By Emily Smith and Robin Wilson
The United States and China have formally committed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change months after the Paris Agreement. This agreement committed the two nations and signifies the beginning of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a lower carbon footprint. It will be a long process for those who have ratified the agreement, as well as those who are on their way to doing so. The Paris Climate Agreement is ambitious, and countries will need to be constantly adapting to keep up with their goals. These two powerhouses are paving the way for environmental change.
The commitment of these two countries is significant because the United States and China emit more than 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide. Entering into this agreement shows an international commitment to limit corporate pollution and increase the sale of energy efficient products. The United Nations Paris Climate Conference was held on Saturday December 12, 2015 with 196 countries present. The goals are to regulate large greenhouse gas emitters and to show international support for the climate change initiative. The conference highlighted a few key components that countries will agree on to reduce the carbon footprint. This includes lowering greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, allocating $100 billion a year for developing countries by 2020, reviewing the progress of these countries every 5 years and binding countries to the pact for three years. These qualifications are sufficient for prompting countries to begin regulation and generate results.
While sixty-six countries have currently pledged to aid the environment, the large players ultimately have the most impact. Carbon footprints, greenhouse gases and many other pollutants cripple the ozone layer. The world is seeing this effect in the form of extreme droughts, urban pollution, sea levels rising and global temperatures increasing. It is important to invest in renewable energy, and monitor all overall regulation procedures, such as illegal water dumping. Governments being strong and steadfast to their commitment are the keys to innovation and implementing policies to make these actions effective.
The United States will be a leading force among these world leaders in providing guidance. While the agreement with the United States does not require congressional ratification, lawmakers may try to undermine President Obama’s initiatives, which lessen the United States’ ability to meet new reduction targets. Many possible actions are reliant on whether a Republican or Democrat wins the presidential election. If Republican Donald Trump wins, then Congress could have the power to hold back funding that would support compliance with the agreement. If Hillary Clinton wins, she could use veto power against any oppositional measures.
Another main example is China, with it being the second largest carbon footprint. The government enacts few regulations in the industrial sector, so it will be a matter of monitoring factories in order to regulate emissions. In 2017, China’s cap and trade program will put hard regulations on how carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere. If emissions do not decrease, it will be hard to quantify analysis and enact stricter regulations. The economy is slowing with its industrial boom, so it is possible that goals will be met as soon as 2025.
The Paris Deal is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement that the United States and China have agreed to. It will only come into force after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, which produce 55% of global carbon emissions. Even if the United States and China take time to enact changes and create initiatives to monitor results, policy implementation will be the most difficult aspect. The fact that consensus was made due to the acknowledgement of environmental degradation proves a large step forward in protecting the planet.
However, it is nearly guaranteed that the agreement will legally take hold before the end of the year, which would bind the United States during the next presidential term. Due to the nuances of the agreement, it would take the United States four years to legally withdraw from its conditions. Statements given by leading presidential candidates may have prompted the leaders of this agreement to hurry procedures so that the second largest CO2 emitter would be bound for years. At the moment, at least sixty countries representing 47.7% of global emissions have formally signed, giving promise to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s belief that this accord will enter into legal agreement. Radical changes are needed to reach target goals, such as keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and turn back the ticking clock on global environmental degradation.
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