After almost a year of negotiations, the US and China announced an unprecedented pledge to limit their carbon emissions, giving hope to climate change activists worldwide.

This morning, President Obama pledged that the United States will increase their efforts to curb carbon emissions, aiming for a 26-28% decrease in overall emissions by 2025, and President of China Xi Jinping announced the country’s first-ever commitment to cap fast-growing carbon emissions by 2030. As the United States and China are the two largest producers of carbon emissions, the pledge has been largely praised by international communities interested in preventing climate change.

This move by Presidents Obama and Xi follows an urgent environmental push by the UN through the release of their report on climate change earlier this month. The report warned of the “clear and growing” human influence on the climate, stating that if we were to continue with its “business as usual” attitude, climate change will increase severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

Brian Dixon, vice president for media and government relations at Population Connection, places the decision within the context of global impact. “Certainly by itself, this is not going to solve the problem,” he told Feminist Newswire, “but it’s important that these two countries are willing to take aggressive steps to deal with our carbon issue.”

The two goals are highly ambitious, and already there has been some criticism from Republicans for President Obama’s plan. To meet the 2025 goal, the US will have to more than double carbon pollution reduction from an average of 1.2 percent per year to an average of 2.8 percent per year until 2025. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell  called the plan “unrealistic,” and thinks it “would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.”  Many more people, however, are applauding the landmark agreement and its implications for the environment. Former president Al Gore called the decision “a major step forward in the global effort to solve the climate crisis.”

Although the United States’ agreement to cut back emissions is still far from what the UN has called for, President Obama is optimistic. “This is a major milestone in the US-China Relationship,” he said while standing alongside President Xi this morning, maintaining that “[the US has] a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change.”

China and the United States made more than one agreement during President Obama’s meeting with President Xi. As well as the historic climate change pledge, the two presidents agreed on the importance of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, increasing cybersecurity, strengthening military relations and increasing trade.

Media Resources: NY Times 11/11/14; Washington Post 11/12/14;; Huffington Post 11/11/14; UN News Centre 11/2/14; CNN World 11/12/14

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