The United States and China say they recognize the need for "urgent action" to address the twin challenges of climate change and the air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for greater political will to address a warming planet.
China is the leading producer of greenhouse gases and joins the United States as the largest consumers of energy. So U.S. officials say the world's two biggest economies agreeing to limit emissions and promote energy efficiency in buildings and industry "sends a strong message to the world" that this is an issue that needs to be addressed now.
Following that agreement with Chinese leaders, Secretary Kerry told an audience in Indonesia that Washington hopes this "unique partnership" with Beijing will help set an example for global leadership and global seriousness on climate change.
"Together we account for roughly 40 percent of the world’s emissions. But this is not just about China and the United States," Kerry said. "It is about every country on Earth doing whatever it can to pursue cleaner and healthier energy sources."
Kerry said scientific evidence compels the world to act.
"It is not a lack of ability that is the problem," Kerry said. "It is a lack of political resolve that is standing in our way."
The European Union is calling for a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says that target is ambitious and affordable.
"It shows that we are beyond debate where we either have to be green or a defender of industry," Barroso said. "We believe these two issues are not contradictory, but can perfectly go together if handled smartly."
Some European parliamentarians and some environmentalists believe the carbon reduction goals do not do enough to encourage cleaner energy. Jason Anderson heads European climate and energy policy for the World Wildlife Fund.
"We want to make sure that they do not put the brakes on the energy transition that we are seeing now," Anderson said. "Their ambitions for renewable energy would actually slow down the pace of change, which it is completely senseless as it is one of those areas of the economy that is growing right now."
Kerry's climate speech was the first in a series of events meant to focus on cutting carbon emissions before talks in Paris next year on coming up with a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was never ratified by the United States.