Major US–China Beijing Talks Yield Pre-Lima Climate Pledges

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Presidents Obama and XI with climate, trade agreements at Beijing talks, November 12, 2014 (screenshot from MSNBC)
Presidents Obama and Xi with climate, trade agreements at Beijing talks, November 12, 2014 (screenshot from MSNBC)

It’s 12:23 am in Chicago. Twitter has not fully caught on to some history-making Beijing talks yet, but tomorrow should bring a bit of international rejoicing–especially on the matter of climate change. At around midnight EST, Presidents Barack Obama of the US and Xi Jinping of China held a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing after the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Consortium meeting. In a major milestone for the US–China relationship, they together announced a broad program of collaborative efforts between the US and China for the future.

As well as committing to bilateral trade and investment in their Beijing talks, Xi and Obama agreed to collaborate on information technology tariffs and agricultural and food security issues. The tariff deal alone would create 60,000 jobs in the US and remove trade barriers to $1 trillion worth of goods. And as the two largest emitters and energy users in the world, they announced major steps in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of their two nations.

President Obama praised President Xi for China’s actions to slow, peak, then reverse his country’s contribution to climate change—which has passed that of the US and is now the largest worldwide—and announced that the US would double the pace of its current commitments to scale back our net greenhouse gas emissions. Both urged other nations to do the same before the UNFCCC global negotiations in Paris at the end of next year*. Obama declared these efforts would put the world on a path to deeper decarbonization.

Xi also met with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, at APEC for their first formal talks since 2012, breaking a tense standoff over the nations’ competing territorial claims in the East China Sea. Despite his omnipresence at APEC in a power triad and his gesture earlier in the day of cloaking the Chinese first lady against the cold—interpreted variously as courtly and as sexist—the Russian leader, President Vladimir Putin, did not take part in the post-APEC announcements. Chinese media expunged the shawl incident from their media coverage. Mr. Putin has made no policy announcements at this time.

In the Beijing talks, the American and Chinese leaders also committed to help denuclearize North Korea, resolve differences, and work toward greater stability in the Asia-Pacific region. They also agreed on cooling off the Afghanistan and Iran situations, “destroying ISIL” (Obama quote), helping to bring electrification to Africa, extending visa provisions and American–Chinese student exchange, the status of Tibet, and other matters. Finally, the US president stressed the nation’s commitment to human rights worldwide and revealed that he and Xi had conducted “a very healthy exchange” on the subject.

Related: Obama & China President Xi Jinping Unveil CO2 Emission Reduction Targets

Look for more on the climate change particulars from Important Media shortly.

*Note that I will be reporting on the next UN climate talks live from Peru for CleanTechnica andPlanetsave.

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