An Environment Agreement (?)

Published on Author bednart15


During the meeting of national leaders prior to and during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, President Obama and President Xi Jinping announced a deal between the United States and China to cut greenhouse gas emissions by their respective countries. Under the pledge, the United States will cut emissions by 26-28% from the 2005 levels and China (while not specifying an amount) will curb the growth of its emissions, establishing a peak in 2030.

It is easy to make public pledges and deals, but harder to follow through with commitment to the deal and actions that will substantially lessen human impact on the environment. Everyone wants to appear that they are the “good guy” who will preserve the common good (the Earth/climate/ozone), but there are numerous costs to taking action. Political will, especially in the United States, is fragmented on moving towards more renewable energy and lower emissions. Creating more stringent standards makes energy more expensive, require bureaucratic rules and regulations, and potentially cost jobs. There is a great disadvantage to the first mover, at least in the short run. If the U.S. moves to very strict environmental standards, the input costs of energy resources and all goods and services that have energy inputs will rise. In turn, this causes U.S. goods and services to be more expensive than those in countries that do not comply with strict standards, implement them more slowly, or have weaker standards (such China). U.S. exports become more expensive and less desirable on the international market and U.S. domestic consumers import more non-compliant country goods (partially undermining the initial push to stricter standards).

If both China and the U.S. can adhere to their pledges of emission reductions, the two biggest polluters in the world will have made a notable dent in greenhouse gas growth. If  they cannot, then the leaders of each country have done nothing but further an empty public conversation on real action to deal with climate change. Both compliance and the methods of compliance will be the next interesting steps in the process.


3 Responses to An Environment Agreement (?)

  1. I wonder if China will put a set number on their emission reduction goals before 2030. While it is great to agree to cut emissions, the message would be much more powerful if a specific number was given. I imagine part of their rationale was realizing they could not cut emissions as much as the United States and not wanting to release a lower number, but that is pure speculation.

  2. China also must begin addressing the issue of excessive pesticide and chemical fertilizer usage. This has caused solid acidification, greenhouse gas emissions and deteriorating water quality. China understands their attempts to increase output in all sectors of the economy has created several negative issues, now it is time for China to do something about it.

  3. The political challenges in both are huge; the economic ones less so. Energy is not all that important at the macroeconomic level, and clean energy means efficient energy, which can offset costs, or mean that with hindsight businesses may realize they could have been green and more profitable….I have in mind waste in local cattle & dairy operations, farmers forced kicking and screaming to clean up their shit (well, their cows’ shit) only to find that it was profitable to do so, they just wished they’d started earlier.