On November 12, the United States and China announced a new climate change agreement, with ambitious new targets for both countries. The two countries are the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, largest energy consumers and largest economies, making their cooperation vital to ensure highly detrimental climate change does not occur. China announced that its emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, will peak in 2030 at the latest, the first time it has ever released a target date for reductions. China also pledged to increase its non-fossil fuel power generation to 20 percent of its energy mix, by investing in nuclear and renewable energy. The United States pledged to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – almost double its prior commitments for the 2005 to 2020 time period. It will achieve these emission reductions through actions outlined in the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, released in May 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made the announcement during a meeting in Beijing. In a White House press release, the Administration said, “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. The seriousness of the challenge calls upon the two sides to work constructively together for the common good.” The two countries affirmed their commitment to transitioning to a low-carbon economy with the aim of preventing warming over two degrees Celsius. The United States and China also stated their hope that this deal will lead other countries to make similar commitments, paving the way for an ambitious global deal in Paris next year.

As part of the agreement, the United States and China announced expanded cooperation in several areas: joint clean energy R&D; carbon capture, use, and storage demonstrations; hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) reductions; launch of a climate-smart/low-carbon cities initiative; trade in green goods; and "on the ground" demonstrations of clean energy. The countries established a new U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) and a U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, which will oversee many of these new initiatives. The two countries also agreed to conduct a joint peer review of fossil fuel subsidies in the G-20, which encompasses the world’s 20 largest economies.   

“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other,” President Obama commented earlier in the year. “That is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”