- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2015

As Pope Francis urged the world to protect the environment and fight climate change, the Obama administration teamed with China Friday to announce a series of steps aimed at rolling back the tide of global warming.

In a fact sheet, the White House said the U.S. and China — the world’s two largest polluters — both will take steps to further improve vehicle fuel efficiency, control methane and other harmful emissions, and make further investments in renewable energy.

The most significant step is China’s plan to enact a cap-and-trade system by 2017, an ambitious proposal that will tax carbon emissions and drive the nation’s economy toward cleaner sources of fuel. Even with that plan in place, however, China still does not expect its emissions to peak until 2030, while President Obama has taken drastic steps to rein in American pollution right now.

The joint steps, which Mr. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will discuss during a joint press conference Friday afternoon, come as Pope Francis continues his U.S. tour with a speech focused heavily on climate change.

“Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity,” the pontiff said during an address at the United Nations, again stressing that mankind, and especially the world’s most powerful economies, have a moral responsibility to battle climate change.

Earlier in the week, Pope Francis essentially endorsed the White House’s Clean Power Plan, the first set of national limits on carbon emissions from power plants and the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s broader environmental agenda.

The Clean Power Plan, combined with China’s cap-and-trade announcement and the other joint steps announced Friday, demonstrate that the two nations will work in concert to save the planet, the White House said. Officials also said the U.S. and China will continue to work together heading toward a key U.N. climate summit in Paris in December.

“On mitigating the impact of climate change, the two leaders agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome. First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies and agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition,” the White House said in a fact sheet, released as Mr. Obama and Mr. Xi wrapped up a private meeting at the White House. “Second, they underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the below 2 degrees Celsius global temperature goal. Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.”

But critics say the announcements once again prove that the U.S. is getting the raw end of the deal in climate agreements with China. The Clean Power Plan, for example, will force states to dramatically cut emissions over the next few years — a move that federal data show will drive up electricity prices for most Americans.

Even with its cap-and-trade system, China’s emissions still are expected to rise for the next 15 years, meaning the U.S. has promised to act now while China, in essence, is promising to act sometime in the future.

“Once again, President Obama has allowed the Chinese government to run circles around him. This cap-and-trade commitment allows China to increase emissions for years into the future, while President Obama commits the U.S. to sharp reductions that will harm American families today,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the conservative Institute for Energy Research. “China will generate positive headlines while enjoying the economic benefits of generating electricity from coal, while U.S. families struggling in the Obama economy will get stuck with higher utility bills.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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