China, the US and India produce 40% of the world's carbon emissions and what they bring to the table in Paris this month will be crucial.
So far the picture has been encouraging, with the big three working collaboratively on different climate and renewable energy initiatives. The US and China have converged significantly over the past two years, showing the Obama administration's desire to lower the US carbon footprint before he leaves office. A climate change agreement between the two countries in November last year and further goals for reducing emissions, raising energy efficiency standards and investing into renewable energy development have contributed to real progress.
The Guardian reports that these agreements between the US and China "have substance: the US has pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28% compared with 2005 levels, while China has committed to peak emissions and increase the non-fossil fuel share of its energy mix to 20% by about 2030. Both sets of commitments have been incorporated into their countries’ national contribution for Paris".
India and the US likewise have agreed to a range of cooperative clean energy projects in January this year. Under the US-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy, these projects saw a joint commitment to advance research and development, clean energy and finance mechanisms, and cooperation on appliance efficiency and clean energy storage. While India still faces challenges in lowering the cost of capital for renewable energy projects and delivering clean electricity to many of its poorer rural areas, these bilateral agreements indicate measurable progress in the long march towards sustainable energy use.
However, if there is a criticism it would be that the financial commitment is well below what is needed to make the great swing of change that is arguably necessary if we are to combat global climate change. "Less than 2% of global public research and development dollars are spent on renewable energy – a paltry $5bn in total. China, the US and India could show global leadership by directing, say, 5% of their public research and development budgets towards climate challenges." suggest Kevin Rudd and Hank Paulson of the Guardian.
We now wait for Paris and optimistically hope for these three global giants to bring the world together. What we are looking for has never been achieved in the history of the world, a trans-global agreement. However, if the big three can work together, then maybe there is hope for the rest.