Some experts say China really is serious about climate change

The reaction to President Obama’s climate-change deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping, among congressional Republicans, was swift and negative. The prevailing sentiment is that China didn’t give up as much in the bargain as the U.S., and that China isn’t likely to live up to its end of the agreement anyway.

But Mother Jones magazine quotes some experts on U.S.-China relations, and they say China is indeed serious about cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

MJ’s James West writes:

So I asked experts on US-China relations to explain why this deal was so attractive to the leaders of two countries that have historically locked horns over everything from human rights to lingerie imports. Here’s their explanation of why China really does want to want to act on climate change, and why the bargain makes sense for President Barack Obama, as well:

China has to act on air pollution. If it doesn’t, the country risks political instability. Top Republicans have slammed the US-China deal as ineffective and one-sided. “China won’t have to reduce anything,” complained Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.) in a statement, adding that China’s promises were “hollow and not believable.”

But the assumption that China won’t try to live up to its end of the bargain misses the powerful domestic and global incentives for China to take action. The first, and most pressing, is visible in China’s appalling air quality. President Xi Jinping needs to act now, says Jerome A. Cohen, a leading Chinese law expert at New York University. Why? Because “the environment—not only the climate—is the most serious domestic challenge he confronts.”

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