US and China are finally getting their act together on GHG emissions

A Step Forward

This past November, leaders from the United States and China teamed up to announce a major step in the effort to cut down greenhouse gas emissions. As the two greatest emitters of GHGs, it was high time for these countries to begin earnestly tackling climate change. China in particular has begun to show some much needed progress in cutting emissions and creating a more sustainable economic framework.

Closing in on a “No Coal” Goal

In the announcement, the United States promised to cut GHG emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by the year 2025, and China declared its goal to peak carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and increase non-fossil fuel shares to 20% of total energy usage.

Of course, there have been many questions as to how these goals work and whether they are achievable. To reach the 2030 carbon peak, China acknowledged increasing non-fossil fuel usage is not enough, and committed to reducing the carbon intensity of the overall economy through structural reforms.  In 2013, we saw China become the world’s largest investor in renewable energy, indicating a shift to a new and more promising type of development. After Zhou Xiaochuan’s recent statement that China will take slowing economic growth as an opportunity to make sustainable reforms, we hope to see many improvements from China in the future.

From the Roots Up

Many Chinese residents are criticizing this announcement— but not for the reasons you might think.

From Beijing to Hainan, activists and worried citizens are saying that it’s not enough.

Over the recent years, the number of Chinese environmental protests has skyrocketed. In fact, pollution was reported to be the leading cause of social unrestin China. The global community is now increasingly aware of the dangers of climate change and their role in preventing further damage to the environment. And in response, governments have begun to acknowledge and make improvements. Reforms are slow everywhere and often far from enough, but the green trend has only just begun.

As we applaud these countries for taking responsibilities as international role models, it is also important for us to understand where things now stand, and where there is room for further progress.


Julie Hu, Intern