Accessibility links

Breaking News

US, China Commit to Reduce Emissions

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

U.S. state and city officials and their Chinese counterparts signed a series of agreements at a summit in Los Angeles aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

At the conclusion of the two-day event Wednesday delegates at the summit signed the Climate Leaders Declaration, pledging to establish targets to limit greenhouse emissions. The meeting, known as the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit, was the first of its kind at the provincial and city level between the two nations.

Vice President Joe Biden closed the meeting by addressing the significance of joint efforts between the United States and China. “Our leadership is vital, China and America, in achieving a successful global climate agreement in Paris. The steps announced here unite our efforts, give us some momentum to reach these global agreements,” said Biden.

Setting the stage

Chinese Special Envoy and State Councilor Yang Jiechi said this meeting sets a tone of friendship in advance of Xi’s state visit to the U.S. next week.

“Today the breadth and depth of this relationship has reached an unprecedented level. This relationship is not just crucial to the well being of our two peoples, it is taking on greater strategic and global significance,” said Yang.

The summit fulfills a key element of the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change laid out by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping last November.

During Obama's visit to Beijing last year, the U.S. announced a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 26-28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025, while China for the first time committed to peak its carbon emissions by 2030.

The agreement was seen as a landmark moment for the world's two worst emitters of climate change-causing greenhouse gases.

Already impacting lives

Local governments in the United States and China made their own commitments. California has set a goal of reducing emissions by 80 to 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Beijing and Guangzhou committed to set peak years for carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, ten years before the national target.

”People now feel it at a visceral level what climate change is doing. They feel it in the raging forest fires we have in the state and the long-term drought, which seems to be the new normal, the problems with getting water,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The state’s water supply depends largely on the snowpack from the Sierra Nevada. A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change reported the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada was at a 500 year low last winter. Scientists say global warming is increasing the probability that these extremely low snow conditions will happen again. “It will be extremely expensive, extremely deadly if we don’t address climate,” said Garcetti.

According to a new World Wildlife Fund report, climate change and human activity are already having a deadly impact on wildlife. The report says half of the world’s marine life has been lost since 1970, and that if the temperature continues to rise at its current rate, the ocean will become too warm for coral reefs by 2050. Many scientists and politicians alike say it is time to take action.

“It’s within our power to do this but it means we need to be transparent. We have to have accountability. We have to ensure all countries step up to the plate,” said Biden.

The result of this summit will be discussed when Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President Barack Obama at the White House on September 25.