Three Questions About the U.S. and China Climate Deal

  • President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China greet children during the State Arrival Welcome Ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Nov. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

November 14, 2014

This week the U.S. pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions down to about a quarter of 2005 levels in the next decade. This bumps up President Obama’s commitment to cracking down on emissions to stave off climate change. We check in with Bloomberg News' Washington reporter Mark Drajem.

Drajem answers three questions about the deal. 

Q: How's Obama going to make this happen? 

A: The President's already laid out a plan to cut emissions from power plants. He's got the EPA working on what they're going to do to reduce emissions from gas and oil wells and he's already setting standards for fuel efficiency from vehicles... Now what analysts are saying is that it's going to be a stretch, so that there's going to need to be some new policies to actually get to that cut. And that, of course, 2025, will be after the President leaves office so it's going to be up to the next occupant to figure out how to make the rest of it up.

Q: Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says “This deal is a non-binding charade." True?

A: What the U.S. and China did was announce their plans of what they would send to the U.N. as part of their negotiations there. So there's nothing binding in what either side announced so far. But China has been on the course of reducing its use of coal for a lot of reasons, right? We've all seen the pictures of the Beijing smothered in smog... But Senator Inhofe's right in that there's nothing binding so far. 

Q: For those of us in the part of the world where natural gas development is booming, what might this mean?

A: The one thing it might mean is greater demand for natural gas...The other thing it may mean is that there may be new restrictions on methane emissions on fracked wells. That could mean added costs for people who are drilling wells. 

Inset photo of reporter Mark Drajem courtesy of the reporter.