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The global climate-change agenda is moving fast, and Australia must catch up

Yesterday’s joint announcement by the US and China on post-2020 emissions reduction goals marked a watershed in global climate diplomacy. The symbolism of the world’s two largest economies and emitters committing together to constrain emissions marks a significant departure from the antagonistic posture the two countries had towards each other in advance of, and at, the Copenhagen climate summit five years ago.

In some respects the announcement should not be a surprise. The US and China have been talking quietly for around a year on their respective post-2020 targets. Both nations have implemented domestic policies to tackle air pollution, boost clean energy investments, and meet their existing 2020 emission targets.

China’s early indication of what it is prepared to contribute will in part be driven by the desire to avoid the diplomatic flak it received in Copenhagen. Early communication gives countries time to justify their positions and shape the parameters of the final outcome.

The EU also announced its initial post-2020 offer in October — at least 40% reductions on 1990 levels by 2030.

Combined, countries that now account for half of global emissions have signaled their initial and broad-brush commitments for post-2020. These will eventually be captured as part of the climate change framework to be agreed in Paris at the end of next year.

All of these commitments are backed by domestic action. The EU’s emission trading scheme ensures it can meet any target it sets. China’s efforts to control air pollution, boost energy security and enhance its international stature are all driving the development of carbon pricing, regulations and incentives that will slow and ultimately cap emissions.

Mainstream investors and experts suggest China’s coal consumption will peak well in advance of its national emissions. President Obama is using his executive authority, regardless of Congress, to implement emission standards for vehicles, power, oil …read more

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