FutureStructure

China, U.S. Unveil Specifics of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plans

The presidents of both countries announced Friday that they will create a cap-and-trade program, tighten green energy standards and target the trucking industry in order to cut emissions during the next 10 years.

by / September 25, 2015

The two largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world have revealed how they plan to lower their output.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled multifaceted plans on Friday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. According to the environmentalism advocate Rocky Mountain Institute, Xi’s agreements included:

  • Implementing a nationwide cap-and-trade program — a system where the government puts a limit on the allowable greenhouse gas emissions a given company is allowed to emit in a year, then allows companies that exceed the limit to buy “allowances” from companies that came in under the limit.
  • Setting a goal for half of all new buildings to meet green standards by 2020.
  • Creating an “Alliance for Peaking Pioneer Cities,” which involves 11 Chinese cities and provinces that have committed to hitting peak carbon emissions before 2030.

Obama’s agreements included:

  • Strengthening the “Clean Power Plan” to require energy suppliers to cut carbon emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels.
  • Finalizing more than 20 new efficiency standards for appliances and equipment by the end of 2016.
  • Implementing two new standards to reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Both countries also agreed to higher fuel efficiency standards for their respective trucking industries, according to the institute.

The agreements represent the action plan to implement goals the U.S. and China set last year, and are ambitious goals — according to a statement from the White House, achieving the level of reductions agreed upon would mean doubling the rate of progress the country is making in limiting greenhouse gases.

It also represents the first time China has promised on an international stage to cut its emissions, according to the statement. According to the World Resources Institute, China emits more greenhouse gases than any other country — so much so that its emissions equal about as much as the U.S. and European Union put together.

However, it’s an issue of volume, not intensity. China is the most populous country on Earth with more than 1.36 billion residents, according to the World Bank, but its per capita emissions are less than half that of the U.S.

The China-U.S. agreements come amid a flurry of international activity on climate change. A U.N. meeting promises to establish international “Sustainable Development Goals,” including taking “urgent” action on climate change, and to preempt the meeting several mayors and governors met in New York on Thursday to sign an agreement to cut greenhouse gases. The same day, Pope Francis visited the U.S. Congress and urged the body to be a leader in environmental stewardship. In December, world leaders will meet in Paris for the 21st Conference of Parties to establish environmental partnerships.

In addition to the gas-reducing agreements Obama and Xi put forward on Friday, the two also pledged to spend $6 billion on sustainable growth in the developing world.

“The commitments by the countries are sweeping and perhaps the greatest cause for hope yet in international attempts to address global warming,” a blog post on the Rocky Mountain Institute website reads.