Slashing support for wind and solar isn’t just bad for the climate, it’s bad for Britain’s economy and our place in the world.”

Li Shuo – senior climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia

The two biggest emitters have come to the realisation that they are bound together and have to take actions together. Over the past months, communications between Beijing and Washington on climate change have been carried out in a very extensive manner. This extensive engagement highlights a clear sense of collective responsibility.

However, both sides have yet to reach the goal of a truly game-changing climate relationship. There is a clear expectation of more ambition from these two economies whose emissions trajectories define the global response to climate change. Today’s announcements should only be the floor and not the ceiling of enhanced actions.

 Asad Rehman – Friends of the Earth international energy campaigner 

“This isn’t the major breakthrough the planet needs.

“The US pledge represents at most a woeful 15% cut on 1990 levels – a weaker target even than that promised by Obama in Copenhagen in 2009. Much greater ambition is needed to stop the worst impacts of climate change.

“If everyone follows the US approach then poorer countries will have to take on even greater efforts, without any support from rich nations to avoid the threat of catastrophic climate change.

“China’s intention to peak its emissions in the next fifteen years is certainly welcome news, but only in the context of a global deal based on science and fairness that delivers the urgent help developing nations need to cope with the severe threat global warming poses.”

Carol Werner – Environmental and Energy Study Institute executive director

This new deal between China and the United States to lower greenhouse gas emissions is great news for fighting climate change globally, and an inspiring model as the world’s nations discuss crafting a global climate deal in Paris 2015. EESI applauds these two global leaders for taking great strides together to deal with the crisis of climate change.

Opponents of ambitious greenhouse gas targets often cited Chinese inaction as an excuse for U.S. inaction, arguing that America could not address the problem on its own and should therefore not act unilaterally. This climate agreement represents what many Members of Congress said was an essential precondition for stronger U.S. commitment on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The onus is now on Congress to support climate change action.” 

 Andrew Steer – World Resources Institute CEO 

“It’s a new day to have the leaders of the U.S. and China stand shoulder-to-shoulder and make significant commitments to curb their country’s emissions. They have both clearly acknowledged the mounting threat of climate change and the urgency of action. It’s heartening to see this level of cooperation, with climate change at the top of the agenda for the world’s top emitters.

“The U.S. and China should be commended for putting their initial pledges on the table so early. This should inject a jolt of momentum in the lead up to a global climate agreement in Paris.

“The U.S. target shows a serious commitment to action and puts the U.S. on a path to reduce its emissions around 80 percent by mid-century. This pledge is grounded in what is achievable under existing U.S. law. However, we should not underestimate the potential of innovation and technology to bring down costs and make it easier to meet–or even exceed–the proposed targets.

“China’s pledge to increase non-fossil fuel energy and peak emissions around 2030 as early as possible is a major development–and reflects a shift in its position from just a few years ago. But it will be very important to see at what level and what year their emissions peak. Analysis shows that China’s emissions should peak before 2030 to limit the worst consequences of climate change.

Jennifer Morgan – Director of Climate Program at WRI

“Make no mistake, more needs to be done. The U.S. and China should strive to achieve the upper range of their commitments and go even further in the future. They can raise the bar to take full advantage of the economic opportunities of a low-carbon future. A growing body of evidence shows that climate action can bring economic benefits and new opportunities. International cooperation, around the CERC and other areas, can help unlock even greater levels of ambition.

“The U.S. and China should make it a race to the top, catalyzing other countries to announce their targets and build momentum leading up to Paris. Today’s announcement is a big step in that direction.”

James Cameron – Chairman of Climate Change Capital, the environmental investor

“The US-China deal on emissions is a further wake up call to the investment community that continuing to pour money into fossil fuel companies is being irresponsible to their own investors – the pension funds and the like – because they will be investing in what will become stranded assets, stuck in the ground with no chance of being exploited. The value of oil and coal companies will fall and we expect more managers to join the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation in pledging they are pulling out of ‘dirty’ investments.

“We now need to make the investment community feel comfortable with low carbon and the complexities involved. This may need the setting up of large scale companies in this area. At the moment some people have difficulty in dealing with what, to them, are too many small players in the low carbon world. China’s involvement is vital in the fight against emissions and we expect their interest to be both global as well as domestic.”

Mark Kenber – CEO of The Climate Group 

“Barack Obama and Xi Jinping deserve recognition for their climate leadership. Not only are the two biggest polluters taking new and unprecedented commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they’re announcing them together. It shows that both countries recognize their individual responsibilities and the importance of their joint leadership on climate.
“This is the news that many governments and businesses have been waiting for. It will help create the confidence for other national governments to follow suit and implement the measures needed to avert runaway climate change. It will give business the direction and certainty it needs to scale up clean energy and energy efficiency, and send the right price signals to drive investment in low carbon technologies.
“With the EU announcement two weeks ago, three of the five largest emitters have now made emission reduction commitments and I hope it’ll inspire other major emitters.”

Changhua Wu – Greater China director of The Climate Group

“Today’s announcement that China’s emissions would peak by 2030 at the latest is an unprecedented recognition of China’s responsibilities on the world stage when it comes to climate change. It’s the first time that China – or any emerging economy – has committed to an emissions target.
“The US-China joint approach could help bridge the ‘developed versus developing’ countries divide that has long weakened the international climate negotiation process. This could be a game-changer that significantly boosts the chances of reaching a global climate deal in Paris next year.
“China was known to be the biggest carbon emitter. Today could mark the beginning of a genuine transition for China to a low carbon development and deep emissions reductions, proving to the rest of the world that investing in clean energy need not stem economic development.”

Evan Juska – Head of US Policy at The Climate Group

“Barack Obama’s commitment to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2015, compared to 2005 levels, although it falls short of what the science requires, shows that the US hasn’t given up on its ambition to be a global climate leader.
“The new target, which means that the US will double the pace of its emission reductions, sends a strong signal to the markets that the US is ready for the transition to a low carbon future.” 

Wang Yi – specialist in environmental and climate change policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences:

There are many studies that have concluded that, with efforts, around 2030 is a reachable goal. In setting an emissions peak goal, we have to consider the cost. China could reach a peak next year, but then we couldn’t develop at all. You have to ask: What will the cost be, can you handle it, what technological means will you use, do you have the funds and the laws to support the goal?

It’s a goal we can reach, but it will require work. If it were earlier, the cost for China would be too heavy. The biggest difficulty is that the demand will still be there. Urbanization won’t be completed, industrialization won’t be over and there will still be these large regional disparities. The eastern regions will be quite developed, but there will still be poverty in the center and west.

If you want to peak in 2030, then you have to have a goal for 2020, and that goal needs to be allocated to the provinces.

Al Gore – former US Vice-President

President Xi Jinping’s announcement that Chinese emissions will peak around 2030 is a signal of groundbreaking progress from the world’s largest polluter. President Obama’s commitment to reduce U.S. emissions despite legislative obstruction is a continuation of his strong leadership on the issue.

By demonstrating their willingness to work together, the leaders of the United States and China are opening a new chapter in global climate negotiations. This bold leadership comes at a critical time for our planet when the costs of carbon pollution affect our lives more and more each day.

Edie staff

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