Both the United States and China are stepping up their actions on climate change

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Both the United States and China are stepping up their actions on climate change
China and the United States are the world’s two largest emitters. Together, they were responsible for over 37 per cent of global emissions in 2009. Both countries have 2020 targets to limit their emissions and are stepping up their actions on climate change. Their actions include energy and transport policies and carbon pricing. They are also cooperating on climate change issues.

Both the United States and China have 2020 emissions targets and are acting to meet them:

17 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels.

40-45 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP from 2005 levels

Both countries have national planning documents on climate change:

The United States announced a national Climate Action Plan in 2013

China’s Five-Year Plan, its national planning document, includes climate actions.


China and the United States lead the world in renewable energy investment, with more than $US100 billion invested in 2012.

2012 renewable energy investment in…

($US billion)



United States




Source: REN21, 2013

They also lead the world in renewable energy deployment. Excluding hydropower:

China has 90 gigawatts of installed renewable capacity.

The US has 86 gigawatts of installed renewable capacity.

As a comparison, Australia’s entire electricity generation capacity is 54 gigawatts.

wind turbines in china
Wind turbines in China (Getty Images)

In the United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency is introducing strict emissions regulations for power plants. Once finalised, these regulations could prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they include carbon capture and storage technology.

Between 2006 and 2010, China replaced nearly 500 small and inefficient power plants with modern and less emissions-intensive facilities.
China has also proposed to scale down its coal use, setting 2015 goals for coal consumption and domestic coal production.


Both the United States and China have vehicle emissions standards, unlike Australia.

Transportation makes up nearly one-third of total US emissions, and strict vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards introduced in 2011 are projected to deliver large emissions reductions. The US Government estimated the standards would save 6 billion tonnes of emissions between 2011 and 2025, more than 10 times Australia’s total emissions in 2012.

China is tightening its fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles. These will exceed the US standards for some types of vehicles. The standards are set nationally but are being implemented at different times around the country—Beijing tightened its standards in 2013 in line with Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Emissions trading schemes in the United States and China

Ten US States, including California and New York, currently have emissions trading schemes. California (which has total annual emissions about 80 per cent of Australia’s) linked its scheme to the Canadian Province of Quebec in 2014.

China commenced pilot emissions trading schemes in five cities and provinces in 2013. Two more are proposed, with a national scheme to follow. These seven pilot emissions scheme areas make up one-third of China’s economy and use about one-fifth of its energy (DIICCSRTE 2013).

US–China cooperation
The United States and China have strengthened their cooperation on climate change. In June 2013, President Obama and President Xi reached a bilateral deal to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons—potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning—under the international treaty called the Montreal Protocol. In July 2013, China and the United States announced renewed cooperation in areas ranging from carbon capture and storage demonstration to energy efficiency and data collection.

Some individual US states and Chinese regions are also cooperating, for instance the US state of California and the Chinese municipality of Shenzhen are working together on air quality. Both regions have emissions trading schemes in place and have agreed to share policy design and early experiences from these schemes.

See Chapter 4 of the Targets and Progress Review Final Report for more information on international action

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