The United States and China made a surprise announcement Wednesday: After months of secret talks, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases had come to a joint agreement on climate change.
In its first commitment of this sort, China set a target of 2030 to halt emission increases and to produce 20% of its energy using non-fossil-fuel sources.
The United States set a more nuanced target: a reduction of emissions by 2025 to 26-28% below 2005 levels.
“I would characterize it as a call to accelerate what we’re already doing,” says Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “I use the word accelerate, because in order to get there 10 years from now we have to start going a little faster.”
The Obama administration claims this target is reachable under existing laws—an important consideration given that the Republican-controlled congress is highly unlikely to pass any related legislation.
To meet these goals will require building on initiatives the administration has put forward that do not require congressional approval, such as tougher fuel standards and the proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from power plants (Automobiles and electricity are the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States).
Under the Clean Power Plan proposal, different states could determine how to cut carbon pollution in a variety of ways.
“But the quickest, fastest, most cost effective option available is switching from carbon intensive coal generators to low carbon natural gas,” says John Larsen, senior analyst with the Rhodium Group.
According to the Rhodium Group’s analysis, that switch could cut coal revenue by $15 to $20 billion—and boost revenues for natural gas producers by as much as $30 billion.
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