China expected to announce ambitious plan today to fight climate change

Air quality problems in China.
CC BY 2.0 Berserkerus. Haze in Beijing.

The announcement will be China’s biggest step towards curbing pollution and countering global climate change yet.

At a White House summit later today, China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to announce a new program that will limit emissions and put a price on carbon starting in 2017. The program is part of an effort from the Obama Administration and Chinese leadership to not only fight climate change, but to also pressure other countries into following suit.

As the two biggest greenhouse gas polluters, China and the U.S. must commit to major emissions cuts if the UN-led climate negotiations are to be a success. The international climate talks will be held in Paris later this year, and participating nations are expected to announce their plans to fight climate change prior to the negotiations.

A White House official told The New York Times that China’s move will increase the probability of reaching a robust agreement in Paris. China’s decision to implement a cap-and-trade plan builds on last year’s announcement to stop the growth of the country’s emissions by 2030.

The program is expected to create incentives for low-carbon energy sources, like renewables. Although China relies heavily on coal, its renewables sector has experienced considerable growth in recent years. In 2013, China added more solar capacity than any other country in a single year.

Internal pressure from China’s citizens is also pushing the government to curb the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. Air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing China’s urban population, with dangerous levels of smog regularly affecting Beijing and other major cities.

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