Cameron Hepburn

13 November 2014

‘US-China Carbon Deal to Prevent Interstellar Apocalypse’ – International Business Times

Cameron Hepburn

The new Christopher Nolan sci-fi epic Interstellar that depicts the earth on the verge of environmental catastrophe, with a blight wiping out most of the planet’s crops and causing ominous dust storms, might have served as inspiration for US president Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping who have surprisingly agreed on a long-term plan to curb CO2 emissions.


A breakthrough agreement

The deal has sparked a wave of optimism among scientists and climate change experts ahead of a new round of international climate negotiations which will start in 2015.

“The targets for the short term (2025-2030) are consistent with the type of long-term actions that are needed to keep global temperatures below the agreed-upon target of 2 degrees Centigrade,” David McCollum, research scholar at International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), told IBTimes UK based on his research.

Cameron Hepburn, professor of environmental economics at the University of Oxford, says that although the emission reduction numbers “do not go nearly far enough” the announcement is a positive and welcome development.

“It represents a step in the right direction because close coordination between the US and China is critical in shaping expectations for the rest of the world,” he told IBTimes UK.

Both experts stress the political and technological challenges for US and China to meet their goal. It has been estimated by the Washington Post that China must add 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero-emission generating capacity by 2030 to reach their target. The US will have to double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2% per year to an average of 2.3 to 2.8% per year.


“Where US and China lead, others will follow”

The Obama administration also faces a “political quagmire” with the climate change-sceptic Republicans gaining the majority in the Senate after the midterm elections. Senator Mitch McConnell, who won his six-term elections in carbon-producing Kentucky and is poised to become Senate’s majority leader, has already called the deal an “unrealistic plan” that Obama “would dump on his successor”.

“Our economy can’t take the president’s ideological war on coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners,” he said.

But the Obama administration, who called the climate agreement a “historic step”, is confident that lawmakers could not stop emission targets, given that many regulatory reforms have already been put in place.

“The key area to watch is the joint focus on clean technological innovation, including renewables, smart grids, vehicles, energy efficiency and CCS,” Hepburn said. ” Both the USA and China need this cooperation to work and to trigger action elsewhere. And it likely will do so – where the US and China jointly lead, others will likely follow.”


The full article can be found here