US-China climate deal aims to prod others to act

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US-China climate deal aims to prod others to act
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) gestures as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) Zhang Dejiang during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama reviews an honour guard with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) at a welcome ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) Zhang Dejiang during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) accompanies U.S. President Barack Obama (R) to view an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. U.S. President Barack Obama pays a state visit to China after attending the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) attend a meeting with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) Zhang Dejiang (2nd R) at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with China's Premier Li Keqiang during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (centre L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) attend a meeting with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) Zhang Dejiang (centre R) at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama attends a meeting with China's Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama makes his way to board Air Force One shortly before departing from Capital International Airport in Beijing on November 12, 2014, on his way to attend the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Myanmar after a state visit following the APEC summit in Beijing. Myanmar kicked off on November 12 its biggest gathering of world leaders since shedding junta rule but concerns over the pace of democratic reforms are expected to surface at the two-day event featuring US President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with China's Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People on November 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obama is on a state visit, after attending the APEC summit, during a week-long trip to the Asia-Pacific. (Photo by Petar Kujundzic -Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) takes part in a bilateral meeting with China's Premier Li Keqiang (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (green tie) step out from the Great Hall of the People following a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry toasts with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER /POOL (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping drink a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER /POOL (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) returns to his seat as Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after they drank a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER /POOL (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and China's President Xi Jinping (R) arrive for a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama, center, is seated during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. With Obama are U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, right. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center right, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Chinese Presient Xi Jinping, center left, are seated with their respective delegations as they meet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama (R) walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a welcome ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 12, 2014. Obama began a one-day state visit after the closing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, smiles after a group of children waved flags and flowers to cheer him during a welcome ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. When Xi Jinping took the reins of a booming China two years ago, President Barack Obama saw an opportunity to remake America's relationship with the Asian power. But even after Obama's unusually robust efforts to forge personal ties with Xi, the two leaders are meeting in Beijing amid significant tensions, both old and new. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A Chinese honor guard prepares to welcome U.S. President Barack Obama outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Chinese President Xi Jinping (2L), Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) watch a fireworks display during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Chinese President Xi Jinping (2L), Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) watch a fireworks display during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attend a family photo ceremony during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (R), Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attend a family photo ceremony during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: Chinese President Xi Jinping (C), Brunei Sultain Hassanal Bolkiah (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) attend a family photo ceremony during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) watch a fireworks display during the APEC Leaders meeting on November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) attend a family photo ceremony during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan (R) as he arrives for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit banquet at the Beijing National Aquatics Center in the Chinese capital on November 10, 2014. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member APEC grouping are meeting in Beijing from November 7 to 11. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) is welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan (R) as he arrives for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit banquet at the Beijing National Aquatics Center in the Chinese capital on November 10, 2014. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member APEC grouping are meeting in Beijing from November 7 to 11. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Chinese President Xi Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan (C), and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) watch a fireworks display during the APEC Leaders meeting on November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, who is hosting a welcome dinner for APEC leaders at the Beijing National Aquatics Center in Beijing, Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. At right is Peng Liyuan, Xi’s wife. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, who is hosting a welcome dinner for APEC leaders at the Beijing National Aquatics Center in Beijing, Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. At right is Peng Liyuan, Xi’s wife. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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BEIJING (AP) -- A groundbreaking agreement struck by the United States and China is putting the world's two worst polluters on a faster track to curbing the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. With the clock ticking on a worldwide climate treaty, the two countries are seeking to put their troubled history as environmental adversaries behind them in hopes that other nations will be spurred to take equally aggressive action.

The U.S., a chief proponent of the prospective treaty, is setting an ambitious new goal to stop pumping as much carbon dioxide into the air. China, whose appetite for cheap energy has grown along with its burgeoning economy, agreed for the first time to a self-imposed deadline for when its emissions will top out.

The dual announcements from President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, unveiled Wednesday in Beijing, came as a shock to environmentalists who had pined for such action but suspected China's reluctance and Obama's weakened political standing might interfere. In Washington, Republicans were equally taken aback, accusing Obama of dumping an unrealistic obligation on the next president.

Obama, Xi Nod to Better U.S.-China Ties

In fact, the deal had been hashed out behind the scenes for months. U.S. officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry floated the idea during a visit to China in February, and Obama followed up by writing Xi in the spring to suggest that the world's two largest economies join forces.

Obama pressed the issue again during a meeting with China's vice premier on the sidelines of a U.N. climate summit in September, and the two countries finally sealed the deal late Tuesday - just in time to announce it in grand fashion at the Great Hall of the People as Obama's trip to China was coning to an end.

"This is a major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship," Obama said, with Xi at his side. "It shows what's possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge."

Under the agreement, Obama set a goal to cut U.S. emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. Officials have said the U.S. is already on track to meet Obama's earlier goal to lower emissions 17 percent by 2020, and that the revised goal meant the U.S. would be cutting pollution roughly twice as fast during a five-year period starting in 2020.

China, whose emissions are growing as it builds new coal plants, set a target for its emissions to peak by about 2030 - earlier if possible - with the idea being that its emissions would then start falling. Although that goal still allows China to keep pumping more carbon dioxide for the next 16 years, it marked an unprecedented step for Beijing, which has been reluctant to be boxed in on climate by the global community.

"This is, in my view, the most important bilateral climate announcement ever," said David Sandalow, a former top environmental official at the White House and the Energy Department.

World leaders who have been pressing for a global climate treaty heralded the deal, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging all other nations to follow Obama's and Xi's lead by announcing their own emissions targets by early next year. Former Vice President Al Gore, a prominent environmentalist, called the Chinese move "a signal of groundbreaking progress from the world's largest polluter."

Scientists have pointed to the budding climate treaty, intended to be finalized next year in Paris, as a final opportunity to get emissions in check before the worst effects of climate change become unavoidable. The goal is for each nation to pledge to cut emissions by a specific amount, although negotiators are still haggling over whether those contributions should be binding.

Developing nations like India and China have long balked at being on the hook for climate change as much as wealthy nations like the U.S. that have been polluting for much longer. But China analysts said Beijing's willingness to cap its future emissions and to put Xi front and center signaled a significant turnaround.

Yet it wasn't clear how either the U.S. or China would meet their goals, nor whether China's growing emissions until 2030 would negate any reductions in the U.S. And in Washington, Republicans were sure to launch a renewed effort to block Obama's plans out of concern they could overly burden U.S. businesses and taxpayers.

"This unrealistic plan that the president would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is set to become the majority leader early next year.

For Obama, the fight against climate change has become a central facet of the legacy he hopes to leave. Facing negligible prospects for major legislative victories during his final two years, he has sought to bypass Congress by using regulations on power plants and vehicles to cut emissions, and his aides say his audacity on those fronts has boosted his credibility on the issue when he meets with world leaders.

In China, the smog-laden skies over its cities have become a source of embarrassment that the government has sought to obscure. Ahead of the economic summit that brought Obama and other leaders to Beijing, authorities shut down factories, banned wood fires and kept half the cars off the road.

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