BEIJING, China, November 12, 2014 (ENS) – The leaders of the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitting nations – China and the United States – today jointly pledged ambitious actions to limit climate change “for the common good.”

Emerging from their bilateral meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping said in a joint statement that their countries “have a critical role to play in combating global climate change, one of the greatest threats facing humanity.”

“The global scientific community has made clear that human activity is already changing the world’s climate system,” they declared.  “The seriousness of the challenge calls upon the two sides to work constructively together for the common good.”

President Obama announced an economy-wide target to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent.

President Xi said China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.

Obama, Xi

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and China’s Presidegt Xi Jinping at the APEC meeting in Beijing, November 11, 2014 (Photo courtesy APEC)

The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation on climate change and pledged to work together, and with other countries, to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, that is applicable to all Parties at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.

Currently, 195 governments are Parties to the Climate Change Convention and 192 are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which the new global agreement is intended to replace.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres called the China-U.S. announcement “clear leadership” ahead of this year’s UN climate conference set for Lima, Peru December 1-12. Governments are expected to agree on a draft global agreement in Lima that can be finalized in Paris in 2015.

Presidents Obama and Xi said in their joint statement, “The United States and China hope that by announcing these targets now, they can inject momentum into the global climate negotiations and inspire other countries to join in coming forward with ambitious actions as soon as possible, preferably by the first quarter of 2015.”

The two Presidents resolved to work closely together over the next year to address major impediments to reaching a successful global climate agreement in Paris.

“Accelerating climate change has caused serious impacts. Higher temperatures and extreme weather events are damaging food production, rising sea levels and more damaging storms are putting our coastal cities increasingly at risk and the impacts of climate change are already harming economies around the world, including those of the United States and China,” they warned, adding, “These developments urgently require enhanced actions to tackle the challenge.”

At the same time, the two leaders acknowledged, “…smart action on climate change now can drive innovation, strengthen economic growth and bring broad benefits – from sustainable development to increased energy security, improved public health and a better quality of life.”

“Tackling climate change will also strengthen national and international security,” they said.

The two leaders see a brighter economic future by supporting the technological innovation behind new zero and low-carbon technologies and enhancing the capacity of countries to reduce their emissions.

The United States and China are two of the world’s largest investors in clean energy and already have a robust program of energy technology cooperation.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “Now there is no longer an excuse for Congress to block action on climate change. The biggest carbon polluter on our planet, China, has agreed to cut back on dangerous emissions, and now we should make sure all countries do their part because this is a threat to the people that we all represent.”

Xi, Obama

A light moment as children present flowers and flags at a welcoming ceremony for President Barack Obama at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 12, 2014 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)

Environmental groups are encouraged by the U.S.-China announcement.

“It’s a new day to have the leaders of the U.S. and China stand shoulder-to-shoulder and make significant commitments to curb their country’s emissions. They have both clearly acknowledged the mounting threat of climate change and the urgency of action,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a research organization based in Washington, DC.

“It’s heartening to see this level of cooperation, with climate change at the top of the agenda for the world’s top emitters,” he said. “The U.S. and China should be commended for putting their initial pledges on the table so early. This should inject a jolt of momentum in the lead up to a global climate agreement in Paris.”

Steer said the U.S. target shows a serious commitment to action and puts the U.S. on a path to reduce its emissions around 80 percent by mid-century.

Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, based in Virginia, called the deal “an extremely hopeful sign.”

“Even if the targets aren’t as ambitious as many might hope, the world’s two largest carbon emitters are stepping up together with serious commitments,” said Perciasepe. “This will help get other countries on board and greatly improves the odds for a solid global deal next year in Paris.”

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “These landmark commitments to curtail carbon pollution are a necessary, critical step forward in the global fight against climate change. We look forward to working with both governments to strengthen their efforts -because we are confident that both can achieve even greater reductions.”

In their joint statement, Presidents Obama and Xi said, “Both sides intend to continue to work to increase ambition over time.”

The two sides have already:

* – established the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group, under which they have launched action initiatives on vehicles, smart grids, carbon capture, utilization and storage, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas data management, forests and industrial boilers;

* – agreed to work together towards the global phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), very potent greenhouse gases used as refrigerants. The two sides will enhance bilateral cooperation to begin phasing down the use of HFCs.

* – created the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, which facilitates collaborative work in carbon capture and storage technologies, energy efficiency in buildings, and clean vehicles; and

* – agreed on a joint peer review of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies under the G-20.

The two leaders said they intend to continue strengthening their policy dialogue and practical cooperation, including cooperation on advanced coal technologies, nuclear energy, shale gas and renewable energy, which will help optimize the energy mix and reduce emissions, including from coal, in both countries.

Today the two sides announced additional measures to strengthen and expand their cooperation, using the existing vehicles – the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group, the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

These include:

* – Expanding Joint Clean Energy Research and Development: A renewed commitment to the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, including continued funding for three existing tracks on building efficiency, clean vehicles and advanced coal technology and launching a new track on the energy-water nexus.

* – Advancing Major Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Demonstrations: Establishment of a major new carbon storage project based in China through an international public-private consortium led by the United States and China to intensively study and monitor carbon storage using industrial CO2 and also work together on a new Enhanced Water Recovery pilot project to produce fresh water from CO2 injection into deep saline aquifers.

* – Launching a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Initiative: In response to growing urbanization and increasingly significant greenhouse gas emissions from cities and recognizing the potential for local leaders to undertake significant climate action, the United States and China will establish a new initiative on Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities under the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group.

As a first step, the United States and China will convene a Climate-Smart/ Low-Carbon Cities Summit where leading cities from both countries will share best practices, set new goals and celebrate city-level leadership in reducing carbon emissions and building resilience.

* – Promoting Trade in Green Goods: Encouraging bilateral trade in sustainable environmental goods and clean energy technologies, including through a U.S. trade mission led by Secretaries Moniz and Pritzker in April 2015 that will focus on smart low-carbon cities and smart low-carbon growth technologies.

* – Demonstrating Clean Energy on the Ground: Additional pilot programs, feasibility studies and other collaborative projects in the areas of building efficiency, boiler efficiency, solar energy and smart grids.

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