Solar industry on both sides of pond cheer US-Chinese CO2 emissions deal

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The international PV industry on both sides of the Atlantic has applauded Wednesday’s announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping to increase the countries’ efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions and improve trade in green goods and clean energy technologies.

James Watson, CEO of the Brussels-based European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), told pv magazine that the organization supported and welcomed the move from the world’s biggest polluters and expressed hope that the announcement would indeed inspire other countries and increase momentum in global climate negotiations.

"A few weeks after the announcement of EU ambitions for 2030, this commitment from the world’s two largest carbon emitters is a strong signal ahead of the UN Climate Summit next year in Paris," Watson said. "EPIA supports the initiative and welcomes this timely development. We now hope that this will drive the consensus that is needed for an ambitious global climate agreement.

"The news is good for the solar industry, as solar is an obvious solution to fight climate change and stimulate local economies while bringing green, sustainable and affordable energy to the world."

Watson pointed out that solar energy would "be key to meeting the ambition of China to have 20% of energy from zero-emission sources by 2030."

U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey likewise welcomed the news. "These climate announcements from the U.S. and China are a clear sign that major economies are serious about getting a global deal in Paris next year.

"The U.K. led the drive to achieve an ambitious new EU target, and others are now following the EU’s lead and putting targets on the table. I’m looking forward to discussing with the U.S. and China how we can achieve our shared goal of keeping the global temperature rise under 2 degrees, and avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change."

In Germany, the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar) likewise expressed support for the move but stressed that there was still a long way to go.

"Without Beijing and Washington, effective climate protection remains an illusion," BSW-Solar spokesman David Wedepohl told pv magazine. "Discussions between the big climate killers were overdue. Yet the results remain unambitious and non-binding. However, it has long been clear: It is not climate conferences that decide on an effective climate protection, but concrete legislative initiatives for the expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency."

On the other side of the pond, the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) hailed the U.S.-Chinese greenhouse gas emissions deal as an “historic, breakthrough agreement."

The bilateral pact sends a clear signal to private investors and political leaders here at home and around the world that solving climate change is a top priority on both sides of the globe, according to SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.

"This historic, breakthrough agreement represents a huge step forward when it comes to fighting climate change, and we’re prepared to do our part," Resch said. "This year, solar is expected to offset an estimated 20 million metric tons of harmful CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off U.S. highways, saving 2.1 billion gallons of gasoline or shuttering half a dozen coal-fired power plants — and we’re just scratching the surface of our capabilities.

"Simply put, when looking at America’s energy future, solar can be a real game changer, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity, while also helping states to meet proposed new obligations under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, as well as helping America to meet its carbon reduction goals under this agreement."

The White House followed up on Thursday with a statement from Obama counselor John Podesta, who said the new emission reduction target announced by the president “will roughly double the pace of our carbon pollution reduction — from 1.2% per year from 2005 to 2020, to 2.3-2.8% from 2020 to 2025.

"This target keeps us on track to reduce our carbon pollution on the order of 80% by 2050, and means the U.S. is doing our part to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius."