Bonn. - Prospects for a new universal climate agreement in 2015 were today given a significant boost with China and the United States jointly announcing their contributions—many months earlier than had been expected, according to Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The two countries—the world's biggest economies and largest emitters of greenhouse gases—announced on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing new measures to address their greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.
Their announcement comes just hours after the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released negotiating texts for the upcoming Lima climate conference including a draft decision on how nations will deliver their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the Paris agreement next year.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said: "These two crucial countries have today announced important pathways towards a better and more secure future for human-kind. Allied to the European Union's recent announcement, this signals in an increasingly positive way a determination towards addressing the climate change challenge from a growing number of key economies".
"This joint announcement provides both practical and political momentum towards a new, universal climate agreement in Paris in late 2015 that is meaningful, forward-looking and recognizes that combating climate change is not a five or ten year plan—but is a long term commitment to keep a global temperature rise under 2 degrees throughout this century", she said.
"This positive momentum opens the door for all major economies and in particular all other industrialized nations to bring forward their contributions to the Paris agreement in a timely fashion over the coming months. Investors have long called for policy certainty. Today's announcement is a firm and positive step towards that as we look towards Paris 2015, "added Ms Figueres.
The United States announced that it would reduce its emissions by a range of between 26 per cent and 28 per cent by 2025 from its 2005 levels in order to achieve ‘economy-wide reductions on the order of 80 per cent by 2050'.
China announced it would peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030—with the intention to try and peak early—including through a far greater role for renewable energies and big improvements in areas like energy efficiency.
The joint statement comes in the wake of the European Union's announcement to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 which it made last month.
"Together these announcements send a clear signal to the private sector and the financial markets on where global policy is now heading. Thus these announcements have the potential to unleash and accelerate the kinds of entrepreneurship and innovation needed to propel all economies towards ever greater levels of ambition—if not significantly exceeding their ambitions-- en route to a low carbon, resilient world over coming years and decades, "said Ms Figueres.
Parties to the UNFCCC will next meet in Lima, Peru in a few weeks' time to advance a draft universal agreement with the aim of adopting it at the 21st Conference of the Parties taking place in Paris, France at the end of next year.
Other countries are expected to announce their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions' in the first quarter of 2015—today's announcement shows clear and early leadership on the part of the United States and China.
Providing finance for the newly-operational Green Climate Fund is also expected to be an important piece towards a meaningful new agreement next year. Calls have been made for the fund to have pledges of at least $10 billion by the 20th Conference of the Parties taking place in Lima, Peru.
Next week governments will gather at a pledging meeting for the GCF in Berlin, Germany. To date several governments have made pledges to the fund totalling nearly $3 billion, including voluntary contributions from two developing countries. Others are expected to pledge next week at the Berlin meeting.