As I’m sure everyone saw, this week was a big one on the climate front. The US and China signed a deal agreeing to limit carbon emissions over the next few decades. The US agreed to cut its emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025, while China agreed to have its own emissions level off by “around” 2030. This is a great step forward for China and the US: it is the first time a developing economy has agreed to limit its carbon emissions. There are great leaders on both sides.
There are more than a few problems, though. First, there’s a significant amount of disagreement about how ambitious the goals are. Many see the goals as little more than business as usual. One study suggests that China’s emissions would level off by then anyway, and the US’s plan is similar to previously stated goals. Meanwhile, some researchers see the goals as highly ambitious to the point of being unrealistic.
What’s certain, though, is that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to keep global temperatures from rising the 2 °C that scientists say is the limit to avoid climate catastrophe.
Second, the agreement is little more than a joint goal. It is non-binding and vague, and it doesn’t outline specific plans for bringing about the shift to renewable energy. And in the week since the agreement was announced, the US congress has already put forth plans to force through Keystone XL (editorial here goes in the right direction, despite its bombasticity and fast-and-loose attitude towards punctuation). Luckily, this is a political fight that will continue into the next election cycle, and it won’t be smooth sailing even if it does pass through congress (Keystone Approval ‘Act of War’, Says Native American Tribe).
Above all, this is a big moment for a growing movement. This week painted a perfect picture of a moment in the fight against climate change. It saw the sway that money has over politics in the US and abroad, but also showed the growing strength of the climate movement. When people stand up, turn out, and shout, they can still be heard. Governments from America to China are listening.
A more PiA/China-centered post is coming in a few days.