(CNSNews.com) – President Obama in Beijing on Wednesday declared far-reaching new targets for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and for the first time, China agreed to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for climate change.
"This is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal," Obama said. "It will double the pace at which we're reducing carbon pollution in the United States. It puts us on a path to achieving the deep emissions reductions by advanced economies that the scientific community says is necessary to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change."
Obama said the new goal was to reduce domestic emissions in the U.S. by 26-28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. By contrast, Obama at a climate conference in Copenhagen in late 2009 set a U.S. reduction goal of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that his country would aim for its greenhouse gas emissions to peak by 2030, or earlier. Unlike Obama, he did not commit to a specific reduction percentage target.
China has also agreed to increase the proportion of energy it gets from non-fossil fuel sources – such as solar, wind and nuclear – to about 20 percent by 2030, according to the White House.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Obama’s targets unrealistic.
“Our economy can’t take the president’s ideological war on coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners,” he said in a statement. “Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been ardently promoting climate change cooperation between the world’s two biggest emitters, hailed the agreement as a “breakthrough.”
In a New York Times op-ed, Kerry called the new U.S. targets “both ambitious and feasible.”
“It roughly doubles the pace of carbon reductions in the period from 2020 to 2025 as compared to the period from 2005 to 2020,” he said, adding that it puts the U.S. on track to reduce emissions by some 80 percent by the middle of the century.
Kerry expressed hope that the U.S. and Chinese announcements would encourage other countries, ahead of climate negotiations resuming in Lima, Peru next month, and a major climate conference in Paris, France in a year’s time that aims to deliver a universal agreement on emission reduction for the post-2020 period.
“The commitment of both presidents to take ambitious action in our own countries, and work closely to remove obstacles on the road to Paris, sends an important signal that we must get this agreement done, that we can get it done, and that we will get it done.”
Climate activist and former Vice President Al Gore praised “President Obama’s commitment to reduce US emissions despite legislative obstruction,” and called the joint announcement “a major step forward in the global effort to solve the climate crisis.”
“Much more will be required – including a global agreement from all nations – but these actions demonstrate a serious commitment by the top two global polluters,” Gore said in a statement.