China and America’s joint statement on the issue of climate change

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For regular readers of this blog, you'll remember that I recently wrote about climate change negotiations being notoriously long winded, difficult and as such, announcements of any real size being a rare thing indeed. Well following on from that and in what I can only view as a deliberate attempt to make my last entry seem entirely redundant, we have seen another announcement last week… and in a lot of ways, it's a big one.

The USA and China, the world's two largest emitters of CO2, released a joint statement recognising the “urgent need for action” to meet the challenges faced through anthropogenic climate change. Up until now, I think it's fair to say the two countries have had difficulty agreeing a way forward in the mitigation of climate change and particularly on the thorny issue of what action developing nations (including China itself) should take and whether it should be as considerable as action taken by developed nations such as the USA and the UK. It could also be argued that the difficulties behind this very complex issue have hindered the wider global negotiations to secure a replacement to Kyoto. As such, the step-change in relations between the two countries that this announcement heralds shouldn't be ignored.

However, before we get too carried away we need to keep in mind that the announcement itself is actually quite fluffy and contains no concrete information; no percentage targets, no real deadlines (apart from a commitment to “…devote significant effort and resources to secure concrete results…” in time for the next China/ USA joint discussions which happen on average twice a year) and importantly no specific details on how each nation expects to contribute to the 2015 deadline for a new global agreement.

The strength of this new found agreement will be sorely tested over the course of the next 18 months with Ban-Ki Moons Climate summit in September and the ‘make or break' COP in Paris next year.


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