26 Nov 2014

The US-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change: Can the G2 make a difference?

Andrei Marcu

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This Commentary finds that the US-China joint declaration on climate change, issued following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing on November 12th, is undoubtedly an important announcement by the two global economic giants responsible for emitting over 30% of the world’s GHG emissions. As such, it needs to be seen as important and relevant – a very positive development towards a new global climate change agreement in Paris. It is a challenge to those that have announced their pledges and are seen as capable of doing more, as well as to those that have not yet announced their intentions.

It shows the importance and success of the UN climate change conference in Warsaw last year, when the decision was made that all Parties should announce their commitments by the first quarter of 2015. It also represents a total breakdown of the Kyoto Protocol-style separation in climate change negotiations between countries into Annex 1 and non-Annex 1, with China signalling that it is taking on the leadership role that comes with being a great economic power.

In broader terms, it shows that there is scope for cooperation between the two main economic actors, even in the face of competition in other spheres. It is also a challenge to the EU, which was a leader and needs to show that there is a benefit in maintaining its leadership.

Finally, agreements are deemed historic only by history. This one is important, and a potential game-changer, on the face of it. But it needs to live up to its promise. There is sufficient uncertainty for us to withhold final judgement and see if its promise materialises through implementation. But, as sober a judgement as we must make on such important matters, this announcement certainly gives us great hope that it is possible to do what needs to be done, and we must wholeheartedly welcome and applaud it.

Andrei Marcu is Senior Advisor and Head of the CEPS Carbon Market Forum.