These two nations are the 800-pound gorillas when it comes to carbon pollution, so without each of them acting, we're up the creek, as they say.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a terrific opinion piece in the New York Times outlining the deal. Here's what he wrote about target for U.S. reductions:
"The United States intends to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – a target that is both ambitious and feasible. It roughly doubles the pace of carbon reductions in the period from 2020 to 2025 as compared to the period from 2005 to 2020. It puts us on a path to transform our economy, with emissions reductions on the order of 80 percent by 2050."The political importance of this agreement is that it undercuts one of the big arguments that climate deniers have been using for years to fight against climate action: Why should the U.S. take action unilaterally? (My response has always been that if we think of ourselves as the world's leader, then we should accordingly and take the lead, even if unilaterally.)
Secretary Kerry eloquently removes that argument from the table with this announcement:
"We need to solve this problem together because neither one of us can solve it alone. Even if the United States somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, it still wouldn’t be enough to counteract the carbon pollution coming from China and the rest of the world. Likewise, even if China went down to zero emissions, it wouldn’t make enough of a difference if the United States and the rest of the world didn’t change direction."Details on the agreement are still emerging. Read more in the White House's fact sheet.
Thank you, Secretary Kerry. You've made my day.
Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director. She's based in Philadelphia and tweets at @joybergey.