New U.S. -China Carbon Targets Fall Short of Reductions Needed to Avert Climate Change Disaster

Posted Nov. 19, 2014

MP3 Interview with Karen Orenstein, senior international policy analyst with the environmental group Friends of the Earth, conducted by Scott Harris


Just one week after the Democratic Party suffered a string of mid-term election defeats including losing control of the U.S. Senate, President Obama made a joint announcement with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing outlining a plan to reduce the carbon emissions of both nations with the goal of boosting the chances for a successful international climate agreement in Paris in December 2015.

The non-binding agreement, as described by Obama, would aim to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025. Xi pledged that China would reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and would build a new generation of green power sources to supply 20 percent of the nation’s energy needs by the year 2030. Just a few days later, while at the G-20 summit meeting in Brisbane, Australia, the president announced that the U.S. would contribute up to $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to assist developing nations adapt to climate change.

Not surprisingly, Republican leaders criticized the U.S.-China agreement, despite the fact that many in the party had long based their opposition to regulating carbon emissions at home as long as major polluters like China and India refused to make similar commitments. Many environmental groups were also critical of the agreement, but for a very different set of reasons. They point out that the carbon reductions outlined are not legally binding and are nowhere near the cuts needed if the world is serious about preventing runaway climate change. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Karen Orenstein, senior international policy analyst with the environmental group Friends of the Earth. Here, she assesses the recently announced U.S.-China carbon reduction agreement and the challenges ahead for the climate movement.

For more information on Friends of the Earth, visit

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