Can the U.S. and China Agree on Climate Change by 2015?

John Kerry

Source: American Progress Action / Flickr

Now that the debate over climate change is all but settled, the world’s largest contributors of greenhouse emissions are signaling they’re ready to do something about it together. The Unites States and China, which are responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gases released into the air, released a joint statement on February 15 saying they plan to cooperate on the issue ahead of the 2015 United Nations climate summit, The Washington Post reports.

The cooperation of the U.S. and China is essential to meaningful changes in international policy on climate change. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which remains the only major international accord on the issue, never received the full support of the United States. The two largest polluters are pledging to work toward significant changes in climate policy together, according to their announcement.

“In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, the United States and China recognize the urgent need for action to meet these twin challenges,” the statement read. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had been in Beijing to discuss climate change and other issues. This statement was released before he left for Jakarta, Indonesia.

Kerry described the common ground as “a unique, cooperative effort between China and the United States” before adding that he hoped it would set “an example of global seriousness and global leadership” prior to the U.N. climate summit scheduled for 2015 in Paris, Reuters reports. In many ways, a breakthrough on climate change would represent a shift in U.N. policy.

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged the overwhelming amount of data pointing to greenhouse gases spurring on climate change.

“As the science that has been pouring in over the course of the last year tells us every single day, and as the facts on the ground with droughts, fires and disasters, and acidification of the ocean, and other things happening at an increased pace, it is more urgent that we join together to respond to this problem,” Kerry said to reporters, according to The Washington Post.

Though promises may sound hollow to the ears of skeptics, the countries said they would devote the resources “to secure concrete results” in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue of 2014, Reuters reports.

Both China and the United States have been testing ways to reduce emissions. Government incentives for vehicles that don’t burn gasoline and caps on emissions have been considered a promising start, but a major reduction in burning coal for energy would have to be part of any significant accord. The countries responsible for two-fifths of the world’s greenhouse emissions realize meaningful change will hinge on their cooperation, but they have less than a year to produce the results.

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