US and China put forth a joint vision for Paris deal and detail climate strategies

On Friday (Sept. 25) U.S. president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping released a joint statement reaffirming their commitments on climate change and outlining current and planned measures by which the two countries intend on meeting their goals. The announcement occurred on the occasion of Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington, D.C., and recalled the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on climate change made in November 2014.

As for the previous release, also the Friday’s statement made headlines, mainly because China confirmed for the first time that 2017 will be the launch date for its national carbon market (starting from 2013, China launched seven regional pilot carbon trading exchanges, operating independently). Moreover, the list of existing and planned measures by the two major world emitters added credibility to their announced efforts to pursue a low-carbon development strategy domestically and abroad. Although it contributes to the positive context surrounding the upcoming COP21, experts consulted by Reuters noted that the statement contains no specific new measures from either side to build on pledges made last November.

The two heads of state listed their respective domestic targets and plans, adding details about the two countries’ strategies to reduce emissions and promote low-carbon development.

United States:

  • Clean Power Plan (finalized in August 2015), aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030;
  • federal plan to implement carbon emission standards for power plants in states that do not choose to design their own implementation plans under the Clean Power Plan (to be finalized in 2016);
  • fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles (to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019);
  • standards for methane emissions from landfills and the oil and gas sector (to be finalized in 2016);
  • significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, aimed at reducing use and emissions of HFCs (finalized in July 2015);
  • new actions to reduce HFC use and emissions (to be pursued in 2016);
  • over 20 efficiency standards for appliances and equipment in the building sector (to be finalized in 2016).


  • commitment to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from the 2005 level and increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters on the 2005 level by 2030 (announced in China’s INDC submitted to UNFCCC in June 2015);
  • commitment to give priority, in distribution and dispatching, to renewable power generation and fossil fuel power generation of higher efficiency and lower emission levels;
  • national emission trading system, covering key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making, and nonferrous metals (planned to start in 2017);
  • increase in the share of green buildings (in newly built buildings) to 50% by 2020;
  • increase in the share of public transport in motorized travel to 30% in big- and medium-sized cities by 2020;
  • fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles (to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019);
  • “effective” control of HFC-23 emissions by 2020.

On the international side, the two leaders stated that the upcoming Paris deal should be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and should provide transparency and flexibility. They stressed the importance of adaptation, to which the Paris agreement should accord greater prominence and visibility.

The United States reaffirmed its USD3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund and China announced ¥20 billion (around USD3 billion) to support other developing countries to combat climate change through a new fund, the China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund.

According to the statement, the two countries will continue and enhance their bilateral cooperation on climate change and low-carbon development, mainly driven by the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG). They announced they choose a site for a joint project on carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) in Yan’an-Yulin, in Shan’xi Province, operated by Shan’xi Yanchang Petroleum.


(Image: Barack Obama and Xi Jinping during a news conference on Sept. 25, 2015. Photo credit: Washington Post live streaming on Youtube)