U.S. and China Strike Historic Climate Change Deal
As international leaders gathered in Beijing this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping startled the world today with an announcement of a major new agreement on climate change.
"The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China have a critical role to play in combating global climate change, one of the greatest threats facing humanity," said a White House press release this morning. "The seriousness of the challenge calls upon the two sides to work constructively together for the common good. To this end, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation on climate change and will work together, and with other countries, to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in 2015."
Leaders of the world's two largest economies and biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, the pair acknowledged the realities of climate change and the economic benefits in addressing it, then committed to reducing carbon emissions by an even greater amount than the existing targets. Obama said the U.S. will reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China's goal is to reach peak emissions around 2030, try to peak early and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030. China had not previously set a date for when its emissions would start to taper off, a challenge for its coal-heavy power sector. The announcement is especially significant because Xi Jinping did not attend the UN Climate Summit in New York City in September, sending vice premier Zhang Gaoli in his place.
The White House announcement said that it's the hope of the two countries that by announcing these targets now, they will create momentum going into the Paris conference and inspire other countries to commit to their own more ambitious targets even before the conference. "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," the announcement said.
The improved prospects for the Paris conference were greeted eagerly by groups working on climate change issues. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute called it a "jolt of momentum." And Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, agreed saying it added "real momentum to the drive for a strong international climate agreement in Paris at the end of next year.
"It also represents an unprecedented level of cooperation between the world's two largest economies to address one of the greatest challenges the planet faces," said Meyer. "Those who have been arguing that the United States shouldn't act on climate change because other countries like China won't join us will now need to look for new arguments to justify their real goal of avoiding any limits on carbon pollution. By putting down a marker for post-2020 emissions reductions, and engaging so intensively with China's leaders, President Obama has once again demonstrated his commitment to use the full authority of his office to confront the threat of climate change.”
"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 Bob Perciasepe, president of Washington policy group Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "This will help get other countries on board and greatly improves the odds for a solid global deal next year in Paris. For too long it's been too easy for both the US and China to hide behind one another."
"This is clearly a sign of the seriousness and the importance the Chinese government is giving to this issue," said Barbara Finamore, Asia director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The relationship is tricky, but climate has been one of the areas where the two sides can and are finding common ground. Hopefully this will give new ambition to other countries as well to move forward quickly."
The two leaders agreed to expand current initiatives using existing vehicles such as the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group, U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, and U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
Among the things they propose to do:
- Expand joint clean energy research and development through the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, build on energy efficiency, clean vehicles and advanced coal technologies, and launch a new track on the energy-water nexus.
- Advance major carbon capture, utilization and storage demonstrations through an international public-private consortium led by the United States and China to study and monitor carbon storage using industrial CO2 and work together on a new Enhanced Water Recovery (EWR) pilot project to produce fresh water from CO2 injection into deep saline aquifers.
- Enhance bilateral cooperation on the phase=down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and work together in a multilateral context as previously agreed.
- Launch a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities initiative, starting with a summit at which major cities in both countries will share best practices, set new goals and celebrate city-level leadership in reducing carbon emissions and building resilience.
- Encourage bilateral trade in sustainable environmental goods and clean energy technologies.
- Demonstrate clean energy on the ground through additional pilot programs, feasibility studies and other collaborative projects in the areas of building efficiency, boiler efficiency, solar energy and smart grids.
“By setting their sights high, the U.S. and China are showing that they are serious about taking action on the climate crisis, and that together, the international community can beat back climate disruption,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest impediments will be the U.S. Congress, with a Senate soon to be led by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. And McConnell wasted no time in condemning and politicizing the plan.
“Our economy can’t take the president’s ideological war on coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners,” said McConnell in a statement released immediately following the announcement. "This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs." McConnell has already made it clear that his majority delegation would try to cripple the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and prevent the carbon standards the president announced last June from being enacted. However, the newly announced agreement doesn't involve regulation of greenhouse gases by the EPA.
May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, expressed the hope that the pact would spur other significant actions on climate change, including divestment from fossil fuels. "The U.S. and China reaffirming their commitment to limiting global warming to 2°C should send shockwaves through the financial markets, because the only way to meet that target is by leaving 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves underground. The industry’s business plan is simply incompatible with the pathways laid out today. It’s time to get out of fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions.”
Li Shuo, senior climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia, hopes today's announcement is only the beginning on climate action from the world's largest contributors to global warming:
"The two biggest emitters have come to the realization that they are bound together and have to take actions together. However, both sides have yet to reach the goal of a truly game-changing climate relationship. There is a clear expectation of more ambition from these two economies whose emissions trajectories define the global response to climate change. Today's announcements should only be the floor and not the ceiling of enhanced actions."
Watch Jake Schmidt, Natural Resources Defense Council director of the International Program, on Democracy Now! discuss the U.S./China climate deal this morning :
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- 29 Wildfires Blaze Across the West, Fueled by Drought and Wind ... ›
- Large Wildfires Scorch Forests in Drought-Stricken Southwest ... ›
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. mixetto / E+ / Getty Images
Accessibility to quality health care has dropped for millions of Americans who lost their health insurance due to unemployment. New research has found that 5.4 million Americans were dropped from their insurance between February and May of this year. In that three-month stretch more Americans lost their coverage than have lost coverage in any entire year, according to The New York Times.
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- 'Unfathomable Cruelty': Trump Admin Asks Supreme Court to ... ›
On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.
- Extreme Heat-Stressed Locations Could Increase by 80% - EcoWatch ›
- African Americans Are Disproportionately Exposed to Extreme Heat ... ›
- Extreme Heat Is Killing Americans While Government Neglect ... ›
Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.
- Plunging Oil Prices Trigger Economic Downturn in Fracking Boom ... ›
- Fracking Boom Bursts in Face of Low Oil Prices - EcoWatch ›
- As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, U.S. Regulators Enable ... ›
A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.
- Under Trump, EPA Workers Seek Bill of Rights to Allow Them to ... ›
- Trump Adds 'Tasteless Insult to Injury' by Pushing Fossil Fuel ... ›
By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- How Do You Stay Safe Now That States Are Reopening? - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Breaks U.S. Daily Record With Over 15,000 New ... ›
By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
- DNC Ignores Progressive Climate Activists - EcoWatch ›
- Who's a Climate Champion and Who's a Climate Disaster? - EcoWatch ›