America and China Bear a Heavy Burden To Curb Climate Change

Together, the U.S. and China have hammered out targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. While these targets are non-binding, it is clear that both countries have adopted forward-looking stances toward future reductions.

However, this is not enough. Together, the U.S. and China are responsible for 40 percent of global emissions; curbing global warming depends on their determination and action.

The U.S.-China targets were announced as the result of a summit meeting held in Beijing. The proceedings gave the thematic impression of global warming acting as a facilitator for cooperation between the two countries.

While President Obama is concerned about the climate change problem, in international negotiations he has not proven very effective. It seems he strongly wishes to leave a legacy of accomplishment on this issue, and is now using involvement in China’s activities as a backdrop instead.

The United Nations plans to have completed a new post-Kyoto Protocol framework for 2020 onward by the end of next year; negotiations are nearing completion. The U.S. and China failed to shoulder their share of the burden in the Kyoto Protocol. These two countries need to be sharply reminded to recognize their responsibility as the world’s top emitters, and exhibit leadership in the creation of an emissions reduction framework.

These newly announced targets will need to be carefully scrutinized. Although China is to peak its emissions by 2030, there has been no indication of a target or prediction for just how much emissions will climb before peaking. Currently, China’s annual carbon emissions are at about 8,000 megatons, but preliminary calculations suggest this may rise by 2,000 to 4,000 megatons by 2030. In other words, it’s entirely possible that China’s incremental increase will exceed Japan’s entire annual release (about 1,200 megatons).

The U.S. is to reduce emissions to 25-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. However, the climate change-denying Republican Party is now in control of the U.S. Congress. In order to reliably push through emission reductions legislation, President Obama will need to exhibit strong leadership.

Japan’s government has dragged its feet on establishing reductions targets for 2020 onward, claiming this is due to lacking an estimate on how many nuclear power plants will be in operation. As the European Union (EU) already settled on new reductions targets in October without delay, there is now a strong sense that Japan is lagging behind all other key players. We need to accelerate the debate.

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