China and India’s Climate Commitment Laser Talk

After the Paris Climate Agreement, old fears that global climate agreements do not apply to developing countries like India and China became outdated. The Paris Agreement amended the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change so that all 195 nations will be actors in implementing climate solutions [1]. In other words, China and India have committed to peak and then reduce emissions, and are making world-leading investments in the deployment of clean energy solutions [2][3]. There is reason to believe they will do so in their own interest.

The Paris Agreement sent the strongest signal the world has yet seen that investors will make money by moving to low-carbon alternatives. China’s commitment to cut emissions and lead in clean energy is driven by three needs:

  1. To rapidly and drastically reduce air pollution.
  2. To sustain high rates of economic growth while achieving independence from foreign fuels.
  3. To establish itself as a reliable global leader in clean energy manufacturing and new economy financing [4].

India has over 400 million people who do not have reliable access to electricity [5]. There is no way, given current resources, to provide this needed basic necessity by building a conventional centralized coal-fired power grid [5]. So India has undertaken a “national mission” to deploy solar energy in cities and villages across the country — committing already to 100 gigawatts by 2022 [6].

The question after the signing of the Paris Agreement is not whether the United States Congress can trust India and China to follow through on their commitments; it is whether the United States Congress is committing the national resources and key economic policy reforms needed to keep up as the world goes about building the clean energy economy of the 21st century.

  1. John D. Sutter, Joshua Berlinger and Ralph Ellis. “Obama: Climate agreement ‘best chance we have’ to save the planet.” December 14, 2015. CNN News.
  2. Wee Kean Fong. “23 Chinese cities commit to peak carbon emissions by 2030.” World Resources Institute. June 08, 2016.
  3. Joydeep Gupta. “India considers emissions peak 2035-50.” March 12, 2014. Climate Change News. Retrieved from:http://www.climatechangenews.com/2014/12/03/india-considers-emissions-peak-2035-50/
  4. Barbara Finamore. “Paris Climate Agreement Explained: next steps for China.” December 12, 2015. NRDC.
  5. Bharath Jairaj. “India’s blackouts highlight need for electricity governance reform.” August 13, 2012. World Resources Institute.
  6. Bloomberg. “100GW solar by 2022: India’s Target or Aspiration?” Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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