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Horowitz: Brazil and China Step Up on Climate

Tuesday, July 07, 2015



Rob Horowitz

As we look towards the finalizing of a new international climate change agreement in Paris at the end of this year, more positive momentum continues to build.
Last week, the United States and Brazil announced an agreement to dramatically boost their use of renewable energy sources—wind, solar and geothermal—to 20% of total electricity production by 2030. The use of renewable energy, fueled by dramatic reductions in cost, is increasing at much faster rates than predicted, making these ambitious goals achievable. Brazil, the world’s 7th biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, also committed to restore 30 million acres of Amazon Rain Forest
The agreement expands scientific collaboration between the United States and Brazil in important ways.  As the World Resources Institute points out, it increases cooperation in the area of sustainable land use including launching a bi-national Program on Forests and Land. This is of particular note given the importance of the Rain Forest.  Additionally, it steps up research on renewable energy and energy efficiency and forges more of a partnership on climate change adaptation.

On the same day last week Presidents Obama and Roussef were announcing their agreement, China submitted a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases to the United Nation, including plans to move forward with a cap- and- trade system as one key aspect of a comprehensive and well-thought out climate strategy.  China is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world.

Commenting favorably in The New York Times about China’s plan, David Sandalow, a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former top Energy Department official in the Obama administration, said, “It’s very detailed and suggests the seriousness with which China takes its climate policy goals.”

In submitting its plan last week, China joined more than 40 other nations including the United States and the European Union in fulfilling a commitment nearly all the nations of the world made in Lima, Peru last year-- dubbed the so-called Lima Accord--- to put forward their plans to reduce carbon emissions in advance of meeting in Paris at the end of this year to finalize a new international climate change agreement..
Last week’s actions by China and Brazil, generated by active United States diplomacy, were made possible by our enhanced credibility on the issue, resulting from a series of tough Executive Actions by President Obama, including major increases in fuel economy requirements for cars and trucks and new limitations on carbon emissions at coal-fired plants, Showing that we meant business gave President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry the ability to persuade other nations to do their part. 
While last week’s announcements provide more demonstrable evidence that much progress is being made, these plans, according to scientists, still fall short of doing all that is needed to sufficiently limit global temperature increases. But we are now on a better, more hopeful path—one that we can build on to secure increased commitments and actions to generate greater reductions in greenhouse gases.

Staying on the path, however, will take active United States leadership that continues well-beyond the Obama Administration, making the next Presidential election a critical one for the climate.  Sustaining grassroots pressure in the United States and around the world for the long-term is essential as well. That is what makes Pope Francis’ powerful entrance into the cause of climate change so important.

There is a lot more to do. But the events of last week add to the growing reasons for optimism. Together, if we all keep at it, we can meet the climate challenge—and that’s good news for the planet.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


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