U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) after a joint press conference at the Great Hall of 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.
White House, China agree on climate change
02:20 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Obama: We have a special responsibility to lead the effort against climate change

As trade summit ends, President Obama announces deal with China

Countries agree to cut carbon emissions by 2025

Senior administration official calls goals both "ambitious and achievable"

Beijing CNN  — 

At the end of the APEC trade summit in China, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a climate change agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that would cut both countries’ greenhouse gas emissions by close to a third over the next two decades.

Under the agreement, the United States would cut its 2005 level of carbon emissions by 26% to 28% before 2025. China would peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and will also aim to get 20% of its energy from zero-carbon emission sources by the same year.

“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” Obama said Wednesday in a joint press conference with Xi.

Obama, who was in Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, said he hopes the deal will spur other nations to tackle climate change.

“We hope to encourage all major economies to be ambitious – all countries, developing and developed – to work across some of the old divides, so we can conclude a strong global climate agreement next year,” Obama said.

The White House said the ultimate target is to “achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80% by 2050.”

A senior Obama administration official said the goals are “ambitious and achievable” – but U.S. domestic politics could be a challenge.

“Congress may try to stop us, but we believe that with control of Congress changing hands we can proceed with the authority we already have,” the official said.

The Obama administration hopes to sell the plan back home by touting the anticipated savings on energy costs. The plan offers initiatives and incentives to develop more solar and wind power in both countries, the official said.

Another official said the agreement “won’t all fall together in five minutes,” but hopes this will demonstrate to other nations that working together to reduce carbon emissions would prove that “we can work together to enhance deployment of sustainable clean technologies.”

The White House said the announcement marks the first time China has agreed to cut its carbon emissions, and said the Chinese are calling for “an energy revolution” that would include a broad economic reform program that would address air pollution.

China has agreed to provide another 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030.

During Obama’s visit to Beijing, the Chinese government closed factories and gave employees time off to reduce car traffic and emissions in Beijing.

Another senior administration official said that historically, the United States and China have often been seen as antagonists, so this “should send a powerful message,” and “will usher in a new day, where the U.S. and China can work as partners.”

As well as the historic climate change deal, Obama and Xi also agreed on the importance of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, cybersecurity, strengthening military relations and increasing trade.

CNN’s Holly Yan contributed to this report.