China's Xi Jinping announces climate-change pact

How might this trend inspire other countries to reform their own emissions policies?

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan wave as they arrive in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, en route to Washington for a State Visit.

As part of his visit to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping will announce today an ambitious plan to curb climate emissions through a cap-and-trade program beginning in 2017, Reuters reports.

The deal builds upon a 2014 agreement brokered between the US and China to curb the two nations’ greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. Some US officials are hoping the plan will put pressure on other countries to decrease their emissions, as well.

President Xi’s announcement comes ahead of the international climate talks in Paris, in which world leaders will meet to reach a new agreement to offset global climate emissions. China is the world’s number-one emitter of carbon dioxide, according to studies done at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Some estimates gauge that approximately 4,400 people per year are killed in China as a result of air pollution.

China is already taking some steps to decrease its carbon footprint, including pledging to increase the use of renewable energy sources to 20 percent of the total energy budget. The Christian Science Monitor reported that in January, China began imposing heavy fines on polluters, resulting in 1,186 companies being entirely shut down and an additional 698 cases limiting or suspending production.

Xi’s new plan adds an additional layer of requirements for energy providers. Under the outlined regulations, China will not only restrict the amount of money paid towards projects that have high carbon emissions, but will also require a permit from those companies that are interested in investing in them. Instead, it will incentivize the production of electricity through “greener” technologies like renewable energy and natural gases. The plan will also go a step further in providing funds for developing nations who are seeking to offset their own carbon emissions.

In China, the state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) is optimistic about the financial benefits they perceive the plan will bring to China’s economy. The view on the Chinese side is that this plan will increase the number of Chinese companies who are interested in investing in renewables; it will also create rewards for US-based energy companies who are looking to grow their market abroad.

The announcement may be one of the few bright spots in Xi’s state visit to America, his first since assuming leadership of the Communist Party of China in 2013. Analysts are not expecting the same warm welcome for him that the media provided for Pope Francis this week.

Washington is concerned about a recent spate of hacker attacks – believed to have originated from China – in which one stole an estimated 5.6 million fingerprints from federal employees, some of whom had military clearances. Xi has denied the attacks, saying, “Cybertheft of commercial secrets and hacking attacks against government networks … are criminal offenses and should be punished according to law.”

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