US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a US-China agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions last Wednesday, wrapping up two days of bilateral meetings after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The deal pledges that the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters will take steps to decrease emissions by 2030.

According to the Washington Post, the United States will cut emissions to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Xi likewise committed to curbing emissions, increasing non-fossil fuels to 20 percent of China’s total energy usage, and capping his country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, if not sooner.

This plan presents obstacles on both homefronts. Stateside, Obama must work with the Environmental Protection Agency to maneuver around the new Republican-dominated Congress, which has spoken out against the agreement and against a climate action plan that would cut carbon emissions for power plants. The agreement also means doubling the pace of current pollution reduction in the United States.

For China—where a new coal plant is opened every ten days and energy demands continue to soar—the plan means adding 800 to 1000 gigawatts of nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy sources to its power grid by 2030. The needed wattage is higher than that produced by all the coal plants in China combined—and it is nearly equal to the total energy output of the United States, reports the Post.

With the ambitious deal receiving praise from global policymakers, the world’s two largest economies hope to inspire other countries to take on more drastic climate change policies at the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. The European Union has already committed to a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, but many other regions have yet to follow suit. Developing countries like Nigeria have called climate change a developed world problem, saying it is up to the developed world to solve.

It remains to be seen whether China can coax developing countries—which have long looked to it as a model for their own development—to commit to similar measures by the conference, held in December of next year. Likewise, with only two years left in his presidency, it will be a tough challenge for the Obama administration to implement his plan in a way that cannot be easily dismantled by his successor.

(Photo by Kim Hansen via Flickr)

Posted by Lauren Dodillet