US, China Announce New Targets On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

US President Barack Obama (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 12 November 2014. On Wednesday, the leaders announced new climate change targets following the end of their two-day talks in Beijing. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG

By Joanna Chiu

BEIJING (DPA) — US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday announced new climate change targets at the end of their two-day talks in Beijing.

Xi said China's CO2 emissions would peak around 2030, with non-fossil fuel sources making up 20 per cent of energy sources by then.

He did not put a target on emissions levels or reduction, but it was the first time China, which relies heavily on coal-powered electricity generation, has put a date on a CO2 peak.

US has in past argued that it could not commit to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions until fast-growing China did the same. 

"I am proud to announce we have made a historic agreement," Obama said in a joint press conference with Xi following the talks.

Obama announced a new target for the United States to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025, compared with the previous target of a 17-per-cent cut by 2020.

"It puts us on path to making the deep [reductions] that climate change scientists say is necessary," Obama said.

Xi told the conference that both sides would also push for progress at ongoing international climate change negotiations. 

"Academics… think China might reach the peak value [of CO2 emissions] between 2025-2040. To set the target in 2030 is not an easy task," said Pan Jiahua, director of the Institute of Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

"I think China will try its best since the government has announced it," Pan told dpa.

Obama may face greater difficulties in getting lawmakers to support the targets. 

Obama has so far failed to convince both opposition Republicans and his own Democrats that global warming is a security threat and that Congress needs to put a price on carbon. 

Instead, he has used executive orders to restrict emissions and funneled money to the clean energy industry.

The joint declaration by the US and China comes ahead of a UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, and some advocates for action on climate change are hoping it may motivate other countries to announce similar targets. 

"The US and China should make it a race to the top, catalyzing other countries to announce their targets and build momentum leading up to Paris. Today's announcement is a big step in that direction," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of the Climate Program of the US-based World Resources Institute.  

Environmental campaigners said however that the deal lacked ambition. 

"Both sides have yet to reach the goal of a truly game-changing climate relationship," said Li Shuo, senior climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia.

The next round of climate negotiations starts next month in Lima and ends in December 2015 in Paris.

Obama was in the Chinese capital to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit Monday and Tuesday and to pay a state visit to China at Xi's invitation.

On Tuesday evening the pair spoke for five hours over a private dinner at Zhongnanhai and on Wednesday morning they met again at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

The US and China also struck deals on agriculture and food security, agreed to boost trade in information technology and to expand visas for business people and students.

Later Wednesday, Obama was to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and then fly to Myanmar for the East Asia Summit.