US China Agreement on Greenhouse Emissions

In a very important symbolic step if rather a modest substantive one, the US and China have entered into a bilateral agreement to curb greenhouse emissions. The two countries account for almost half the world’s emissions between them.

The United States and China agreed Wednesday to tighten pollution standards on heavy trucks, boost energy efficiency in buildings and take a series of other steps to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in the world’s top two polluting countries. …

Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, said the aim of the working group’s recommendations is not to commit either country to specific carbon reduction targets but to develop practical steps and policies to cut greenhouse pollution — such as the elimination of hydrofluorocarbons that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to last month in California.

“China and the U.S. are the two most important players. We are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. . . . Working shoulder to shoulder . . . is only a good thing,” Stern said. “It is not suddenly going to transform the [international] negotiation, but it will project something positive.”

Because global climate disruption is a global problem, it’s difficult to see how to achieve a workable solution without some sort of global agreement or regimen. On the other hand, the US and China are seen as the most recalcitrant players as well as the most problematic, and in practice any agreement between them will carry a lot of weight worldwide.

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