U.S.-China Climate Change Deal Already Has Skeptics on the Left and Right

Republicans think it's a job killer, and supporters worry it's not ambitious enough.


President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) after a joint press conference at the Great Hall of People on November 12, 201

Photograph By: Feng Li/Getty Images

The newly announced climate change deal between the U.S. and China is already being called “historic,” but both sides of the emissions debate are skeptical about the deal. 

Under the arrangement, the U.S. agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025,  up from the current goal of a 17 percent reduction by 2020. China will start reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, maybe sooner.

Together, the two countries make up about 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and this deal represents an important step toward changing Chinese policies and convincing other countries to regulate emissions. But the deal is being criticized for being too ambitious (for America) and not ambitious enough (on China’s end).

Climate-change activists say the key will be to actually follow through with these projections. In the U.S., that means overcoming a Republican Congress that may oppose any climate regulations. In China it means going from 9.8 percent non-fossil fuel energy to 20 percent in 16 years.

Even then, China’s goal may not be ambitious enough to stave off the worst effects of climate change. “Analysis shows that China’s emissions should peak before 2030 to limit the worst consequences of climate change,” wrote Andrew Steer, the president of World Resources Institute. Other experts have said the goals are a good start, but should be just the starting point. China, especially, should be more ambitious

But the real dissent is coming from Republicans, who are arguing that this will kill jobs and hurt middle-class families. The White House argues it has the power to follow through with the deal under existing law, but Congress could use budget negotiations and support for the EPA as leverage. 

“This announcement is yet another sign that the president intends to double down on his job-crushing policies,” Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. Boehner added that the new Congress would continue in its efforts to limit the Environmental Protection Agency. The likely new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called the plan an “unrealistic” part of the “the president’s ideological war on coal.” 

Republican Representatives Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield of the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a joint statement condemning the deal for putting the U.S. at a disadvantage. “The Chinese are promising to double their emissions while the administration is going around Congress to impose drastic new regulations inhibiting our own growth and competitiveness,” they wrote.

But then, any deal with China could be considered a step in the right direction. As the video below shows, opponents of emissions reductions like to say that, until China and other countries act, no changes in U.S. policy will matter.


Now, even if the U.S.' goals are more ambitious, the two nations are working from the same plan.

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